Legislators push to delay KanCare start

Six-month postponement would allow more time to prepare, backers of resolution say

By Dave Ranney, KHI News Service, March 08, 2012

A group of legislators supporting the resolution to slow down KanCare implemtation appear at yasterday's press conference at the Statehouse

Sen. Dick Kelsey, R-Goddard, speaks at a press conference
called by Republican and Democratic legislators who are
co-sponsoring a resolution that would delay Gov. Sam Brownback's
KanCare plan by six months. Left to right behind Kelsey are
Rep. Bob Bethell, R-Alden; Sen. Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka; Rep. Jerry
Henry, D-Cummings; Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka; Rep. Jerry Williams,
D-Chanute; Rep. Eber Phelps, D-Hays, (face obscured); and
Rep. Bill Feuerborn, D-Garnett. (Photo by Dave Ranney)

TOPEKA — A resolution urging Gov. Sam Brownback to delay by six months the start of his Medicaid reform plan was introduced today in the Kansas Senate.

The resolution’s sponsors say they have 22 supporters in 40-member Senate and between 40 and 50 supporters in the 125-member House. The resolution has not yet been introduced in the House, but backers said they hoped that would happen sometime next week.

“Let’s slow this down,” said Rep. Bob Bethell, an Alden Republican, who had a hand in drafting the resolution. “Let’s make sure we have all the answers and then let’s move forward.”

The resolution’s legislative backers, he said, include moderate and conservative Republicans and Democrats.

Brownback’s reform plan, KanCare, is scheduled to start Jan. 1, 2013, contingent on federal approval. The resolution asks that the start date be postponed to July 1, 2013.

Under KanCare, three managed care companies would oversee the day-to-day operations of the state’s $2.8 billion Medicaid program.

The resolution was drafted by Bethell, Rep. Jerry Henry, a Cummings Democrat, and Sen. Dick Kelsey, a Wichita Republican.

Meeting with reporters Wednesday, Kelsey, Henry and Bethell said the governor was trying to do too much too soon and that similar reform efforts had been chaotic in other states. They said that federal officials are unlikely to approve KanCare’s provisions anytime soon and that state legislators had been left out of the planning processes.

“We all serve 23,000 to 70,000 people,” Henry said, referring to the legislators in the room. “When (KanCare) takes effect and people start having problems with it, the first person they’re going to call is their legislator. We are the front line. We need the opportunity to review and understand this.”

A Kansas House district has about 23,000 people in it. A Senate district has about 70,000 people.

The administration issued a KanCare request for proposal last fall. Five companies bid on the contracts earlier this year. Their proposals currently are being reviewed by administration officials.

Brownback officials have said they intend to award contracts to three competing companies by this fall. The contracts would be in effect prior to the start of the 2013 legislative session.

Kelsey, who once owned a group home for troubled teenagers whose stays were covered by Medicaid, said letting managed care companies run the program “would not be as easy as we think.”

Delaying KanCare by six months, he said, would be the “best wisdom.”

After the press conference, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer issued a statement, arguing that delaying KanCare would perpetuate inefficiencies within the current system.

“We have undertaken this reform slowly but surely,” he wrote. “Delaying KanCare will only guarantee continued cost increases, put providers at risk of rate cuts, and threaten the quality of care being provided to vulnerable Kansans. The status quo is not serving us well, and delay will not improve the health of anyone.”

The administration, he said, was close to announcing the start of a KanCare Advisory Council that will include legislators, health-care consumers, and advocates for doctors, hospitals, pharmacists, senior citizens, disability groups, the mentally ill, substance abuse programs, and tribal organizations.

Colyer said that nearly 75 percent to the state’s 350,000 Medicaid beneficiaries already are subject to “some form of managed care.”

House Majority Leader Alren Siegfreid, an Olathe Republican, said he would not support the resolution.

“My position is that (KanCare) was well-vetted,” he said. “I think the Governor’s Office has done exceptional planning on this and it’s ready to go. We have to start saving money on Medicaid because our federal funds are dwindling and our caseloads are growing. If we put this off for six months, we’re just going to be that much further away from where we need to be.”

The KHI News Service is an editorially independent program of the Kansas Health Institute and is committed to timely, objective and in-depth coverage of health issues and the policy making environment. Read more about the News Service.


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