Wichita meeting collects input for federal government over KanCare services switch

Parents who don’t want their developmentally disabled offspring’s day-to-day care services to come under the state’s managed-care medical program are making a last-ditch effort to head that off at the federal level after losing at the Statehouse.

They made their case Monday at a public hearing in Wichita. The purpose of the meeting was to collect input that federal officials will consider as they decide whether to let Kansas fold the disability services into the KanCare system.

“Even though it sounds like it’s all decided, like we’re on a fast-moving train and there’s no stopping it, I plead with you to screech to a halt,” said Sally Farenthold, the mother of a developmentally disabled 50-year-old woman. “Have courage, be daring and say it doesn’t make sense. It’s change for the sake of change, and it’s not needed.”

The hearing drew about 50 people, a much smaller turnout than at state Capitol rallies earlier this year that were aimed at convincing the Legislature to “carve out” the disability care services from KanCare.

At Monday’s hearing, three of the state’s top social services officials spoke for half an hour before opening the floor for public testimony, seeking to reassure people that the medical side of KanCare is rolling out with minimal disruption and they have nothing to fear from having home and community services rolled in with it.

“Our belief is we’ll have better coordination of care and better outcomes and more flexibility,” said Shawn Sullivan, secretary of the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services.

Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration is planning to bring the home- and community-based services under the umbrella of KanCare in January. The rest of KanCare started Jan. 1 of this year.

The services for the developmentally disabled are not under KanCare already because the 2012 Legislature carved out those services for one year. That one-year period expires at the end of this year, and the Republican legislative leadership – allied with the governor – refused to allow a vote on a bill that would have extended the carve-out period another year.

The final hurdle is federal permission from the Medicaid system, and Sullivan said Medicaid is strongly encouraging states not to carve out specific services when they switch to managed-care plans.

Angelina Vaquera-Linke, the mother of two children with autism, said she thinks current disability service users should be able to opt out of KanCare for the first couple of years while the kinks get worked out.

“Otherwise what we could be looking at is a potential nightmare of cash-flow problems, especially for those small providers,” she said. “What is at stake are those priceless, long-term relationships that many Kansans with disabilities have with their service providers. That cannot be replaced if some of these small providers go out of business.”

Sullivan said state law and the contracts between the state and its three managed-care insurance companies ensure that developmentally disabled people will be allowed to keep their current case managers and service providers. Also, the insurance companies won’t be allowed to reduce care without direct approval from his department, he said.