Health Care

Medicaid backlog causes scare for some seniors’ dental care

The issue with dental care comes just after federal officials rejected Kansas’ request to extend KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program, saying it failed to meet federal standards and risked the health and safety of enrollees.
The issue with dental care comes just after federal officials rejected Kansas’ request to extend KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program, saying it failed to meet federal standards and risked the health and safety of enrollees. File photo

The state says it will resolve 385 backlogged Medicaid applications for disabled and elderly Kansans who nearly lost their dental coverage.

The promise by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment came after Sterling Dental informed nursing homes that it was suspending services to Kansans whose Medicaid applications had yet to be approved or denied.

David Goubeaux, president of Sterling Dental, read a statement over the phone Thursday.

“...We are excited that upon completion of the adjustments next Wednesday that no dental services will be suspended, and we will be able to continue to deliver the dental care needed to the residents in the nursing homes in Kansas,” Goubeaux said.

A spokeswoman for the KDHE wrote in an e-mail that the situation arose because the clearinghouse for Medicaid applications did not receive a spreadsheet that Sterling Dental said it sent in October. Goubeaux did not comment apart from reading his statement.

The backlog of Medicaid applications means some seniors are receiving care paid for by the nursing homes, while others might not receive care, said Rachel Monger, vice president for government affairs at LeadingAge Kansas, an association of nonprofit senior-living providers.

Sterling Dental was essentially receiving an “IOU” from the state for patients with unprocessed applications until approved, Monger said.

Kansas’ backlog of Medicaid applications is down to around 2,000, according to information released Monday. Some applications are unprocessed, while others await documents from the applicant. The backlog was caused in part by the state switching its computer system that processes Medicaid applications about a year and a half ago. One year ago, it switched the agency that oversees the applications, and that contributed to the delay.

The backlog is particularly difficult for nursing homes, where about half of residents rely on Medicaid to pay for long-term care, according to Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio and KMUW covering health, education and politics.

“All we care about is we don’t want our residents to be cut off from services,” Monger said over the phone. “Dental services for the elderly are beyond important in maintaining their health. … I’m not sure why it took us having to say this to get it resolved, but we are not going to complain.”

Cindy Luxem, CEO of the Kansas Health Care Association, which represents assisted living and nursing homes, said the situation of Sterling Dental suspending care to seniors with pending Medicaid applications wasn’t surprising.

“Unfortunately, this is just another victim of the state having IOUs to providers on behalf of Kansas residents,” she said in a phone interview.

Sterling Dental is committed to caring for Kansans, Luxem said, but a company cannot continue to provide care without pay.

“I feel like we’ve been fighting this battle for such a long time, but I honestly believe the people within this administration are finally understanding we need to change some things, but by no means is the eligibility system affected yet,” Luxem said.

The issue with dental care comes just after federal officials rejected Kansas’ request to extend KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program, saying it failed to meet federal standards and risked the health and safety of enrollees.

Katherine Burgess: 316-268-6400, @KathsBurgess

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