The state’s Medicaid application backlog has more than quadrupled in size because of inaccurate reports.
Kansas thought it had lowered the backlog to 3,480 people; it’s now up to 15,393.
Of the new total, 10,961 applicants have been waiting for more than 45 days for the state to process their applications.
Medicaid, called KanCare in Kansas, is the state- and federally funded insurance program for low-income or disabled residents.
A letter from Susan Mosier, secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, to James Scott with the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services details the inaccuracies.
Mosier says in the letter that applicants who applied, were denied eligibility and then reapplied were not registering on the state’s backlog reports until the most recent filing last month.
The federal government, out of concern for the size of Kansas’ backlog, requires bi-weekly reports from the state about the backlog’s status and updates about what the state is doing to address it.
In Mosier’s letter, dated June 10, she blames the erroneous numbers on a company contracted by the state to manage the backlog of applications.
Angela de Rocha, spokeswoman for the state health department, said the state was disappointed when it found out about the inaccuracy. The state committed various resources over the past several months toward trimming the backlog, she said.
“The state really, really regrets this and is unhappy that we thought we were making so much progress,” she said. “And it turns out we weren’t making the degree of progress we had hoped.”
To compound the problem, eligibility experts have reported an uptick in the number of people being incorrectly denied Medicaid, according to the Kansas Health Institute News Service.
Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka, a member of the Legislature’s KanCare Oversight Committee, said she was disappointed – but not surprised – by the state’s error because she didn’t think it had lowered its backlog to the degree it reported.
“When you’re in a budget crisis like Kansas, you look for every way you can save a nickel,” Kelly said. “And quite frankly, they don’t care if it’s on the backs of the disabled, pregnant women or poor children.”
She said she views the situation as indicative of the agency’s overall dysfunction – whether directly from the state or from the contractor itself.
The state switched its computer system for Medicaid application processing about a year ago, and it has since been riddled with problems.
Kelly proposes abandoning the program if the software can’t be fully fixed.
Sean Gatewood, with the KanCare Advocates Network, said the backlog has serious health implications for those awaiting services. His organization, which represents Medicaid recipients, obtained Mosier’s letter.
For example, he said, if a pregnant woman applies for Medicaid and has to wait months for her application to be processed, she could give birth before being approved and thus not receive prenatal care.