Politics & Government

KanCare contractor fails to meet deadline to improve service and may face fines

Maximus is operating with 40 percent accuracy on financial payments; 98 percent is required. The company is also falling behind on handling applications and cases, the state of Kansas says.
Maximus is operating with 40 percent accuracy on financial payments; 98 percent is required. The company is also falling behind on handling applications and cases, the state of Kansas says. © Royalty-Free/CORBIS

The contractor hired to process Kansas Medicaid applications failed to meet a June 1 deadline to shape up its performance after years of complaints. A state official once said that failing to meet the deadline could mean millions in fines.

Kansas brought on Maximus in 2016 to run its KanCare Clearinghouse in Topeka, where the state sorts through Medicaid applications. But the operation has been plagued with backlogs and frustrations over poor service.

Early this year, Kansas gave Maximus the June 1 deadline. This week, the state said the company missed the mark but would not say what fines it might face.

It is also not clear what more Maximus will do to improve its performance.

“Although Maximus has made a good-faith effort to meet our standards, it is not in full compliance with its contractual obligations. We will be working with Maximus on a partnership going forward. Contract performance will be taken into account as part of the future relationship,” Jeff Andersen, secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said in a statement.

In February, Kansas Medicaid Director Jon Hamdorf told lawmakers Maximus could face retroactive penalties in excess of $250,000 a day.

Kansas sent Maximus a notice in January citing inadequate service as an area of concern. At one point, Kansas had a backlog of thousands of unprocessed Medicaid applications, catching the attention of federal officials. Although the state no longer has large backlogs, advocates for people on Medicaid say problems still persist.

Hamdorf told lawmakers in February that the company’s contract calls for 98 percent accuracy on financial payments, but it was achieving only 40 percent. And it was falling behind on its handling of applications and cases.

In an interview in May, Hamdorf said the company could face penalties for performance below targets after June 1 as well. KDHE tracks Maximus’ progress daily, he said.

“It’s not going to stop. Month over month, if they don’t meet their contractual obligations, we will continue to impose damages when necessary,” Hamdorf said.

In a statement, Maximus spokesman James Dunn said the company met the majority of its compliance goals by June.

“We are currently working with KDHE to develop go-forward plans for the KanCare Clearinghouse that will continue to emphasize improvements in operations and customer service,” Dunn said.

KDHE disclosed that Maximus had not met its performance targets on Thursday after House Minority Leader Jim Ward, D-Wichita, said the agency had told him the company fell short. Ward said he was not given information on the size of potential penalties.

Ward said he “will continue to push that we go back to a regional system” where Kansas would operate service centers around the state that could assist Medicaid applicants.

Sean Gatewood, co-director of the KanCare Advocates Network, said he would welcome a regional system. But he said he didn’t know if there will be significant changes.

“Right now there’s almost no assistance for people making those applications,” Gatewood said.

Jonathan Shorman: 785-296-3006, @jonshorman
  Comments