Politics & Government

Kansas to delay consolidation of home services for disabled

Kansas is delaying a planned consolidation of seven programs providing in-home services for the disabled and elderly for a few months until spring 2017, and a key legislator said Tuesday that slowing the project down is “doing the right thing.”

Republican Gov. Sam Brownback has pursued the consolidation since last year, contending it would deliver services more efficiently and give participants access to more programs. But some legislators and advocates for the disabled have worried that Brownback’s administration is moving too quickly and the changes would reduce services.

The administration had planned to consolidate the programs in January, but Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer said the integration would be delayed until legislators finished their next annual session in spring 2017. Colyer, who often acts as the administration’s top spokesman on health care issues, made the commitment in a letter last week to House Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Dan Hawkins, a Wichita Republican.

Hawkins said committee members want to see the details of a consolidation plan. The state needs the federal government’s approval, because the in-home services are covered under Medicaid.

“That would give us one more chance to say yes or no, and I thought that was a very fair agreement,” Hawkins said, before later adding: “By slowing this thing down, I think we’re doing the right thing.”

The seven programs provide services to about 23,000 people and cost about $600 million a year. They include services such as personal care and help with household tasks for the elderly and the physically and developmentally disabled, as well as services for autistic children and people with traumatic brain injuries.

The administration plans to offer a benefits package for children and a separate one for adults. Supporters say doing that will give participants access to services that may not be available to them in their specific program.

But advocates for the disabled have been skeptical. The state turned management of its Medicaid program over to three private health insurance companies in 2013 and since then has faced complaints about access to services and the processing of claims.

“What it means is a direct impact on every service for every person,” said Tom Laing, executive director of InterHab, which represents community groups providing services for the developmentally disabled.