Disconnect on ‘success’ of KanCare


Ever since the Brownback administration privatized Medicaid, there has been a disconnect between its rose-colored assessments of KanCare’s success and the complaints of many service providers and those receiving (or not receiving) care.

So it wasn’t a huge surprise when federal officials denied Kansas’ request to extend KanCare contracts beyond this year, saying the state was “substantively out of compliance with federal statutes and regulations, as well as its Medicaid state plan.”

Nor was it particularly surprising that the Brownback administration lashed out in response, saying the denial was “politically motivated.”

Brownback officials have regularly boasted about how well KanCare is doing. Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer told members of Congress last week that “the success of KanCare has been outstanding, and it should serve as a model program for states looking to modernize Medicaid.”

But as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services noted, many providers and KanCare recipients strongly disagree.

They complain about long waits for payments and approvals, denied reimbursements and reductions in or difficulty accessing services. The disability community has been especially frustrated, accusing the private insurance companies of putting profits before care.

Lawmakers also have grown increasingly frustrated, as was evident during a heated oversight committee hearing last August and during a hearing Monday.

Federal investigators concluded that a lack of state oversight put the health of KanCare recipients at risk. They also cited concerns about transparency and effectiveness.

Some of the fixes are obvious. For example, KanCare has gone without an inspector general since January 2014.

But the biggest challenge may be getting the Brownback administration to admit that KanCare isn’t working as well as it claims.