Editorials

Even applying for Medicaid can be an ordeal in Kansas

Applying for Medicaid is now more difficult, especially for those who don’t have access to a computer.
Applying for Medicaid is now more difficult, especially for those who don’t have access to a computer.

Not only can it take months for the Brownback administration to process and approve Medicaid applications, but even applying for Medicaid can be an ordeal. No wonder there has been a drop in the number of Medicaid beneficiaries in Kansas.

The state’s expensive new online application system and reorganized processing clearinghouse were supposed to make enrolling in Medicaid faster and easier. The opposite happened.

In some cases, it has taken up to five months to approve applications, which has caused financial hardship on nursing homes and endangered the health of some patients. Also, thousands of poor Kansans have mistakenly been denied Medicaid coverage because of glitches in the system, the Kansas Health Institute News Service reported.

What’s more, applying for Medicaid is now more difficult, especially for those who don’t have access to a computer. Obtaining a paper application can be a challenge, and calling to the state’s telephone hotline can result in lengthy holds, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported. The Brownback administration also made the application more complicated, with more documentation requirements.

“If you’re a consumer and you’re trying to navigate this – if you’re frail, if you’ve got a head injury, if you’ve got any cognitive challenges, if you have to physically maneuver around in a wheelchair or a walker – how hard have we made this system for people at this point?” asked Mitzi McFatrich, director of Kansas Advocates for Better Care.

The delays and bureaucratic barriers may be a factor in why the number of Kansans on Medicaid has decreased, even though poverty rates haven’t changed significantly. In February 2015, there were 412,320 Medicaid beneficiaries in Kansas. This past February (the most recent data available), the total was 402,932.

“I think it’s pretty clear those structural changes are leading to those people not being able to come into the system who clearly need it,” Sean Gatewood with the KanCare Advocates Network told the Capital-Journal.

Hospitals and other providers also have complained about slow payments from the private insurance companies that manage the state’s Medicaid program. And the state floated an idea this week to change how it pays providers and reduce the number of providers in some areas.

Meanwhile, Gov. Sam Brownback continues to refuse to allow a federal expansion of Medicaid, which is keeping about 150,000 additional Kansans from receiving health insurance coverage. Last week he announced reimbursement cuts to Medicaid providers, which could cause more physicians and dentists to stop seeing Medicaid patients.

It seems almost as if the Brownback administration wants Medicaid to fail.

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