Opinion Columns & Blogs

Kansas safety net for disabled strong and improving


Kansas’ safety net for the disabled is strong and improving every day. The state is spending more now on its disability services than ever before, while still responsibly managing resources and improving the quality of care provided.

That is not to say KanCare could not be improved, but it is in no way the disaster Gary H. Blumenthal recently described (“Feds should reject renewal of KanCare,” Oct. 16 Opinion).

State funding for Medicaid overall has risen from $1.179 billion in 2014, the first full year of KanCare, to an estimated $1.224 billion in 2017. The number of individuals enrolled in KanCare has risen from 329,159 in 2010 to 444,165 in 2016.

KanCare represents a vast improvement over the previous in-house administration of Medicaid, which was a pay-for-service system with no built-in accountability measures or incentives for improvement. The KanCare contracts incorporate accountability and pay-for-performance measures that have improved the quality as well as the quantity of care and services delivered by the managed care organizations.

KanCare has allowed us to serve more people more efficiently with demonstrably better health outcomes, particularly for the disabled. Every individual under KanCare has a care coordinator who makes sure they are getting the treatment and services they need, whether it be medical, mental health or home-based care. The health concerns of the disabled are being addressed earlier and more effectively than they had been under the old system.

KanCare has delivered 36 percent more home- and community- based services than old Medicaid. Hospital emergency room visits by those consumers have dropped by 29 percent. KanCare has decreased hospital stays among Medicaid consumers overall by 28 percent. Also, 29 percent more have been able to take advantage of transportation options under KanCare than old Medicaid, and 28 percent more have received dental care.

In addition to these performance measures, there are the added-value services the KanCare managed care organizations have brought to consumers at no cost to the state, such as free cell phones, pest control to mitigate asthma and respite for familial caregivers.

KanCare did not create waiting lists for home- and community-based services. Those waiting lists formed and ballooned in 2008 and 2009. Individuals with disabilities who are on the KanCare waiver programs are receiving all the care and services for which they have a demonstrated need. If they or their families don’t believe that is the case, there is a robust, multi-level appeals system in place to allow them to challenge such decisions.

Working together, Kansas has achieved remarkable success in caring for disabled citizens. Uninformed criticism with a political agenda will not move our state forward, but continued efforts of cooperation, innovation, and reform certainly will

Tim Keck is acting secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services.