Opinion Columns & Blogs

Aldona Carney, Marla Flentje and Kay Soltz: KanCare is not ready for I/DD

KanCare is not ready to assume responsibility for community services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, a group that includes our loved ones.

As parents experienced in legislative advocacy, we have become increasingly worried as Gov. Sam Brownback’s KanCare experiment has unfolded and is now poised to hand over to private insurers the management of nonmedical I/DD services for nearly 10,000 Kansans. Contrary to official pronouncements, facts on the ground reveal that KanCare remains perilously unprepared to take on this responsibility.

No other state has included this high-risk population in managed-care reforms. After last year’s partial rollout of medical services, we have accumulated alarming evidence that KanCare is far from ready for an I/DD “carve in.” The red flags include:

• Poor customer service. Lengthy hold times and menu options leave parents befuddled. Callers get endlessly shuffled among cubicles. Messages to state employees or insurance companies go unreturned. Inquiries get referred to websites without the promised information. Denials of medications occur without advanced notice. No private business could survive such practices. Yet our loved ones are about to be dropped into this bureaucratic morass.

• Incomplete, inaccurate and contradictory information. Program facts change with the person reporting them. Under a privacy mantle, parents have been denied access to important information about their loves ones. Answers remain elusive on the critical question of due process if insurance companies force service reductions.

• State administrative dysfunction. Professionals with I/DD expertise at the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services have largely departed, replaced by inexperienced political appointees. Families and providers submit the same paperwork multiple times. Providers in the state’s failed I/DD pilot project report billing rejection rates of 40 to 60 percent. Rainbows United made the difficult decision to turn away eligible children with autism because of last year’s experience with sizable unpaid claims. Local administrative agencies report unprecedented state delays in requests for emergency placement funds.

• Absence of accountability. As parents are thwarted and nonprofit providers shortchanged, the contracts and profit margins of insurance companies remain shielded from public scrutiny. For two years, the governor has promised that KanCare savings will be redeployed to reduce the large I/DD waiting list. Yet quietly within the past few weeks, local provider organizations have seen promised waiting-list funds disappear. And state taxpayers have yet to receive any verifiable evidence of KanCare savings.

Proponents continue to champion KanCare as a reform to save public dollars without reducing I/DD services. We, like thousands of similar Kansas families, will hold state leaders accountable for the health and quality of life of our loved ones.