Opinion Columns & Blogs

State snipping holes in safety net for disabled

Tim Keck, acting secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, recently wrote a commentary stating that the safety net for the disabled in Kansas is strong (Oct. 24 Opinion). As the parent and guardian of an adult son whose disability is on the autism spectrum, I disagree.

Keck said more people have received dental care under KanCare. My son’s care coordinator gave me a list of about 30 dentists. I started calling and found no dentist who would take an additional adult KanCare patient. I was told it was too hard to get reimbursement and the amount of reimbursement just wasn’t worth it.

KanCare is not helping the disabled find and keep medical providers either. KanCare reimbursements don’t come close to covering the cost to providers. How long are doctors going to be willing to see KanCare patients?

Kech mentioned that KanCare did not cause the waiting list issue. Our son is very fortunate to have day and residential services, but while he was on the waiting list, I could get an idea of how long the wait might be. In 2007, our son was No. 283, and in 2011 he was No. 11.

Since KanCare, the waiting list for the intellectually and developmentally disabled has become murky, and families cannot learn where they are on the list.

Kech referred to a multi-level appeals system. After KanCare began, my son’s medication refill was denied at the pharmacy window. We had no notification that a medication he had taken daily for 10 years to control anxiety and self-injurious behavior would be denied. It is a medication that should not be stopped abruptly, and even missing one dose can have serious consequences.

When I called the KanCare managed care organization, no one answered. I left a message that was not returned. I called the KanCare ombudsman. The ombudsman did not answer. The next day I received a letter in the mail notifying me of the medication denial. The letter said if I wanted to appeal, I had to make the appeal in writing, mail it in and wait to be notified of a hearing.

My son’s well-being depended on this medication. I couldn’t wait.

With the help of our doctor and our pharmacist and an e-mail to then KDADS Secretary Shawn Sullivan, my son had the medication before the ombudsman returned my call two days later. Where was the quick, responsive, effective appeal process?

I disagree with Keck that the safety net for the disabled is strong and improving. Since our son is fortunate to have day and residential services, my husband and I hoped to breathe a sigh of relief that he would be taken care of when we are gone. Instead, under KanCare, I feel dread and fear.

I see the private insurers and KDADS snipping holes in the safety net. The insurance companies are motivated to reduce services to increase their profits, and KDADS is constantly making changes that seem designed to reduce services.

Kay Soltz lives in Wichita.