Long before entering the Kansas Legislature, my wife and I were simply parents of a son with an intellectual disability — Billy Weber’s mom and dad.
Billy’s Down Syndrome and connected birth defects introduced us to a puzzling array of government programs and services. Unaccountable Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services bureaucrats in Topeka, who never met Billy, were in control. The process was confusing, often infuriating.
Engaging “the system” for Billy changed significantly under KanCare. He now has a care coordinator and a case manager working together with us to identify and acquire needed services. We have choices, discussions and real customer service. It’s change for the better.
The old Medicaid system never closely tracked the physical health care of people like Billy. Under KanCare, our managed-care organization coordinates health care, long-term services and supports. The MCO is accountable for outcomes across the entire spectrum of care. As a parent, this is how I want my child cared for and supported – as a whole person, not as a set of symptoms and conditions.
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I continue to study and learn about KanCare from a parent as well as a legislator’s perspective. From that viewpoint, most of the 20,000 people now on KanCare’s seven Medicaid waivers for a disability are getting better care now than pre-KanCare. Hard data reported to the state supports this observation.
Waiver members now see their primary care physician 80 percent more often under KanCare than under old Medicaid. Access to outpatient treatment is up 10 percent. With improved primary care access, inpatient hospital stays are reduced by 29 percent. Dental services are up 36 percent, emergency room visits are down 7 percent and the volume of home- and community-based services has increased by 36 percent.
For many like Billy, there used to be a “partial waiting list.” Those on the intellectual/developmentally disabled waiver received some but not all of the services they needed. That waiting list is gone and now all individuals on an I/DD waiver are receiving all the services called for in their plans of care. I cannot overemphasize what a huge step this represents.
Kansas has a proud history of providing care and support for its developmentally disabled citizens, and KanCare has strengthened that history by improving health outcomes while providing solid services and supports.
As the parent of a young man with a disability and as a state legislator, I am intensely and personally interested in the delivery of social services to Kansans who need them.
Like every other social service system in the country, KanCare can improve. Smoother navigation of the system, enhanced coordination with care providers and greater accountability are a few areas where we can get better. KanCare clients and taxpayers who pay the bills deserve nothing less. It’s not easy and there are no simple answers. We persevere.
State Rep. Chuck Weber, R-Wichita, is a member of the House Social Services Budget Committee, the Kansas Commission on Disability Concerns and the KanCare Oversight Committee.