Topeka Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer said Tuesday that a proposal to reform Medicaid programs in Kansas will have the flexibility and creativity to improve the health of all Kansas residents while holding down costs.
Colyer, a surgeon and former state senator, outlined the proposal to the Legislature’s Health Policy Oversight Committee. He said the changes will restructure three state agencies while moving to a managed care system for Medicaid.
“It isn’t sexy, but it’s real people and real lives,” Colyer said in describing the complex changes.
Medicaid is the state’s health care program for disabled, elderly and low-income residents. It’s one of the largest and fastest-growing expenditures in state government, accounting for nearly $2.8 billion in overall spending. About 350,000 Kansas residents are on Medicaid.
Bids are being sought from companies to administer the Medicaid contracts. Colyer hopes there are three contracts awarded, if not more. He says he wants those companies to be able to achieve the Republican administration’s goal of moving toward a system of health care centered on people.
Legislators said they generally support the goals, but question how the outcomes will be measured.
“I don’t agree with everything here, but I hope that we can put politics aside and move forward,” said Rep. Brenda Landwehr, a Wichita Republican.
Sen. Roger Reitz, a physician and Manhattan Republican, said that the challenge in achieving the wellness goals will be changing the behavior of people who are reluctant to follow doctors’ orders to modify their lives, such as controlling diabetes.
“Some of these things sound good to me off the top, but from a practical aspect it may not be realistic,” he said.
Reitz was critical of the plans, saying that more emphasis should be given to mental health services and making sure residents are able to access they need, citing recent cuts in state mental health programs.
Colyer said the contracts would be written with 15 specific goals for improving efficiencies in the programs, including reducing the number of hospitalizations and moving clients from state programs to private insurance, in some instances, as they are able to find employment.
“There are disabled clients who can and want to work but who are not allowed under the current structure,” Colyer said.
The administration projects that the changes will save Kansas more than $850 million over five years, including nearly $370 million in state tax dollars and $12.5 million in the next budget year.