Topeka A plan for overhauling Kansas' Medicaid program will push to cut the state's nursing home population and reorganize agencies, but won't narrow eligibility requirements to reduce the number of people covered, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer said Thursday.
Colyer, a surgeon and former state senator, is leading a Medicaid task force for Gov. Sam Brownback's administration. The Republican governor has said he wants to reduce the costs associated with medical care for the needy while improving services, and Colyer said the administration will release its plan by the end of October.
The lieutenant governor discussed the broad outlines of the Medicaid plan during an interview with The Associated Press, saying it will be designed to tackle a "fragmented" system for providing care for the elderly and disabled and poor families. He said Brownback's administration will ask the federal government for a "global waiver" of Medicaid rules to give the state as much flexibility as possible.
Administration critics have worried Brownback will try to make it tougher for Kansans to qualify for Medicaid coverage or reduce the payments to doctors, clinics and hospitals that provide services to program participants. Colyer said any payment reduction to health care providers is "a last resort."
"We are not going to cut people off of Medicaid," Colyer said. "Secondly, we are not looking at giant across-the-board rate cuts."
The state's Medicaid program covers about 330,000 people, a figure that's been rising in recent months. Overhauling Medicaid is a major initiative for Brownback's administration because the program's costs, now approaching $2.8 billion, have increased 48 percent during the past eight years, stressing the state's budget.
The federal government, which oversees states' programs, typically has picked up about 60 percent of the cost. Colyer said the Brownback administration anticipates big cuts in federal spending to help close the federal budget deficit and reduce the federal debt.
Colyer didn't provide specifics about the overhaul plan, saying its release remains several weeks away. But he said it will include proposals for seeing a greater number of elderly and disabled Kansas residents receive services in their homes rather than in nursing homes, which tend to be more expensive. He said the state may even work to get nursing homes themselves to provide such services.
"We want to keep people in their own homes," Colyer said. "We can do that and save money."