Topeka Democratic legislative leaders said Monday they still believe there is a chance to maintain the current system of assistance for people with developmental disabilities and prevent it from becoming part of Gov. Sam Brownback’s plan to contract with insurance companies to manage Medicaid.
“The carve-out issue is not going away,” said Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka.
“Carve-out” refers to efforts by advocates for people with developmental disabilities to be removed from the Medicaid privatization plan, which would be called KanCare.
Brownback wants to contract with private insurance companies to handle the state’s $2.9 billion Medicaid program that covers health care for the poor, elderly and disabled.
Last week, Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita, tried to take a bill forming a KanCare legislative oversight committee and make an amendment to remove people with developmental disabilities from KanCare and maintain their current network.
Advocates of people with developmental disabilities have pleaded with Brownback to leave them alone, saying that their needs don’t fit the managed care system proposed under KanCare.
But Brownback, a Republican, has rejected those pleas and promised that services will improve under KanCare and cost less.
A bi-partisan group of legislators spoke in support of Ward’s amendment. But Brownback’s allies in the House managed to have the entire bill sent back to committee before a vote could be taken on Ward’s amendment.
The procedural move, however, won’t make the issue disappear, Democrats said.
“I still think there is a majority in the House to carve out the developmentally disabled portion of KanCare,” said House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence. “There is broad support for doing that across the political spectrum,” he said.
Davis said Brownback administration officials worked on House members to stop Ward’s amendment. He said many of those officials were at another meeting related to KanCare and got messages to quickly get to the House.
The bill was sent back to committee on a 69-54 vote with only Republicans voting to send it back. But Davis said he thought some Republicans who supported Ward’s amendment also voted to send it back to committee to align with GOP leaders on a procedural move.
The Legislature convenes its wrap-up session on April 25 with numerous big issues still unresolved, including the budget, proposed tax cuts, redistricting and school finance.
Hensley said the opportunity for another debate on removing people with developmental disabilities from KanCare will arise again because many legislators are intent on approving the bill that sets up the oversight committee.