Last week in Lawrence, an advocacy group presented several inaccuracies about KanCare, the Medicaid reform plan proposed by Gov. Sam Brownback. I would also like to take this opportunity to respond to an editorial questioning the inclusion of persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) within KanCare. It is important for Kansans to understand the challenges the state faces under the current system, why the governor tasked the lieutenant governor, secretary of KDHE and me to transform it and how the reform will improve the lives of thousands.
In Kansas, Medicaid serves as a safety net for 383,000 elderly, disabled and low-income families and children. Since 2000, the growth in spending for the Kansas Medicaid program has averaged 7.4 percent annually. If this spending growth is allowed to continue, Kansas will be forced to either cut spending on other state responsibilities like education and public safety — or follow the lead of other states and cut provider rates, restrict eligibility and reduce services provided. None of those are options for Gov. Brownback. When we set out to transform Medicaid, our vision was to serve Kansans in need with a transformed, fiscally sustainable program that provides high-quality, holistic care that promotes personal responsibility.
There have been questions about the administration’s plans to implement KanCare in January 2013, specifically for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. We believe there are great opportunities for improvement with the health outcomes and mental health coordination for developmentally disabled Kansans. Under KanCare, consumers will be able to access the system through their current providers and case managers as they do now, without cuts in services. It is important to note that the professional associations for physicians and also mental health centers support this inclusion because of the enhanced care coordination that will occur through health homes to be created within KanCare.
This week’s editorial questioned whether Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) of Kansas not bidding on KanCare was because of the scope of the KanCare plan and its timeline and also countered a quote from me that BCBS does not cover Medicaid in other states. The editorial was correct to point out that independent BCBS association licensees in other states are Medicaid providers. However, it is still important to know that BCBS has not been a Medicaid provider in Kansas. Based on the BCBS of Kansas model, we were surprised months ago to learn it was considering bidding on KanCare, but welcomed its interest in serving vulnerable Kansans.
The KanCare plan proposes that mental health, physical health and long-term services and supports will be coordinated through a KanCare health home. This will enhance care coordination and will require KanCare vendors to phase-in implementation for all consumers with complex needs within the first two years of KanCare.
KanCare will improve health outcomes, better coordinate all care and, in time, will bend down the cost curve of Medicaid. KanCare will maintain current benefit levels to Kansans who depend on Medicaid while also maintaining provider reimbursement and improving the care of the whole person.
I encourage all Kansans to learn more about KanCare from the Kansas Department on Aging’s website at www.agingkansas.org. Please feel free to submit any questions about KanCare to KanCare@kdheks.gov.