Topeka — An effort to remove the management of care for those with developmental disabilities from Gov. Sam Brownback's Medicaid privatization plan was thwarted in the House on Thursday.
The dustup occurred when legislators considered House Bill 2789, which would have set up a legislative committee to oversee Brownback's move to contract with private insurance companies to handle the state's $2.9 billion Medicaid program. Under Brownback's plan, the program, which covers health care for the poor, elderly and disabled, would be called KanCare.
State Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita, tried to amend the bill to remove those with developmental disabilities from KanCare and maintain their current network of assistance.
Ward was acting on behalf of parents and advocates of those with developmental disabilities who have pleaded with Brownback to leave them alone, saying that the needs of those with developmental disabilities don't fit the managed care system provided by insurance companies.
But Brownback has rejected those pleas and promised that services will improve under KanCare and cost less.
A bi-partisan group of legislators, however, said they were skeptical of those claims and supported Ward's amendment.
"My constituents have been begging for this," said state Rep. Ron Worley, R-Lenexa. "They are not simply concerned, they are scared to death."
State Rep. Ed Trimmer, D-Winfield, said the parents of children with developmental disabilities fear having to fight insurance companies over assistance for their sons and daughters.
Brownback administration officials were on the floor of the House busily talking with legislators.
State Rep. Brenda Landwehr, R-Wichita, and chair of the House Health and Human Services Committee, said if the care of developmentally disabled Kansans wasn't turned over to KanCare, state funds may not be available and services would have to be cut. She was joined by state Reps. Marc Rhoades, R-Newton, who is chair of the House Appropriations Committee, and David Crum, R-Augusta, chair of the House Social Services Budget Committee.
Crum made the motion to send the entire bill back to committee, which caused Ward to leap up in protest. "Keep your big boy pants," he urged House members. "Today's the day." But the motion to send the bill back to committee was approved 69-54. Only Republicans voted for the motion.