Officials with the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services announced earlier this month that they now have what they believe is an accurate list of people awaiting home and community-based Medicaid services and they are ready to move forward on providing those services — but not very quickly.
For several months, officials in the Brownback administration had delayed action on the long waiting lists for services because they doubted the accuracy of the lists, especially the one for people with physical disabilities. As of July, the state’s Center for Independent Living showed 3,462 names on that list. State officials were skeptical of that figure so they hired a Hays firm to confirm those names. After that firm was able to contact only 377 people on the list, the state turned the task of double-checking the list back over to the Centers for Independent Living.
At the end of the process, 1,226 people were removed from the list either because they no longer needed the services or were not eligible. However, during the process, 250 people were added to the list.
So, with just under 2,200 people remaining on the waiting list, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer and DADS Secretary Shawn Sullivan called a news conference in early November to say the state, after months of inaction on the waiting list, now planned to provide services to 100 people by the end of the year.
A hundred people is better than none, but it falls far short of what is needed, even assuming that the new list is accurate and no one needing services was mistakenly removed. Federal authorities already are keeping an eye on Kansas because advocates for disabled people contend the state’s slow progress on reducing its long waiting list puts it in violation of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.
Sullivan, however, seems satisfied with the state’s pace. He indicated at the press conference that his department wouldn’t seek additional state funding to speed progress on reducing the waiting list but, instead would wait to see how much money was approved in the next legislative session to deal with the problem. Does Sullivan really think the Legislature will approve funding that the Department of Aging and Disability Services hasn’t even asked for?
If, as they indicated, state officials “now have a better handle on the waiting list,” there is no reason to delay more aggressive action to provide the services needed by people on that list. Many of these people are counting on state services to keep them in their homes and out of care facilities, which would be far more costly to the state. Further delays in attacking the waiting list will have both human and financial costs for the state.