Topeka — The 2014 legislative session started Monday and Republicans and Democrats immediately renewed the battle over Gov. Sam Brownback's privatized Medicaid system called KanCare.
Republicans on the KanCare oversight committee passed a recommendation reaffirming Brownback's plan to put long-term supports for those with developmental disabilities under KanCare by Feb. 1.
Democrats oppose such a move, saying those long-term supports, such as help in bathing or shopping, will be reduced if they are handled by the private health insurance companies that run KanCare.
State Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita, said there was no testimony given from people with disabilities during committee hearings in support of placing those services under KanCare.
But state Rep. David Crum, R-Augusta, and chairman of the House-Senate committee that provides oversight of KanCare, disagreed.
"The concept has a great deal of merit," Crum said. He conceded that KanCare has had "some bumps in the road," but added that he thought those with disabilities would receive better long-term services under KanCare.
Ward said that since those with developmental disabilities are among the most vulnerable Kansans, "Wouldn't it make more sense to postpone it another year to work out those bumps in the road?"
A vote on Crum's recommendation was approved along party lines with five Republicans voting for it, and four Democrats voting against it, including Lawrence legislators, state Sen. Marci Francisco, and state Rep. Barbara Ballard. The committee's recommendation will go to the full Legislature.
The Brownback administration had wanted to transition those long-term supports to KanCare on Jan. 1 but the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services last month refused to give the plan its OK and submitted a list of concerns.
KanCare officials said they are hoping to resolve those issues with CMS and make the switch Feb. 1.