Federal officials approve 1-year extension of KanCare

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? Federal health officials have agreed to extend for one more year a waiver that allows Kansas to operate its Medicaid program as a privatized managed care system known as KanCare.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services, initially declined to renew that waiver in January, saying it had received numerous complaints about the program from both health care providers and beneficiaries, and that KanCare was out of compliance with numerous laws and regulations.

“Due to the severe and pervasive nature of the on-site review findings and the resulting impacts this has on the beneficiaries and providers, CMS is requiring Kansas to develop a Corrective Action plan (CAP) describing the actions it will take to correct the identified noncompliance,” James Scott, CMS’s associate regional administrator in Kansas City, said in a letter to state officials in January.

In the months since then, state officials have been in negotiations with CMS, and the federal agency finally announced that it had agreed to a temporary one-year extension.

Republican Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, a surgeon who was the chief architect of the program, announced CMS’s decision shortly after 5 p.m. Monday.

“I am pleased to see that CMS has granted our request for an extension for the KanCare waiver,” Colyer said in a news release. “Since KanCare’s implementation, health outcomes have improved for thousands of Kansans. Emergency room visits are down, routine checkups are increasing and Kansans are spending less time in the hospital and more time taking advantage of preventative care.”

Under KanCare, which began in 2013, roughly 400,000 Medicaid beneficiaries in Kansas can choose from among three private health insurance companies to manage their care. Those companies are paid a flat, per-capita fee for each patient they manage.

Later this month, the state plans to post its proposal for a new waiver, “KanCare 2.0,” which, if approved by CMS, would take effect Jan. 1, 2019.