Gubernatorial hopeful Barnett calls for ending KanCare clearinghouse contract, fining contractor

photo by: Peter Hancock

In this photo from June 20, 2017, Jim Barnett, a former state senator and 2006 Republican nominee for governor, announces that he plans to run again for governor in 2018.

TOPEKA — Republican candidate for governor Jim Barnett on Tuesday called on incumbent Gov. Jeff Colyer to cancel a $25 million-per-year contract with a private company that processes KanCare applications and to levy fines against the current contractor for failing to clear up a backlog of applications.

Barnett noted that the Virginia-based company Maximus failed to meet a June 1 deadline to meet certain targets for improving both the timeliness and accuracy of processing those applications. Because of that, he said, many patients in the system are not getting the health care they need.

“What’s happened now is that those who are needy, they’re stuck at the starting line, unable to get the care that they need, and actually it isn’t any fault of their own,” Barnett said during a news conference in Topeka.

KanCare is the name of the state’s privatized Medicaid system. It was launched in 2013 during former Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration, but it was largely designed by Colyer, who was then Brownback’s lieutenant governor.

Colyer has defended the KanCare model, saying it has been successful in slowing the growth rate in the cost of Medicaid.

The contract calls on Maximus to process incoming applications for medical assistance. Under federal guidelines, the standard time for completing that task is supposed to be less than 45 days, but many KanCare applicants have complained that it can take months, or even as long as a year, before their applications are approved.

Officials at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, which is responsible for much of the financial administration for the program, have acknowledged that Maximus missed a deadline to meet certain benchmarks for improving its service. But despite having promised to levy what are called “liquidated damages” against the company, the agency so far has not said whether it actually will impose those penalties.

Barnett is running as a moderate Republican against a crowded field of conservatives that includes Colyer, Secretary of State Kris Kobach and Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer. Of the four, he is the only GOP candidate who has said he supports expanding KanCare to cover an estimated 150,000 additional individuals, as allowed under the federal Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.


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