Brownback-Colyer administration halts plans for KanCare 2.0

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? Gov. Sam Brownback and Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer announced Wednesday that they are halting, at least for the time being, plans to implement a new privatized Medicaid program, which they had been calling “KanCare 2.0.”

At the same time, though, they said they plan to move forward with implementing some of the more controversial elements of that new plan, such as imposing a work requirement for some working-age Medicaid recipients.

The announcement came amid growing concern among lawmakers that there are still major issues with the first KanCare model, which was established as a pilot project in 2013 under a waiver from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The administration had already solicited proposals from private insurance companies that would manage the care of Medicaid recipients under the new program. Contracts with the three companies currently managing the program are set to expire Dec. 31.

In a news release from the governor’s office, Brownback and Colyer said there are at least two options for going forward starting July 1, 2019 — either extending the current contracts for another three years, or evaluating proposals received in response to the current bid process, without the cost increases that had caused concern among many lawmakers.

“Keeping Kansans healthy continues to be a top priority,” Brownback said in the news release. “We’re going to continue to work hard to make sure we have a program that works for Kansas.”

Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers had expressed serious concerns about moving forward with a new KanCare model, saying there were still significant problems with the original model. One of the issues cited is a large backlog of eligibility applications that has prevented many people from getting signed up and delayed payments to health care providers, sometimes for months at a time.

On Jan. 9, GOP leaders in the Kansas Senate issued a joint statement saying they were opposed to moving forward with the new plan.

“After careful consideration regarding the discussion that took place during the Public Health and Welfare Committee (meeting) today, we are hesitant to move forward with KanCare 2.0,” they said in a news release that day. “We believe there is still work to do to stabilize KanCare 1.0 and that there is no certain path forward for KanCare 2.0, at this time.”

That statement was signed by Senate President Susan Wagle of Wichita, Majority Leader Jim Denning of Overland Park, Ways and Means Committee Chairwoman Carolyn McGinn of Sedgwick and Public Health and Welfare Committee Chairwoman Vicki Schmidt of Topeka.

Democratic Sen. Laura Kelly of Topeka, who is a candidate for governor in 2018 and the ranking minority member on the Public Health and Welfare Committee, also had opposed implementing a new KanCare model.

“I’m pleased that both Republicans and Democrats — and now the Brownback Administration — have joined me in looking out for the best interests of Kansans,” she said in a statement in response to the administration’s announcement.

“Since its inception, KanCare has been plagued with problems, most of which have not yet been resolved,” she continued. “The Joint Committee on Home and Community Based Services and KanCare Oversight still routinely hears complaints about many aspects of the KanCare system almost five years after it was implemented. That is unacceptable.”

Meanwhile, one health care advocacy group said it still has concerns about plans to move forward with the controversial work requirements, which previously have never been allowed under federal rules in the Medicaid program, but which the Trump administration has recently signaled it will start accepting.

David Jordan, executive director of the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas, said in a news release that it is not yet clear whether that requirement will pass muster in federal courts. And even if it does, he called it an unnecessary burden on Medicaid beneficiaries.

“This requirement would create costly and burdensome administrative red tape for enrollees, providers, and businesses and will still require federal approval,” he said. “Even then, its legality is in question — the federal Department of Health and Human Services has just been sued over similar requirements recently approved in Kentucky.”