The controversy over moving the developmentally disabled into the new Kansas managed care system is escalating in Johnson County with worried parents voicing their concerns to lawmakers.
By BRAD COOPER
The Kansas City Star
A couple hundred people turned out this week at a forum in Olathe to quiz Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration about how their adult children will be affected by moving them off of Medicaid to a system run by private insurance companies.
Shawn Sullivan, secretary for aging and disabled services, tried to assure angst-ridden family members that they wouldn’t be cut loose from case managers and providers intimately familiar with the special medical needs of their loved ones.
“There will be no overall change in funding and services,” Sullivan told the overflow audience at Olathe City Hall on Monday morning.
Sullivan, who was accompanied by executives from the three insurance companies, pointed to a number of other safeguards, including:
• Determination for developmentally disabled services will be made locally, for example, by groups like Johnson County Developmental Supports. “Some of you have sent lots of emails and communication about that. That in no way, shape or fashion changes,” Sullivan said.
• Families will not lose their case managers or providers. “It’s been something we tried to communicate and it’s gotten somewhat lost in all the chatter back and forth,” he said.
• Managed care companies cannot arbitrarily reduce services. He said any agreement to reduce services with the family, the case manager and the provider must be approved by the state.
“With all of these protections, this is not really even a managed-care type set up,” Sullivan said. “It’s more managed-care light.”
But some families were not satisfied, some complaining privately that while their submitted questions were asked, they weren’t answered directly. Others just don’t believe Sullivan.
“The only way that (the insurance companies) are going to earn any money is to reduce service,” said Gayle Richardson, a tax accountant from Overland Park who brought along a picture of her 41-year-old son, Rusty, who has autism and cerebral palsy.
“All the waste has been rung out of the system along time ago. There are no efficiencies to be had,” she said. “The answers Shawn has given us are not reassuring.”
The changeover from Medicaid to a system run by three private managed-care companies has been stirring unrest for more than a year.
Many families worry about how private insurance companies might serve the developmentally disabled, including those who have autism or Down syndrome and need help with housing, employment or other daily living needs.
Those families have been registering their complaints loudly with the state, especially last year when they rallied in front of the Capitol to keep the developmentally disabled from being moved into a managed-care plan as part of the overhaul of the state’s Medicaid program, called KanCare.
Just hours after the rally, the Brownback administration to agreed to delay plans to move thousands of developmentally disabled into managed care by a year until 2014.
They hoped the delay would give families more time to increase their comfort level with the change to the managed care system.
There was a legislative move this year to block the Brownback administration from moving the developmentally disabled into managed care, but the bill died in committee.
Budget analysts predicted that the bill would have increased spending by roughly $126 million, just the opposite direction the Brownback administration wants to go.
Some lawmakers such as Republican Reps. Arlen Siegfreid of Olathe and John Rubin of Shawnee want to carve out at least a portion of the developmentally disabled community from managed care.
They called the meeting Monday and would like to build support for delaying the move to managed care even longer in order to see the results for a pilot program that has begun for the developmentally disabled participating in managed care.
However, the legislative session is winding to a close and the only way that may be done is with a proviso added to the state budget.
“We are very far down the budgeting road,” Siegfreid said. “It is going to be very difficult.”