Health Care

KanCare enrollment begins amid Amerigroup lawsuit, Kansans urged to compare new plans

A pair of brothers who ran a chiropractic clinic in Lenexa have agreed to pay $350,000 to settle allegations they cheated Medicare.
A pair of brothers who ran a chiropractic clinic in Lenexa have agreed to pay $350,000 to settle allegations they cheated Medicare.

Kansans who receive Medicaid services through Amerigroup can begin choosing a new plan for 2019 this month, even as a court challenge about the group’s contract is still pending.

Amerigroup sued the state this year after it wasn’t awarded one of the new contracts for Kansas’ privatized Medicaid program, KanCare. The company alleged that the bidding process was flawed and should be re-done.

That leaves uncertainty as to whether the 125,000 Kansans currently covered by Amerigroup should log on to the enrollment website and choose a different insurer or if they might have the option to stay with the Virginia-based company.

“The state has been, all along, proceeding like the lawsuit’s not even out there,” said Barb Conant, the co-director of a group for Kansans on Medicaid called the KanCare Advocates Network.

Kansas Department of Health and Environment spokeswoman Theresa Freed said enrollment packets for the new plans are going out Monday and KanCare recipients can choose a plan as soon as they receive their packet.

But the new insurance won’t go into effect until Jan. 1 and even then, they will have until April 4 to switch their selection.

“We look forward to a Jan. 1 implementation date for the new contracts,” Freed said.

She didn’t answer a question about what will happen if Amerigroup wins its legal challenge.

There were two days of hearings in Topeka last month on whether the contracting process was legal and should go forward but as of Monday, Shawnee County District Court judge Franklin Theis had yet to issue a decision.

Amerigroup officials had petitioned for an injunction that would have prevented the state from moving forward with the new contracts while the legal case plays out. But Theis denied that request in August.

So the state agency that runs Kansas Medicaid is forging ahead.

The health department’s enrollment website and enrollment center hotline both have messages saying that Amerigroup’s tenure as a KanCare company will end Dec. 31. At that point the options for coverage will be KanCare incumbents Sunflower State Health Plan (a division of Centene) and UnitedHealthcare, along with newcomer Aetna.

KDHE is also moving forward with informational meetings about open enrollment, including one Tuesday in Olathe at the Kansas State University branch at 22201 W. Innovation Drive. There will be two sessions: 1 to 3 p.m. for medical providers and 6 to 8 p.m. for KanCare members.

During the court hearings, Amerigroup’s attorneys said that if they prevail, Kansas could petition the federal government for a one-year extension of the current contracts to allow time for a new bidding process.

The KanCare contracts are worth about $1 billion annually in state and federal money for each of the three companies that gets them. Amerigroup officials say they should have been allowed a chance to change their bid after the Kansas Legislature placed new parameters on KanCare in a budget bill passed in May.

Amerigroup officials say they would have submitted a dramatically different bid if the new parameters had been in place before the submission deadline and the entire contracting process should be voided.

They’ve been joined in their legal challenge by AmeriHealth, one of the other companies that didn’t get a contract.

Amerigroup spokeswoman Denise Malecki said via email that the company “remains hopeful that the Court will soon render a decision which preserves the integrity of Kansas’ procurement process, and serves the best interest of Kansas’ taxpayers and Medicaid consumers.”

The state has argued that the bidding process was legal and fair and all the bidders went into it with the same information. The three companies that were awarded contracts joined the state in defending the process.

Conant said the open enrollment period is an important time for KanCare members to review the plans to make sure their medical providers are in-network and to see what “value-added” extra coverage they offer that the others don’t.

This year’s uncertainty shouldn’t keep them from doing that, she said.

“We would encourage people this time of year to do that side-by-side comparison anyway, but with the change from Amerigroup to Aetna it’s probably even more important,” Conant said.

Oct. 2 KanCare meeting

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment is hosting a series of informational meetings on KanCare as open enrollment begins this month. There will be two sessions on Tuesday, Oct. 2, at Kansas State University, Olathe, 22201 W. Innovation Drive. 1 to 3 p.m. for medical providers. 6 to 8 p.m. for KanCare members.

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