Government & Politics

Cuts will slow down Medicaid process

TOPEKA — Medicaid applicants could face a longer wait and a little less scrutiny when they apply — and less customer service after they are approved — under cuts planned by the Kansas Health Policy Authority.

The authority's executive board approved $1.13 million in cuts Friday as it copes with budget reductions ordered by Gov. Mark Parkinson in late November.

These cuts are in addition to a 10 percent cut to all Medicaid provider payments already announced. That is expected to save $22 million.

Medicaid provides health care coverage for low-income, disabled and elderly people.

"This is really a triple hit: We're cutting the reimbursement rates we pay to our providers; we're cutting the administrative support that helps providers get what little they are supposed to be paid; and we're cutting the resources needed to help people get enrolled in the programs in the first place," said KHPA board chairman Joe Tilghman.

The reductions are intended to affect those receiving Medicaid as little as possible, KHPA's acting executive director Andy Allison said.

"The goal is to provide services and access as best we can," he said.

The state will cut a staffing contract and eliminate overtime that was intended to help eliminate a backlog of about 15,000 applications by June.

"Until November, we were making progress with decreasing the backlog, but we anticipate that will start creeping up," Barbara Langner, acting Medicaid director, told the executive committee.

It also will reduce customer service for those receiving benefits and reduce the verification process.

For example, the program will assume that when someone says they are pregnant, they are correct, instead of requiring proof, Langner said. State workers will also review applications instead of verifying all applications in detail.

"Some level of accuracy will be sacrificed for expediency," she told the board.

The cuts also eliminate a call center that handled about 250,000 calls annually from Medicaid recipients and providers.

Allison estimated the budget cuts would equal about 50 positions cut by contractors. Most of the cuts will be implemented no later than Feb. 1.