It’s true, as a KanCare spokeswoman said, that “10 people is not a valid sample of anything.”
You have to wonder how the consumer ratings company J.D. Power, which has now backed away from a report that originally said KanCare ranked dead last among 36 privatized state Medicaid programs, ever thought that interviewing just 10 of the 400,000 people on KanCare might provide a statistically significant picture of how well the program works.
That’s a Yelp review, not a survey.
And yet, those 10 people do happen to have been right.
In the four years since Kansas became the first state to fully privatize its Medicaid services, KanCare has been great at cutting costs but not so stellar at delivering needed health care.
Under Gov. Sam Brownback, the state signed up UnitedHealthCare, Amerigroup and the Centene subsidiary Sunflower State Health Plan to administer all of the state’s Medicaid services.
Just as the governor has never stopped insisting, against all evidence to the contrary, that tax cuts would invigorate the state’s economy, his administration has also incorrectly insisted that privatizing Medicaid has saved $1 billion — well, that part is true — while also improving outcomes. That part isn’t.
Even now, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, who is a plastic surgeon, insists that KanCare ought to be a national model. But just as the deep tax cuts, which were ruinous for the state, are only a model of what not to do, so too is KanCare more cautionary than exemplary.
A report published last November by the Leavitt Partners consulting firm said that of the 189 Kansans who responded to its survey, more than 75 percent said KanCare has not met its own stated goals. Among the report’s other findings was this indictment: “In general, interviewees do not believe that moving to a managed care system has led to improvements in the quality of care provided to Kansas Medicaid beneficiaries.”
Particular problem areas include diabetes management, high-risk newborn care for babies born with drug and alcohol addictions, and prenatal care.
And as for measurably improving health outcomes, the report found “little to no improvement over time.”
That, and not politics, is why the federal government denied the state’s request to extend KanCare, saying Kansas was not giving the insurance companies enough oversight or fully complying with federal regulations.
Maybe the Trump administration will overlook the problems and extend the program.
But instead of complaining about flawed reports, we wish Colyer and other state officials would try harder to correct the flaws of KanCare itself.