Medicaid

Dave Ranney, Heartland Health Monitor

When the 2015 legislative session started in January, public health advocates had reason to be optimistic they could reach some of their most ambitious goals.

The Kansas Hospital Association was ramping up efforts to expand Medicaid coverage to about 100,000 uninsured Kansans with the political implications of the 2014 election over.

Newly re-elected Gov. Sam Brownback had proposed to almost triple the state cigarette tax — a prospect that won quick support from groups that fight cancer and heart disease.

The job of inspector general for the state's managed care Medicaid program has been open for nearly a year.

The post has been empty since Phil Hermanson resigned in June 2014, just months after he was hired to lead KanCare, an umbrella program for three private managed health care companies.

The lack of a leader for the $3 billion program has drawn attention from lawmakers.

Stephen Koranda

A Kansas House committee has drafted a plan for expanding the state's Medicaid program for poor and disabled Kansans, in line with the Affordable Care Act.

The Vision 2020 Committee introduced the bill in the House on Monday.

The bill would impose a special tax on hospitals and other health care providers to raise any state matching funds required to tap extra federal dollars.

It also would allow the state to require able-bodied Medicaid recipients to work.

In most of the states seeking to go their own way on Medicaid expansion, governors are leading the negotiations with the federal government. But as Jim McLean of the KHI News Service reports, it’s a different story in Kansas.

Two Democrats in the Kansas Legislature want it to investigate how Republican Governor Sam Brownback's administration awarded contracts to private companies to manage the state's Medicaid program.

Senator Laura Kelly of Topeka and Representative Jim Ward of Wichita had a Statehouse news conference yesterday to call on legislative leaders to authorize an investigation.

However, Senate President Susan Wagle called the move an attempt to distort the truth ahead of the Nov. 4 election.

Wagle says the process for awarding the contracts was transparent.

A new study by the White House Council of Economic Advisors says the decision not to expand Medicaid is costing Kansas millions of dollars, and thousands of jobs.

Gov.  Sam Brownback is making a major push to improve the state’s mental health system. The governor's plan creates a behavioral health sub-cabinet within state government, targets substance abuse for its role in exacerbating mental illness, and increases financial investment in current treatment programs, among other things. 

The three private companies contracted to manage Medicaid services through KanCare lost money in the program's first year. That's according to a report released this week.

The total losses between the companies come to more than $100 million. Representative Jim Ward, a Wichita Democrat, is concerned that could lead to cost increases, service reductions or the companies eventually pulling out of the program altogether.

"Will they leave?" Ward asks. "And if they do leave, what impact will that have on the people who depend on Medicaid for services?"

Attorney General Derek Schmidt says he will ask Kansas legislators to strengthen the state's penalties for Medicaid fraud.

Schmidt outlined his proposal on Thursday during a stop in Wichita.

He says his office gained 15 criminal convictions and recovered $33.7 million dollars in the latest fiscal year from people guilty of defrauding the program.

Schmidt is proposing higher fines for the crime.

He also wants people convicted of Medicaid fraud to serve prison time instead of the current sentence of probation.

A federal board that studies disability issues has been meeting in Topeka.

The National Council on Disability advises Congress and the president on matters affecting Americans with disabilities.

Gary Blumenthal is a member of the council and a former Kansas legislator. He says the group chose to meet in Kansas because of policies affecting people with disabilities, like the state's overhauled Medicaid program now managed by private companies.

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