Medicaid expansion

Bryan Thompson / Heartland Health Monitor

A task force charged with addressing the problems of health care delivery in rural Kansas met for nearly five hours in Salina yesterday. As Heartland Health Monitor’s Bryan Thompson reports, they still haven’t settled on a direction.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor/File photo

Legislative auditors said Wednesday they can’t confirm that the Medicaid application backlog numbers state officials have reported are correct.

Applications have been backlogged for about a year following the rocky rollout of a new computer system, an administrative decision that funneled all applications through a single state agency and a larger-than-expected influx of applications during the Affordable Care Act open enrollment period.

Photo by U.S. Census Bureau

The uninsured rates in Kansas and Missouri continue to drop.

But they’re declining faster in states that have expanded Medicaid, the health insurance program for low-income families, seniors and people with disabilities.

New data out Tuesday from the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that Kansas’ uninsured rate dropped to 9.1 percent in 2015, down from 10.2 percent the year before and 12.3 percent in 2013.

Mercy Hospital Independence

Knocking on doors in southeast Kansas, as elsewhere in the state, candidates get an earful about public school funding and the state’s budget mess, first and foremost. So it’s hard to know how much the local hospital’s closure factored into the defeat of two of the area’s longtime Republican legislators in the primaries. But it is clear health care is at the top of the mind for the candidates left standing.

Jim McLean / Heartland Health Monitor

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback is sticking to his talking points. In a rare informal conversation with Statehouse reporters late last week, Brownback said the results of the recent primary election aren’t causing him to re-think his positions on tax cuts, school finance and Medicaid expansion.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

Legislators in cash-strapped Kansas approved a 4 percent cut to Medicaid reimbursements this year. That’s made an already tough situation even tougher for a dentist in Prairie Village who serves some of the state’s most vulnerable residents.

John Fasbinder’s dental office was busy on a recent Tuesday.

The effort to expand Medicaid in Kansas has been stuck in the political mud for the better part of three years.

Not anymore.

The results of last week’s primary election may have given expansion advocates the traction they need to overcome opposition from Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and legislative conservatives who thus far have blocked debate on the issue.

A series of victories by moderate Republicans over conservative incumbents and challengers for open seats has fundamentally changed the legislative landscape.

Stephen Koranda / KPR

Two of the state’s three KanCare Medicaid contracts were making a profit by the end of last year, according to a report given to lawmakers Friday in Topeka.

Some previous records had shown losses at all three of the companies that manage the state’s privatized Medicaid program. By the end of 2015, the newest report shows UnitedHealthcare had made $44 million, Amerigroup had made $31 million and Sunflower Health Plan had lost $16 million.

Dave Ranney, File Photo / Heartland Health Monitor

Gov. Sam Brownback said he's disappointed that the state's backlog in unprocessed Medicaid applications is four times as large as previously thought.

As Kansas and a contractor battle over who bears blame for the error, Brownback called the situation "frustrating" in a short interview with the Topeka Capital-Journal.

The number of unprocessed Medicaid applications had been about 3,500 people before the state acknowledged earlier this month that the actual figure was more than 15,000.

Susie Fagan / KHI News Service

Supporters of Medicaid expansion are kicking off a campaign to mobilize Kansas voters on the issue.