Falling through the cracks of KanCare

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The following was submitted by Finn Bullers, former Johnson County reporter for The Kansas City Star.)

Dear Chuck –

All reports out of Topeka say everything is grand as the state moves forward on its “historic state reorganization” of Medicaid under the banner of “KanCare.”

But $1 billion in taxpayer savings is taking a toll on Medicaid recipients, who are paying the price for the political expediency and conservative dogma that says saving dollars is a higher priority than saving lives. Here is my first-blush impression of KanCare and how it is affecting me and my fellow Kansans who must rely on the state to survive.

FRUSTRATIONS

Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013

The Hon. Gov. Sam Brownback
The Hon. Sen. Terrie Huntington
The Hon. Rep. Kay Wolf

Dear elected officials:

I read with great interest in The Kansas City Star about the new cost-saving measures Gov. Brownback initiated today in a move to implement managed care — all under the banner of  ”KanCare.”

High fives all around for $1 billion in taxpayer savings, the media reports. Meanwhile, I, and I suspect other Kansas Medicare/Medicaid recipients in my situation, have fallen through the cracks.

As of midnight Dec. 31, I was dropped from my healthcare service and have no one to provide my basic care needs — bathing, dressing, toileting and eating.

As a person with muscular dystrophy, type-1 diabetes and  is dependent on a ventilator to breathe — 24-hour nursing, as provided under the Affordable Care Act, is critical.

I have not received notice of being assigned to one of three managed-care firms as outlined under new KanCare policies.  I have not been assigned a case manager, or if I have, no one has contacted me or no written notice has been sent — because, I am told, privacy policies disallow it.

My former Community Works case manager, Lauren Dreher of Overland Park, prematurely dropped my case in order to take a job with a managed-care firm. But not before telling my new care team, Locamp Health Agency of Kansas City, Mo., to drop me for “refusal” to pay.

My family’s savings have been wiped out. That is why we are with KanCare. And yet we continue to be hit with more than $2,000 in monthly “personal obligation” bills from the state that even former SRS case workers in Lenexa say are excessive and duplicative.

Pleas to nearly a dozen healthcare providers on both the Kansas and Missouri side have all ended this way: “I’m so sorry about your situation, but …” And without a new KanCare managed-care team assigned to me,  agencies don’t know where their check is coming from and are unwilling to provide care.

I do have an agency willing to provide care-giver services and skilled nursing, but the firm, At Home Care of Overland Park, is awaiting certification to accept Medicare/Medicaid patients like me. That, I’m told, could take months.

This began when I was dropped by my original healthcare provider after “unpaid personal obligation” Medicaid bills mounted when the state refused to reimburse BrightStar Home Healthcare of Overland Park  It is our understanding — and that of former SRS caseworkers — that we already had met our “personal obligation” threshold for that time period and no longer owed the money demanded of us.

My wife, Anne, is struggling to provide my necessary care, all while being Mom to our two children — Christian, age 12, and Alora, age eight — and holding  down a full-time job at Johnson County Community College that  provides the critical health insurance necessary to keep me alive.

We have even pulled our children from school on occasion to care for Dad and have leaned too often on friends to get us through another day. My wife’s nerves are shot. She is distraught and to her it appears there is no light at the end of our tunnel. I try to remain optimistic.

But, I feel we have fallen through the Kansas healthcare cracks with no one who will listen. My family and I would appreciate any help you could provide.

Sincerely,

Finn Michel Bullers

3 Responses

  1. Golly. It looks like we have got the attention of Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback. Never underestimate the power of the press.

    On Thu, Jan 3, 2013 at 10:48 PM, FInn Bullers wrote:

    http://www.kmbc.com/news/health/Patient-reports-problems-with-KanCare-switchover/-/11664032/18005866/-/3dbdoh/-/index.html

     TV picked up our story and ran. Plus, a dear friend and former student and now twice-published author, Amber Hunt, began a fundraising effort on our behalf on Facebook and in the first two hours raised more than $1,000. I’m almost speechless, almost. A note to friends and those who I don’t even know:

    Thanks for all the positive vibes coming our way. It certainly is a ray of hope in a dark corner.  Your compassion is beyond my wildest imagination.

    UPDATE: A 3 a.m. email to Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback prompted a call from the KanCare ombudsman, who acknowledged the problem and said that, yes, the transition has not been smooth in my case and that our case has become a top priority. Good to know.

    By 4 p.m. today we had a caregiver at our home, but as of yet no skilled nursing in place. This afternoon, the Prairie Village Post co-publisher was doing an interview at our kitchen table. And by 5:15, ABC’s Kansas City affiliate, the area’s most-watched TV station, was conducting an interview in our living room.

    A quick story about our dear friend, Amber Hunt: We are her biggest fans. She came into our lives as a high -school student editor of the Bettendorf, Iowa, High School Bulldog. My wife, Anne, her teacher, quickly spotted a bright young talent with a sterling future ahead. A second-hand Pentax camera given to her on a cold night in December at an Iowa Applebee’s, I want to claim, launched a critical-thinking, take-no-prisoners journalist with an insightful photographic eye. But reality tells us her innate talent is her ticket to ride. You make us all proud, girlfriend.

    Using the media’s power of public pressure, our voice is being heard, a message I hope will serve not only our family, but scores of other Kansans in our predicament who have neither the mental acuity, social connections or dear friends and family who have stood by us.

    Dammit. Now don’t make me cry. You guys are great. You make me feel loved and connected to something bigger than myself. It is a strength that allows me to draw another breath and fight another day.

    ABC AFFILIATE:
    http://www.kmbc.com/news/health/Patient-reports-problems-with-KanCare-switchover/-/11664032/18005866/-/3dbdoh/-/index.html

    Begin forwarded message:

    From: James Bart
    Date: January 4, 2013 9:10:10 AM CST
    To: “Finnannb@aol.com”
    Cc: “shawn.cowing@ks.gov” , “barbara.bollier@gmail.com”
    Subject: Good morning!

    Mr. Bullers,
     
    Just a follow-up to make sure you have received my communications.  I will call this morning to make sure there are not any remaining opportunities to assist you.  Again, I apologized about the situation you experienced and I remain available to assist you with any remaining issues.
     
    Respectfully,
     
    James Bart
    KanCare Ombudsman
    Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services
    503 S Kansas Ave
    Topeka, KS 66603-3404
    Phone: 785-296-6270
    Toll-Free: 855-643-8180
    Fax: 785-296-0256
    E-Mail: james.bart@kdads.ks.gov
     
    Visit our website: www.kancare.ks.gov
     
    From: James Bart 
    Sent: Thursday, January 03, 2013 3:32 PM
    To: Finnannb@aol.com
    Cc: shawn.cowing@ks.gov; barbara.bollier@gmail.com; Shawn Sullivan; Angela de Rocha
    Subject: FW: Help! Please encript
     
    Mr. Bullers,
     
    I just left a message on your home telephone number confirming that your services have resumed.  I apologize for the inconvenience and apologize for the stress on you and your family.  I will follow up again to make sure I can assist with any remaining issues.
     
    It was a pleasure visiting with you and I look forward to speaking with you on Friday!
     
    Respectfully,
     
    James Bart
    KanCare Ombudsman
    Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services
    503 S Kansas Ave
    Topeka, KS 66603-3404
    Phone: 785-296-6270
    Toll-Free: 855-643-8180
    Fax: 785-296-0256
    E-Mail: james.bart@kdads.ks.gov
     
    Visit our website: www.kancare.ks.gov
     
    From: Zuniga, Margarita [mailto:margarita_zuniga@uhc.com] 
    Sent: Thursday, January 03, 2013 3:25 PM
    To: James Bart
    Cc: Fahlstrom, Sherilyn S; Zuniga, Margarita
    Subject: RE: Help! Please encript
     
    Hello James,
     
    As per our conversation, we are glad to let you know that the issue has been resolved!
     
    Our care coordinator, Jeannie Cross, got the member, provider and the State on the phone. Paul at Locamp Home Health confirmed they had been contacted by the state and the state confirmed there is no client obligation effective 1/1/13. He confirmed they are resuming services to this member immediately.
     
    Please let me know if you have any questions.
     
    -Margarita Zuniga
     
     
    From: James Bart [mailto:James.Bart@kdads.ks.gov] 
    Sent: Thursday, January 03, 2013 11:27 AM
    To: Fahlstrom, Sherilyn S; Zuniga, Margarita
    Cc: amy.trachta@kdads.ks.gov; shawn.cowing@ks.gov
    Subject: Help! Please encript
     
    Good Morning!
     
    Could you please confirm membership for Finn Bullers #xxxxxxxxx?  I received a referral from the Govenors’ office and I need to be brought up to date about his current status.  His inquiry indicated that there were grave health and support issues and I am reaching out to the State Physical Disabilities Program Manager to be brought up to date.
     
    Thank you for your prompt reply!  If I have not heard back by early afternoon I will follow up with a call.
     

  2. This is an excellent post, Chuck, and it’s nice to see that some of the local media outlets have shown some real interest in Finn’s story. Unfortunately, Finn’s former employer, The Kansas City Star, doesn’t appear to be one of them. That said, The Star has been rather critical of Gov. Brownback and some of his programs/policies and rightfully so. On a personal note, Finn, I will certainly keep you in my prayers, with best wishes for the future in trying to successfully navigate the path toward securing the delivery of sufficient health care services 24/7/365.

  3. […] Falling through the cracks of KanCare (viewfromthemidwest.com) […]

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