Johnson Countian critical, skeptical of KanCare program

Submitted by Finn Bullers,
Former Johnson County Government Reporter
for the Kansas City Star and now
a consumer advocate for people with disabilities.

While state leaders work to knock out the kinks in the state’s new managed-care system for some 380,000 Kansans, first responders in Johnson County Monday, Jan. 28, had to revive a Prairie Village man choking on his own phlegm and gasping to breathe — me.

At 10 a.m., Johnson County Med-Act responders arrived at my home.

Within minutes, rescue workers performed deep suctioning to remove accumulated phlegm blocking my airway, a result of bureaucratic tangles with the state leaving me without skilled-nursing services and ongoing wound-care treatment.

Had a lower-cost skilled nurse been suctioning me twice daily as was the past practice, the pricey cost of an emergency response team would have been unnecessary.I hate to be a cost burden.

On Jan. 3, I appeared on KMBC after my skilled and attendant care nursing was cut off, a partial result of reform to the state’s $3.2 billion Medicaid program, in which three insurance companies will run the day-to-day management instead of the state.

Medicaid covered much of the everyday skilled nursing I need to live, but Bullers my coverage was dropped in the changeover, possibly the result of paperwork problems and confusion over who is supposed to be managing my case.

I rely on a ventilator to breathe, have Type-1 diabetes and muscular dystrophy and require 24-hour care. My condition leaves no room for errors or delays. I simply fell through the state’s healthcare cracks.

Gov. Sam Brownback has hailed KanCare, his new initiative, as an “historic” reorganization of state government, saying it will save taxpayers more than $1 billion over the next five years.

Critics like me say that however well-intentioned, the new KanCare program, now nearly a month old,  has failed to live up to its own press billing as a “continuum of care” with a “seamless” transition from past practices for those in critical need of care.

A month after KanCare was enacted,  my emergency suction this morning was a wake-up call to all state policy makers who think the Grand Kansas Experiment will be the national model for competitively bid, managed-care programs for all.

It needs to be fixed so others like me don’t continue to fall through the cracks.

Gov. Brownback does not deserve to pave a path to the presidency three years from now based on a flawed healthcare tax-saving plan borne on the backs of the elderly and people with disabilities.

I received an email last Friday from KanCare Ombudsman James Bart. He wrote:

“Please know that I am continuing my efforts to coordinate your care on a daily basis. I will not rest until we get to a resolution that is responsive to your needs,” Bart said. “I believe we have made progress during this month.”

And yet on Monday, Jan. 7 — some 18 days ago, an email from the  Department for Aging and Disability Services sent in response to a story appearing in the Prairie Village Post, said the snafu with my case was “solved …the same day it was brought to our attention by the consumer. ”

“KanCare consumer concerns are closely monitored and responded to quickly. We have a response plan in place and it worked the way it was designed to work in this case,” wrote Angela de Roch, director of communications for the Kansas Department for Children and Families.

“We have built accountability into the system and, during this period of transition, speedy resolution of problems is our highest priority goal,” she said.

I sent an email to my state Rep. Barbara Bollier: “That certainly came as a surprise to me,” I said. “Without healthcare stability, my life feels like it is in a carnival Tilt-a-Whirl. And I can’t get off the ride. ”

KanCare has established daily  “Rapid Response Calls” at 9 a.m. Monday to Friday, the DCF spokeswoman wrote. Anyone with a questions about KanCare, she said, can join the conference call.

A consumer assistance line is also available each business day, de Roch wrote. That number is: 1-866-305-5147.

One Response

  1. Finn, I fear that you’ve become the “poster boy” for everything that’s wrong with KanCare and that your situation will be repeated many times over in the years to come as America’s baby boomers retire and need more and more assistance in their so-called golden years at a time when there will be relatively few resources available to help them. Well, let’s just hope the good Lord returns long before then! Hang in there, and I continue to remember you in prayer.

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