By Jim McLean
KHI News Service
TOPEKA — Finn Bullers told legislators today that he believes a planned reduction in the in-home KanCare services he receives is an example of how the state’s new Medicaid managed care program is failing needy citizens.
But officials in the administration of Gov. Sam Brownback said cases like Bullers’ show the need for tighter management of the taxpayer-funded healthcare program that is straining state budgets.
Bullers, a 49-year-old Prairie Village man who suffers from Muscular Dystrophy, detailed his complaints about KanCare to a legislative committee charged with overseeing KanCare, the administration’s managed-care program launched Jan. 1.
The private company now managing Bullers’ care has notified him that it intends to reduce the around-the-clock care he now receives to 40 hours a week. Bullers told lawmakers that would threaten his health, “tear his family apart,” and further diminish his ability to be active in his community.
“I still have something to contribute,” Bullers said from his wheelchair, straining his barely audible voice to be heard. “I’m not dead yet.”
The 49-year-old journalist and former Kansas City Star reporter said his wife has told him that she cannot assume the burden of caring for him in addition to her full-time job, which is the family’s main source of income.
“Under the new managed care rules in Kansas, I face a 76 percent decrease in care — a move that my doctors say is wildly unrealistic and a move that my wife says will force her to file for divorce and as a result tear my family apart,” Bullers said.
Shawn Sullivan, secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, said he couldn’t talk about the specifics of Bullers’ case. But he said that he and several other members of his staff had personally reviewed the changes being proposed by the company.
“We are comfortable with that reduction and the decision that the managed-care company made,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan said under the state’s old Medicaid system, a single organization could certify a person’s eligibility for assistance, write the care plan, and provide services. That, he said, led to some people getting more services than they needed.
“We found that a lot of organizations were competing with each other saying, ‘come sign up with our agency and we’ll give you 20 more hours in your plan of care,’” he said.
Given that, Sullivan said, he expected wholesale changes when the managed-care companies took over in January. But he said the companies have sought to reduce services for only 8 percent of the KanCare enrollees who receive home- and community-based services.
So far, 90 percent of those reduction requests have been approved, Sullivan said.
Bullers said he intended to use every avenue open to him to fight the proposed changes in his care plan.
“When the system fails you, then you go elsewhere,” he said. “You use social media and you get out there to get the message heard. And that’s what I’m doing today.”