Height of arrogance

KanCare officials need well crafted charm offensive

Freelance writer/editor

When a holiday guest enters your home, social etiquette Midwestern style demands your best manners — maybe a welcoming cup of pretty-strong coffee and most certainly a Scandinavian sweet.

So it came as a simple case of bad manners — not to mention poor public image creation — when for-profit, managed-care officials in Kansas snarled at “East Coast” interlopers who in December had the audacity to “parachute” into the Topeka prairie to lecture them on how to improve the care of 380,000 Kansans.

In a letter this month from the National Council on Disability (NCD) several significant, but non-binding recommendations were made to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the President and Congress to improve Kansas’ Medicaid plan — known as KanCare.

Disability Council members report they are “deeply concerned” about how managed care organizations in Kansas use diagnostic and evaluation tools resulting in “significant reductions of service” to the disabled. This “puts profit over quality care,” the report states.

Disability Council members recommend:

— CMS conduct an oversight review of the current KanCare administration.

— CMS and the Department of Justice Office of Civil Rights examine the former Kansas Medicaid office that — as one top KanCare official testified — was “previously negligent in consistently implementing.. evaluative and diagnostic tools.”

— A one-year delay to Jan. 1. 2015, to fold people with intellectual and developmental disabilities into KanCare so an extended review can be conducted.

— Kansas live up to its promise to wipe out waiting lists as long as 12 years for underserved and unserved Kansans with disabilities. Gov. Sam Brownback has failed to deliver on that promise.

— Health care providers be paid by managed care organizations in a timely manner so small firms don’t go out of business. Even large providers are complaining about past-due reimbursements.

— Kansas create a more “robust and independent” ombudsman’s program. In Kansas, one ombudsman represents all 380,000 people enrolled in KanCare compared to Wisconsin where one ombudsman represents — and advocates for — every 3,500 people.

“They parachuted in from the East Coast to tell us that,” Angela de Rocha, a spokeswoman for the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS), told the Associated Press. “They’re an advisory committee. They have no authority.”

Why so defensive?

True, Ms. de Rocha, the National Council on Disability — “the premier entity to advise the federal government on disability issues,” says Rocky Nichols, the Kansas Disability Rights Center executive director — only has the power to advise the President, and only has the power to advise Congress. That’s all.

Untrue, Ms. de Rocha, the NCD membership roster includes 15 people from across the country — not just East Coast liberals — who work to improve the lives of people with disabilities, a goal we all share.

De Rocha said she doesn’t know if the council’s recommendations will have any effect on whether Kansas gets the waiver to expand Medicaid to include people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

And Sec. Shawn Sullivan with KDADS said he doesn’t object to a Justice Department review. “We’re transparent about the changes we’ve made in the system,” he said.

For the record, disability council members say they plan to continue to pursue their KanCare concerns, as well as advocate with the Feds for broader Medicaid managed-care improvements across the country. Now, the council takes its listening tour on the road headed for New York, Tallahassee, Chicago and Sacramento.

Bottom line: Not only have KanCare officials exposed themselves nationally as fly-over Midwestern, one-hole rubes, but they also have simply shown very bad manners to holiday visitors in our home.

How rude.


You can reach Finn Bullers, policy adviser for the Greater Kansas City Spinal Cord Injury Association, at: finn.bullers@aol.com or 913-706-2894.

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