By Gene Meyer | Kansas Reporter
FAIRWAY – Kansas has pitche
d details of the state’s new Medicaid plan.
Now, state officials and health care executives will wait.
The new plan, known as KanCare, is supposed to start Jan. 1, but it’s unclear whether the feds will approve the sweeping changes in time.
“We have no indications that it won’t happen, but we have no definitive answers, either,” Susan Mosier, Kansas’ Medicaid director, said Tuesday.
Kansas is asking federal officials for permission to stop paying doctors and other health-care providers directly for treatment of about 380,000 low-income women, children and other patients. Officials want to turn the $3 billion Medicaid plan over to private companies offering health plans that the state would pay.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, the administration’s point man on health-care policy, say the change is necessary to rein in rising Medicaid costs, which threaten to overwhelm future state budgets.
The Brownback administration estimates the changes will slow the growth in Medicaid costs by as much as $1 billion over five years.
But based on experiences in states that also sought permission to change their Medicaid programs, “getting federal approval of a waiver of this magnitude could take months,” said Anna Lambertson, executive director of the Kansas Health Consumer Coalition, a Topeka advocacy group.
KanCare’s future may get murkier if federal officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services don’t approve the plan by Jan. 1.
Nevertheless, Kansas has committed to turning the program over to private managed-care companies.
After 11 months of public hearings and study in 2011, the state in November opened the project for bidding. Three companies – Amerigroup Kansas Inc., Sunflower State Health Plan and United Healthcare of the Midwest Inc. – got contracts.
“I’ve asked that question myself and haven’t gotten a definitive answer,” Mosier said.
The state’s choices would seem to be either waiting until federal officials decide, or implementing as many of the changes as possible, without approval.
Kansas officials declined to hint at either option; the governor’s office using phrases such as “very confident” and “productive discussions.”
Email Meyer at firstname.lastname@example.org