By Gene Meyer | Kansas Reporter
OVERLAND PARK – Kansas has 67 days to get federal permission to allow insurance companies to take over daily operations of its $3 billion Medicaid health plan.
Officially, the feds are keeping mum on the matter. But Lt. Gov Jeff Colyer, R-Overland Park, a surgeon whom Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback named two years ago to lead a two-year effort to overhaul the program, said Thursday he remains confident federal officials will OK the proposed change in time to start the program Jan. 1.
“It may be a last-minute thing, but we will get the waiver in time,” Colyer told Kansas Reporter at an Overland Park meeting on Medicaid reform.
“And if we don’t, we always have a Plan B,” he said. “That will be to implement what we can without the waiver.”
The waiver refers to a request the Brownback administration made in August for the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, to allow Kansas-hired private contractors to assume what traditionally have been state responsibilities for providing health-care to people who qualify.
Kansas Department of Health and Environment officials are just now beginning to match current Medicaid patients with the managed care companies that will take over their cases.
“We are on track,” Colyer said.
Kansas expects to spend about $3.2 billion this year to pay its share of the federal and state funded program, which covers some 380,000 Kansans, or about 13 percent of the state’s population.
Administration officials calculate that turning daily operation of Medicaid over to insurance company managed-care specialists will slow projected growth in the program by $1 billion over the next five years.
In contrast, keeping the current system, in which Kansas pays health-care providers directly for services patients receive, would increase costs by $4.7 billion in a decade and crowd out spending for education, public safety and other programs, said Dave Trabert, president of the Kansas Policy Institute.
KPI is a Wichita think tank that advocates economic freedom and free-market approaches to public policy and sponsor of the meeting at which Colyer appeared..
Spokespeople for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and CMS declined to comment on the pending request until a resolution is made.
Florida also is seeking federal permission to expand a managed-care Medicaid programs, said Tarren Bragdon, president of the Foundation for Government Accountability, a Naples, Fla., nonprofit that advocates for such programs nationally.
Informally, “we’ve received word that we’ll be approved after the election,” Bragden said. “That seems to be a big day in Washington.”
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