Published in the Wichita Eagle, November 1, 2014
by Aldona Carney, Marla Flentje and Kay Soltz
The upcoming election is critical for families like ours that include a person with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). We fear that if Gov. Sam Brownback is re-elected, his Medicaid managed-care experiment called KanCare will further imperil the lives of our loved ones.
In 2013, Kansas became the first state to implement this untested privatization of I/DD Medicaid services. Families were assured that quality of care would remain unchanged, that savings would be realized through better service coordination and improved health, and this savings would be used to move folks off the I/DD wait list for services. The reality is dramatically different.
Families have reported their struggles with KanCare athttp://www.kancareddwatch.com/. Their experiences include abrupt denial of seizure medication, denial of oral medication for a person unable to swallow pills, and denial of tires for a wheelchair in desperate need of repair. Shockingly, a KanCare insurance company denied doctor’s orders for postsurgical care and therapy for a child with cerebral palsy.
We were promised that I/DD case-management services would continue under KanCare. There have been numerous attempts to erode the case manager’s role, and some I/DD families have lost their case managers.
The governor promised that savings from KanCare would be used to move I/DD individuals off a wait list that numbers in the thousands. However, we have been unable to track any movement. Family members can no longer find out where their loved one is on the list, and the list is not available to case managers or local government partners. This lack of transparency denies accountability for ensuring that funds are spent as authorized.
Since the implementation of KanCare more than 18 months ago, the focus has moved from providing care that meets individual needs to a focus on the insurance company’s bottom line. With those companies reporting huge losses and the state facing a $260 million shortfall by next year, the bottom line for our loved ones could be reduced services.
If the governor is re-elected and hits his KanCare accelerator, he will also accelerate broken promises to our loved ones, and bring further harm to their health and well-being.