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Kansas: State Delays Changes to Medicare/Medicaid System Until January 2017

October 29, 2015

Kansas’ Department of Health and Environment and Department of Aging and Disability Services, after receiving feedback from stakeholders in the community (e.g., health care providers, people with disabilities, family members of people with disabilities, etc.) will delay a major change to the way it administers its Medicaid waiver program until January 1, 2017. The two agencies had planned to consolidate seven disability-specific Medicaid waivers that they jointly administer into a single universal waiver by January 1, 2016 and transfer all beneficiaries over to the universal waiver by July 1, 2017. These waivers include home and community-based services programs aimed at helping people with disabilities obtain and maintain employment in the community. The state will now condense the waivers into a single waiver on January 1, 2016, but delay the transfer of the waiver beneficiaries by six months to January 2017.

The concerns raised by the disability stakeholder community focused on two major issues. The first was that the state intended to expand the services it provided under the new universal waiver and reduce its waiting list without spending any more money. For instance, the proposed universal waiver would average reimbursement rates for similar services provided under all seven waivers. Providers under the current waivers report that some of them are operating under razor-thin reimbursement rates that have not changed since 2008, and an averaging of the service costs would only limit their budgets even further. Dee Staudt, director of the Sedgwick County Developmental Disability Organization, said that some waivers had associated policies and laws unique to the population served by the waiver.

The second concern was that the state had an insufficiently developed plan to deal with the logistics involved in merging all seven disability-specific waivers into a single waiver. Most of these services involve providing people who would otherwise be institutionalized with community-based supports that allow them to live independently, such as 24-hour intensive care, help with daily living, educational assistance, work assistance and medical care. These services are currently provided in a way that is specific to the disability involved. If the waivers are merged, several members of the community with significant disabilities worry that fewer or less effective services would be provided. Merging the waivers would also involve new licensing qualifications and training for service providers, which would further limit the number of services available initially.

The state overhaul would affect thousands of people with disabilities in the state. The general consensus is that Kansas must take more time to consider the impact the overhaul would have on Medicaid beneficiaries. For more information on the planned overhaul and its delay, read the Wichita Eagle article.