TOPEKA - State Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita, introduced legislation this week that will exempt the most vulnerable Kansans from efforts to privatize state Medicaid services. Ward's proposal, House Bill 2457, would keep the developmentally disabled waiver population as part of KanCare's managed care for medical purposes, but their long-term care non-medical services would be carved out of the program and continue on a "fee for service" model (caretakers, residential care, etc.).

"The Brownback Administration appears to be on the fast track to the privatization of Medicaid," said Ward. "Regardless of what happens with the Governor's plan, it is important that any reform efforts are deliberate and implemented safely. We must ensure that critical services for our most vulnerable citizens are not jeopardized."

Under the KanCare initiative announced last fall by Gov. Brownback, the state's Medicaid services would be contracted to private companies.  The developmentally disabled waiver population would be included in the managed care system to address both  their medical care as well as their long-tern care expenses. Families and advocates for those with developmental disabilities have expressed concerns that such a move could lead to cuts in in-home health services. There are also currently 4,800 Kansas adults and children on the developmentally disabled waiting list.  The administration is unclear as to how this backlog will be addressed under the KanCare contracts.

The general Medicaid population typically only requires medical attention a few times a year. Those with severe developmental disabilities, however, require much more frequent contact with providers of non-medical services.  Given the needs of this population, it is imperative that they have case managers who are familiar with the community in which they reside, who are aware of the services available locally, and who arrange for those services be provided according to their needs. It is unlikely that an out-of-state, for-profit company would be capable of providing the same level of care currently provided by the state through the CDDOs.

"Our state has an obligation to provide the best quality of life possible for those with severe developmental disabilities," said Ward.  "My proposal maintains a system that even Gov. Brownback has acknowledged is successful in meeting these critical needs."

Ward represents the 88th House District in southeast Wichita.  He serves as the ranking minority member on the House Education committee and is a member of the House Committees on Judiciary and Health & Human Services.

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