Governor's plan for managed care raising concerns

January 2, 2012, 2:18 p.m. Updated: 4 January 2012, 12:00 a.m.

Topeka — Gov. Sam Brownback’s plan to have managed care companies provide services for those with developmental disabilities is raising concerns.

Gene Kean, a Lawrence resident whose sister is cared for at Lakemary Center, said he believes the quality of her care would be sacrificed by the proposed changes.

“If the state gets away with this, it appears some very important functions of local care decision-making would be taken away from those who have the daily intimate knowledge of what is best for their clients,” Kean said.

Brownback and Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer want to overhaul Medicaid, which is the state and federally funded health program for those with disabilities, the elderly and low-income residents.

It’s one of the largest expenses in state government, accounting for nearly $2.8 billion in spending. About 350,000 Kansas residents are covered by Medicaid.

Brownback wants to contract with private managed care companies to handle the program and call it KanCare.

The Brownback administration has promised that KanCare “will improve coordination of care and services to achieve better outcomes and long-term savings without reducing benefits or eligibility, while safeguarding reimbursements for providers.”

The administration says that the proposal will reduce growth in Kansas Medicaid spending by 8 percent to 10 percent.

But organizations that care for those with severe disabilities say that managed care companies aren’t familiar with the long-term needs of their clients, some of whom require round-the-clock attention.

Under the proposal, those with developmental disabilities may be forced to change the support staff that they have depended on for years, they say. Most states that have gone the managed care route for Medicaid have excluded the developmentally disabled from those changes.

Bill Craig, president and chief executive officer of Lakemary Center, said, “We have severe doubts that it is workable.” Lakemary Center serves more than 500 adults and children in northeast Kansas.

Craig says he has no problem turning to managed care for health care expenses, but he said the long-term supports needed by those with developmental disabilities should be “carved out” of Brownback’s plan. People are starting to make their wishes known in this area. Last week, a meeting on the issue in Lenexa drew about 300 people.

Craig said his position had nothing to do with “preserving our organizations.” He said, “Many of us are parents. My 32-year-old son, with severe disabilities, I want to know that after I’m gone that he will not be downgraded to lower quality services than he already has.”

Kean said he thought that over the years Kansas had been a model in providing services for those with disabilities. “Why do we have to go backwards?” he said.

This story was first published Dec. 24 at, homepage of the Lawrence Journal-World. A condensed version appeared in the Jan. 4 Shawnee Dispatch.

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