KanCare Takes Over: Medicaid Managed Care and DDS in Kansas
Thursday, December 12th, 2013
Here at M&L Special Needs Planning, we have recently become aware of significant changes that are taking place in the state of Kansas. These changes are in regards to individuals with developmental disabilities, and they are giving us serious pause for thought. In January 2014 the management of Developmental Disability Services (DDS) will be taken over by the state’s new Medicaid managed care system – KanCare.
We first learned of these changes through an article in The Washington Post – the article told the story of the Carney family, who reside in Kansas and who have an 18 year old son with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Their son, Neil, is described by his parents as being a “24-7” kid, meaning that he needs around the clock care. His living arrangements are currently arranged in a way that is beneficial to all parties: he lives in a single family home, purchased by relatives, with a professional caregiver. The state pays a non-profit agency $71,000/year to cover his residential services. The author of the article, Jenni Bergal, points out that this is cheaper than if Neil were in an institution.
According to the article, the Carneys are very satisfied with Neil’s living arrangements, and they are concerned with the possible changes that might be made to these arrangements once KanCare takes over the management of DDS. In fact, the Carneys are two of the thousands of Kansans with relatives with developmental disabilities that are concerned with how the KanCare management of DDS will affect the daily lives of these relatives. With this in mind, we decided to devote today’s blog to a discussion of KanCare, including what it is exactly and how it can affect your family with special needs.
What is KanCare?
On the program’s website, KanCare is referred to as the “new way” individuals receive Medicaid services – “KanCare is managed care that combines health care (like doctor visits) with community long-term services and supports (like help in your home).[i]” Launched in January of this year, the program administers long term care to the elderly, individuals with physical disabilities, and individuals with mental illness. Individuals with developmental disabilities were granted a one-year reprieve, and DDS services will not fall under the control of KanCare until January 2014.
Care and services are provided through one of three “KanCare Health Plans” –the three plans, (also known as managed care organizations, MCO) are Amerigroup, United HealthCare and Sunflower State Health Plan. According to KanCare’s website, all consumers were assigned to a particular health care plan, and received information about the other two. Consumers can switch healthcare plans, however unless a good reason to change mid-year is provided, the switch can only take place once during the beginning of the year.
These plans offer all the same types of services that individuals received from Medicaid previous to KanCare’s takeover; and, according to the program, additional preventative services have been added. The extra services offered to consumers differ under each plan.
How can it affect individuals with disabilities and their families?
According to Bergel’s article, the one-year reprieve offered to individuals with developmental disabilities was due to the protests of parents, individuals with developmental disabilities, and disability advocates. The concerns voiced include the possibility of losing staff in departments that help individuals with disabilities –an article written about the KanCare protests described protestors concerns about DDS departments being already understaffed, and their worry that the changes will further hurt staff and clients that are already struggling with strained resources. Protesters also expressed concerns about fees that managed care companies will take from a budget that is already feeling the crunch.
The primary concern of all those who protest the KanCare of DDS, however, is that the managed care company has no experience, and no idea, of how to manage this type of population – many Kansans are afraid that their loved ones will be neglected due to KanCare’s lack of experience with DDS.
KanCare has responded to these concerns with a number of statements; as was reported in the Post’s article, “the three health plans have responded by stating that while they do not have experience with this particular type of program (DDS), they have been handling similar services for physically disabled and elderly individuals.[ii]”
Why is it important to all Americans with disabilities and their families?
It is important for all Americans with disabilities and their families to be aware of the changes taking place in Kansas for a number of reasons. To begin, here at M&L we feel that it is important to have a grasp on disability issues from across the country. A well-informed person is a person who can fight for and achieve meaningful change – and advocating for change for individuals with special needs us something that needs to happen all across America.
However, the primary reason that you, as a family member of an individual with special needs, should be concern with KanCare is this: although there are currently only a few states that use managed care systems, a number of states are watching Kansas closely with the intent of following suit in the coming years.
This can mean huge changes for you and your family member with special needs, so its best to be informed. By keeping a close eye on the changes taking place in Kansas, parents and advocates are able to asked informed questions about the ways in which managed care systems can affect individuals with developmental disabilities. In short, being informed is the best way to ensure that your family member with special needs is protected, now and in the future.
Thank you so much for joining us for our discussion of KanCare today; we hope that we have provided you with valuable information on the changes to DDS in Kansas, and KanCare as a whole. If you have any questions or would like more information on this topic, or any topic related to special needs financial and life planning, please do not hesitate to contact us. As well, please take a look at our Independent Living Program and Housing Project database; our one-stop shop for all things special needs housing related.
Have a great day, and we hope to see you next week!
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