Advocates backing Kan. gov.'s plan for disabled

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Associated Press

Posted on May 6, 2013 at 5:05 PM

Updated Tuesday, May 7 at 1:06 AM

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Advocates for the disabled Monday praised Gov. Sam Brownback's plan to use projected savings from the state's Medicaid program to pay for in-home services and said they also will push for a long-term plan to end waiting lists for such assistance.

The Kansas Developmental Disabilities Policy Group's endorsement of the Republican governor's plan came even as advocates for the developmentally disabled remained at odds with Brownback's administration over including their services next year in an overhaul of Medicaid, which covers health care for the needy and disabled.

State officials said last month that the overhaul of Medicaid would save the state $62 million more than previously anticipated during the current fiscal year and the fiscal year beginning July 1. The overhaul turned administration of most of the Medicaid program over to three private health insurance companies this year and renamed it KanCare.

Brownback predicted that the overhaul not only would lower the state's cost but provide better-coordinated health care for participants. The governor has proposed using $8 million from the state's "KanCare dividend" savings on in-home services for the physically and developmentally disabled, plus $10.5 million in federal funds, to move about 600 people off of waiting lists during the next fiscal year.

Coalition members said the governor's proposal, if adopted, would represent the most significant progress in years toward reducing the waiting lists. But they said they'd like to see Kansas go further and commit to eliminating its waiting lists, which contained about 5,400 people as of last month, according to the state.

"The previous administrations never addressed it at all," said Ronda Klein, a Topeka resident and the mother of a 19-year-old son, Curtis, who is autistic, developmentally disabled and prone to seizures. "It's a great first step."

Kansas legislators plan to reconvene Wednesday after a spring break to wrap up business for the year. Lawmakers must finish a state budget of roughly $14.5 billion for the next fiscal year, and Brownback's proposal on Medicaid savings is among the major issues facing House and Senate negotiators.

Some families wait years for in-home services that can include an attendant to help a disabled child with daily tasks. The state has separate waiting lists for people with developmental disabilities and people with physical disabilities, and some people with development disabilities are receiving some but not all of the services they sought. According to the state, as of April, in-home services cost an average of $1,765 a month for the physically disabled and $3,534 a month for the developmentally disabled.

Tim Wood, manager of the Disability Rights Center of Kansas' "End the Wait" campaign, said the coalition the coalition isn't specifying how quickly it wants the state to eliminate the waiting lists but added, "We need to have an effectively working plan."

Advocates of the developmentally disabled were among the most vocal critics of the Brownback administration's overhaul of Medicaid and won a year's reprieve in having their in-home services administered by the private health insurance companies. They're seeking a permanent "carve out," arguing that private companies aren't well-equipped to deal with ongoing services.

But Angela de Rocha, spokeswoman for the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, noted that the administration projects that carving out services for the developmentally disabled would cost an additional $9 million during the next fiscal year and "jeopardizes the state's ability to address the waiting lists."

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Online:

Kansas Legislature: http://www.kslegislature.org

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Follow John Hanna on Twitter at www.twitter.com/apjdhanna

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