- Associated Press - Thursday, August 4, 2016

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas lawmakers told officials with one of the contractors for the state’s Medicaid program that they and their constituents are frustrated with the service the company is offering.

During a tour Thursday of the state’s Medicaid clearinghouse in Topeka, members of a KanCare oversight committee said constituents complained frequently about how long it takes to get their Medicaid applications processed. They said documents are often lost and that the contractor, Maximus, does not communicate with them, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported (http://bit.ly/2aoQsZ6 ).

“We’re talking about life and death issues here,” said Sen. Michael O’Donnell, R-Wichita.

Republican Rep. Daniel Hawkins of Wichita said his constituents have had to send the same documents several times after Maximum lost them.

“Where the heck are these documents going?” he asked. “I want to know what’s happening, why that’s happening.”

Ilene Baylinson, Maximus’ general manager for U.S. health, said the application process is complex and it is difficult to identify some documents because of poor handwriting or poor faxing. But she said the company is determined to do better.

“This is fixable,” Baylinson said. “This is fixable and we will fix it.”

The company hired 70 people this year to reduce the backlog but Baylinson acknowledged that it should have hired them sooner.

Lawmakers questioned why Maximus doesn’t tell Medicaid applicants that their applications had been received. O’Donnell said if recipients expected to be notified, they would quickly know if the contractor had not received their paperwork.

“These are standard processes in modern, everyday situations,” he said, calling Maximus’ decision to not do so “mind-blowing” and “completely unacceptable.”

Lawmakers were told call volume at the clearinghouse has increased 140 percent from 2015 to 2016. Average call time is now 2 minutes and 53 seconds, according to William Rice, a manager at the clearinghouse.

The tour was one of several stops for the Joint Committee on Home and Community Based Services and KanCare Oversight. It also planned to hold hearings later Thursday on the KanCare backlog and on mental health care.

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Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, http://www.cjonline.com

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