- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 8, 2014

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Democratic challenger Paul Davis on Wednesday proposed reversing part of Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s overhaul of the Kansas Medicaid program, appealing to vocal advocates for the disabled in a political race that remains a toss-up.

Davis said during a Statehouse news conference that if he defeats Brownback, he’ll end three private health insurance companies’ oversight of in-home support services for about 8,500 developmentally disabled Kansans. The firms’ oversight is part of the insurers’ management of the state’s $3 billion-a-year Medicaid program, which covers medical and in-home services for the poor and disabled.

Brownback’s administration contracted with the companies to manage Medicaid starting last year and says privatization led to better-coordinated care for the program’s 363,000 participants, at less cost to the state. But advocates for the developmentally disabled argued that the change represented unnecessary additional level of bureaucracy in securing services.

The administration didn’t initially include support services for the developmentally disabled in the overhauled program, now called KanCare, until February 2014, due to the vocal protests. And now, some families and advocates remain upset about KanCare as independent polls show the race between Davis and Brownback close or a dead heat.

Davis said if he’s elected governor, he’ll conduct a thorough review of KanCare but remove in-home support services for the developmentally disabled from the program.

“It has truly become a mess,” Davis said.

Davis’ event opened with applause from a small group of advocates. Jennifer Smith, of Gardner, executive director of the Autism Society of the Heartland and the mother of two adult children with autism, said after the news conference that having the companies involved has made it more difficult to get services, such as supervision or help with chores, to allow the developmentally disabled to continue living at home.

Brownback’s administration awarded Medicaid-management contracts in June 2012 to Kansas subsidiaries of Amerigroup, based in Virginia Beach, Va.; Centene Corp., headquartered in St. Louis, and United Healthcare, based in Minneapolis. The contracts run through the end of 2015, and the state has the option of renewing each through 2017.

The companies failed during the first year of the contract to meet benchmarks for timely processing of claims. But Brownback’s administration says almost all correctly submitted Medicaid claims are now paid within 30 days.

The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services reported Wednesday that fewer than 2 percent of claims for in-home services for the developmentally disabled have been denied and that the turnaround time for paying service providers is six days. Department Secretary Kari Bruffett said that if those services are removed from KanCare, she’d fear a loss of “total integration” of care for the disabled.

And Brownback campaign spokesman John Milburn noted that the administration pursued the overhaul because it was worried that ever-increasing Medicaid costs forced cuts in services or payments to providers in the past.

“The Paul Davis plan for KanCare is to return to the old Medicaid system,” Milburn said.

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Online:

Davis campaign: https://www.davisforkansas.com/

Brownback re-election campaign: https://www.brownback.com/

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Follow John Hanna on Twitter at https://twitter.com/apjdhanna .

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