April 21, 2014

Legislators discuss state’s special needs populations

Danedri Thompson
dthompson@gardnernews.com
Legislators provided brief answers about issues important to Kansans with special needs during a town hall meeting in Gardner April 13.
A handful of local proponents for those with autism spectrum disorders and the developmentally disabled attended Saturday’s forum to inquire about two issues before the legislature that address Kansas’ special needs population.
Sen. Julia Lynn told the audience of more than 50 people that there’s not much appetite in the Kansas Legislature for requiring state-regulated insurance programs to cover screening, diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders.
“This year it never really got out of the shoot,” she said.
To date, thirty states have passed legislation that would require health insurance providers to cover autism spectrum disorders.
Sen. Pat Apple said the proposal in Kansas would cost approximately 50 cents per month or $6 per year per insured person.
“I’m not big on mandates, but I think this is one instance we can spend money now and save money later on,” Apple said.
Rep. Willie Dove said he believes autism outcomes would be better in a managed care environment.
Legislators also addressed a proposal that would permanently separate some services for the developmentally disabled from KanCare, or Kansas’ Medicaid program. After 2014, residential and daily services for the developmentally disabled will be managed under the KanCare umbrella. However, advocates are asking that the current system, which allows individuals to choose their own case managers for services rather than use one of three state-approved health insurance companies through KanCare, remain in place.
Legislators and advocates call it a developmentally disabled services, or DDS, carve out.
Rep. Bill Sutton said there hasn’t been much interest in the legislature in extending the carve out another three years or making it permanent.
He said there’s a pilot program that will examine how to use KanCare for both medical services and other developmentally disabled services.
“There’s a lot of fear, and I think that’s justified,” Sutton said.
The pilot program is designed to iron out the kinks before all of the services for the 383,000 Kansans with developmental disabilities are moved under the KanCare umbrella in January 2014.
Lurena Mead, community relations manager for Johnson County Developmental Support, said the pilot program is an experiment.
“We don’t think our folks deserve to be an experiment,” Mead said. “We don’t want there to be any damage to individuals, which most likely will happen.”
Mead worried that the KanCare changes are moving too fast.
“No studying has been done on whether it’s going to work,” Mead explained. “We don’t believe there’s been enough looks at how it’s going to affect the services and the people.”
Under the KanCare program, three state-approved managed care organizations will oversee services for all Kansans on Medicaid.
Mead said those organizations, like United Healthcare for example, are focused on medical and acute care. The services developmentally disabled advocates would like carved out from KanCare are not medical in nature. They are services for things like adult daycare and residential homes for the developmentally disabled.
“United Healthcare is going to run or make decisions about an individual’s day or residential program,” Mead said. “This has nothing to do with medical care. We don’t think they have the knowledge or the expertise.”

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