Legislators want to postpone waiver integration

Subcommittee recommends putting off plan until January 2018 because of lack of details

By KHI News Service, March 14, 2016

From right to left, House HHS Subcomittee Chair Willie Dove is shown with fellow subcommittee members Les Osterman and Jim Kelly

Republican members of a House Health and Human Services
subcommittee, from left, Rep. Les Osterman, Rep. Jim Kelly and
Rep. Willie Dove have formed recommendations asking
the Brownback Administration to delay waiver integration
by another year. (Photo by Andy Marso)

Legislative support is growing for a further delay of a plan to combine Medicaid waiver services — part of a recent pattern of the Republican lawmakers pushing back against Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration.

A subcommittee of four members of the House Health and Human Services Committee recommended last week that the administration postpone the waiver integration one year to Jan. 1, 2018.

“When the administration brought this to us, we did not see enough data that it was going to be done in a way that would meet the needs of our most vulnerable citizens,” said the subcommittee chairman, Rep. Willie Dove, a Republican from Bonner Springs.

The subcommittee's recommendation is available for the full House health committee to act on. The committee also may consider House Bill 2682, which would require legislative approval before the administration combines the waivers. The committee had scheduled debate and a possible vote on that bill Monday, but it was pulled from the calendar.

Dove's subcommittee held two hearings on the integration plan. First the panel heard from a dozen disability advocates who said the state was moving too fast on the high-stakes plan.

At the second hearing state officials from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment made their case for the Jan. 1, 2017 implementation date, which had already been pushed back from July 1, 2016.

Rep. Les Osterman, a Republican from Wichita on the subcommittee, said the state didn’t provide enough details about how the waiver integration plan would actually work.

“We didn’t get the answers we wanted,” Osterman said. “They didn’t show us any procedure manuals. They showed us no plan. We asked the question of KDHE and they didn’t give us any plans whatsoever.”

The subcommittee also wants to see what Dove called “doorstop” points along the way, where state officials could stop and assess the transition and make adjustments if necessary.

Disability rights advocates said they were impressed with the subcommittee’s work.

Tom Laing, executive director of Interhab, a non-profit that serves Kansans with developmental disabilities, said the group commissioned by House Health and Human Services Committee chairman Rep. Dan Hawkins was thorough.

“Hawkins deserves credit for naming the subcommittee and the subcommittee deserves credit for the work they’ve done,”

Laing said. Mike Oxford, executive director of the Topeka Independent Living Center, which serves Kansans with physical disabilities, said he initially thought the subcommittee hearings would just be a formality for a Legislature that has generally been receptive to Brownback administration proposals.

But Oxford said Dove, Osterman and the other two members — Rep. Jim Kelly, a Republican from Independence, and Rep. Jim Ward, a Democrat from Wichita — asked the right questions.

The subcommittee's skepticism of the administration’s assurances fit a larger pattern of Republican House and Senate members, who are all up for reelection in November, increasingly resisting the governor’s office.

They’ve pushed back on Brownback’s plan to use special tax incentives to lure the American Royal across the Missouri border, ripped an administration deal to finance a new power plant, sought to pre-empt any administration attempts to unilaterally privatize state hospitals and even introduced bills to roll back Brownback’s signature income tax exemption for businesses.

Osterman said he believes the administration has enacted too many big changes without sufficient vetting — including the move to privatized, managed care Medicaid under KanCare.

“I saw what happened with KanCare,” Osterman said. “It wasn’t going to happen again. Not on my watch.”

KHI reporter Megan Hart contributed to this story

The nonprofit KHI News Service is an editorially independent initiative of the Kansas Health Institute and a partner in the Heartland Health Monitor reporting collaboration. All stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to KHI.org when a story is reposted online.

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