Legislators say Brownback administration has agreed to delay waiver integration

Advocates for disability services rally at Statehouse, call for end to waiting lists

By Andy Marso, March 24, 2016

A large crowd is pictured at the Statehouse rally.

Stacy Tucker, center in pink, walked three days from her home in
Lawrence to the rally. She wore a shirt with the message: “I walked for
special needs people speaking out.” (Photo by Andy Marso/KHI News Service)

Hundreds of Kansans with developmental disabilities rallied Wednesday outside the Capitol as legislators said they are close to reaching a deal with Gov. Sam Brownback to postpone changes to disability services.

Rep. Les Osterman, a Republican from Wichita, told the crowd that a legislative proposal to delay the administration’s Medicaid waiver integration plan until 2018 was a done deal.

“I stopped the waiver integration,” Osterman said. “At least until 2018.”

Osterman said he worked across the aisle with Rep. Jim Ward, a Democrat from Wichita. The two serve on a subcommittee that made the recommendation to delay. The other members were Rep. Willie Dove, a Republican from Bonner Springs, and Rep. Jim Kelly, a Republican from Independence.

Earlier in the week, Ward and Kelly said they believed a deal to delay the integration was imminent.

“That’s what I heard,” Kelly said. “I haven’t seen anything. But that could be on its way, which would be great.”

A spokeswoman for the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services said confirmation of the delay would have to come from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. KHI News Service has requested confirmation from that agency.

The waiver integration plan, which has been delayed once, is a major issue for all disability groups in Kansas.

The waivers provide Medicaid coverage for support services that allow Kansans with disabilities to remain in home and community-based settings rather than institutions.

The services are split into seven groups based on type of disability: developmental, physical, frail elderly, autism, traumatic brain injury, technology assisted and serious emotional disturbance. The Brownback administration’s plan would compress the services into two groups: one for children and one for adults.

Administration officials say that would allow all Kansans to receive a broader array of services more efficiently, rather than being constrained by labels.

But legislators and disability advocates say the plan is short on details and worry it could lead to service reductions.

“I hope they delay it as long as they can,” said Hal Schultz, a Lawrence resident who leads a self-advocacy group for Kansans with developmental and intellectual disabilities. “I don’t like it.”

Schultz spoke at the rally, which was hosted by Interhab, a Topeka-based nonprofit that represents developmental disability service providers.

Tim Wood, who will take the top job at Interhab in September, urged those in attendance to lobby their legislators to fully fund waiting lists for the waiver services and provide higher Medicaid reimbursements for direct care workers, in addition to delaying the waiver integration.

Rally-goers wore green shirts that read “My vote counts” and were asked to visit legislators who might not know people with developmental disabilities or understand their concerns.  

Stacy Tucker came with her own shirt that said: “I walked for special needs people speaking out.”

Tucker said she walked three days from her home in Lawrence to the rally, inspired by civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr.

“I want people to know we are people and we’re just like anybody else,” Tucker said.

Tom Laing, Interhab’s current leader, told those who attended the rally that legislators calling for a delay to the waiver integration showed the group’s political clout.

“This is a case where the Legislature heard what you had to say,” Laing said.

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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