Fact Meter: Kansas budget director’s chart offers misleading view of KanCare waiting list

By Tim Carpenter, August 28, 2017

Kansas Fact Meter graghic ranking Sullivan's presentation as misleading.

The fate of thousands of Kansans with intellectual or developmental disabilities who don’t receive benefits for which they’re qualified remains a contentious issue more than four years into operation of the state’s privatized $3 billion Medicaid system.

Shawn Sullivan, budget director for Gov. Sam Brownback, discussed during a presentation to a House and Senate oversight committee the need for sustained state government revenue growth to shrink the waiting list for home- or community-based services through Medicaid.

KanCare, the state’s Medicaid program funded by state and federal dollars, was outsourced by the Brownback administration to three for-profit insurance companies in January 2013.

Sullivan shared with lawmakers Aug. 23 a graph illustrating size of the pre-KanCare and post-KanCare waiting lists for intellectually or developmentally disabled Kansans requesting services to help them stay out of nursing homes. His red-and-blue chart showed the so-called I/DD waiting list fell from 5,071 in 2012 to 3,700 in 2017. Observers were left to draw the conclusion KanCare contributed to a 1,371-person reduction.

Fact Meter finds the statistical representation of KanCare’s influence on the waiting list misleading.

Sen. Laura Kelly, a Topeka Democrat on the KanCare oversight committee, said the list of intellectually or developmentally disabled Kansans not receiving services for which they qualified escalated from 3,266 in 2012 to 3,700 in 2017.

She said Sullivan sidestepped that reality by offering an apples-to-oranges comparison.

Sullivan’s starting point, she said, was the combined “unserved” and “underserved” waiting list from 2012 containing names of 5,071 people. She said the budget director paired that 2012 number with the state’s unserved-only waiting list of 3,700 in 2017.

“Clearly, the graph was designed to leave the impression that the waiting list for I/DD services had decreased since 2012 instead of increasing,” Kelly said. “The lack of forthrightness makes it difficult to trust this administration.”

In response, Sullivan said he wouldn’t object to presentation of charts in the future that clearly defined those unserved by KanCare.

Sullivan correctly told state lawmakers the federal government ordered the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services to eliminate the underserved portion of the waiting list in 2014. The Disability Rights Center of Kansas, based in Topeka, had argued that for more than a decade the state’s underserved list illegally forced thousands of Kansans to wait for services they were entitled to receive.

“The underserved were receiving some of the services that were indicated as necessary on their service plan, but not all,” Sullivan said. “I believe the general philosophy on why this started in the early 2000s was it was better to provide more people with some services than fewer people with all services.”

In addition, Sullivan said neither the Legislature nor Brownback earmarked new funding in the current or upcoming fiscal years to reduce waiting lists of people grappling with physical or intellectual disabilities.

He said state tax collections in fiscal years 2015, 2016 and 2017 grew an “anemic” average of 1 percent annually, which proved insufficient to meet expanding obligations for K-12 schools, state pensions and Medicaid. The 2017 Legislature voted to override Brownback’s veto of a two-year, $1.2 billion increase in state taxes to cover a budget shortfall and raise aid to public school districts.

http://cjonline.com/state-government/news/2017-08-23/fact-meter-kansas-budget-director-s-chart-offers-misleading-view

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