State seeks Kansans with physical disabilities dropped from wait list

By Andy Marso, November 11, 2016

State officials are asking Kansans with physical disabilities to contact them if they believe they were improperly dropped from a waiting list for support services through Medicaid.

Brandt Haehn, the state’s commissioner for home and community-based services within the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, said the state is prepared to make service offers to those who step forward. 

“If you think you are on the waiting list and have not received an offer, we want to hear from you,” Haehn said.

The state reported in August that the waiting list for physical disability support services provided under Medicaid had been eliminated.

But that announcement came after controversy over how the state culled the list since taking it over from Centers for Independent Living that serve Kansans with disabilities throughout the state.

Megan Buck, an official with the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, sent the state a letter last month saying the CMS regional office has received reports of Kansans with disabilities who were dropped from the list improperly — something the Centers for Independent Living had warned of for years.

Amy Hyten, an attorney and assistant director of the Topeka Independent Living Resource Center, said that after the state announced the elimination of the waiting list, she went back and located archived names of clients her organization added to the waiting list in 2011 and 2012.

“We circled back around and tried to make as much contact as possible with as many of them as possible,” Hyten said.

There were about 70 clients from those old lists, and attempts to contact most of them failed. But Hyten’s staff did track down seven of them.

“Almost every single one of them had not been offered services,” Hyten said. “When we brought that to the attention of KDADS, eventually they were given a rescreening and an offer of services.”

Contact KDADS

Kansans with physical disabilities who need Medicaid support services should email the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services.

The two waiting lists for Kansans with physical and developmental disabilities have been a source of conflict between the Centers for Independent Living and Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration since 2012, when the U.S. Department of Justice announced it was reviewing civil rights complaints about how long Kansans with physical disabilities had to wait to receive services.

Brownback said he had inherited lists that grew dramatically under his Democratic predecessors during the Great Recession. He also has cited elimination of the lists as a priority before the state considers expanding eligibility for Medicaid.

After the Justice Department announcement four years ago, the state hired a call center to try to contact the 3,462 people on the physical disability waiting list. The low response rate — about 11 percent — led then-KDADS Secretary Shawn Sullivan to question the integrity of the lists.

His agency gave the Centers for Independent Living one month to update them or risk having the lists turned over to the Kansas Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud and Abuse Division.

KDADS then took over administration of the lists after the update. Over the next several years the state continued to pare the physical disabilities list by offering hundreds of people services paid for with KanCare savings.  

State officials also removed from the list more than 1,000 people who could not be contacted or no longer wanted services.

Angela de Rocha, a spokeswoman for state agencies, said some of those removed from the list had moved out of state, some had rehabilitated to the point where they were no longer disabled, some had found other sources of support and some had died.

She said the state acted properly in culling the list.

“When we got both those lists, we realized there are some serious problems with them,” de Rocha said.

The state plans a similar review of the developmental disability waiting list, which still includes more than 3,400 Kansans.

Mike Oxford, executive director of the Topeka Independent Living Center, said the lists should have remained in local hands.

Care coordinators who work for the KanCare companies don’t check in with people on the list as often as the targeted case managers who worked for the Centers for Independent Living, Oxford said, which has made it even harder for the state to find people once they are able to offer them services.

“There’s nothing on the ground anymore to help keep up with people,” Oxford said.

Oxford said the Centers for Independent Living were criticized for having people on the waiting lists who could not be found, but after four years of administering the list the state has no better track record in that regard.

Haehn said he hoped that eliminating the physical disability list would erase that problem because there would be much less time between when clients are assessed for services and when they get offers — which means they’ll be less likely to have moved or changed phone numbers.

Meanwhile, Haehn said he wants to reset the state’s relationship with the Centers for Independent Living and partner with them to find any Kansans who were dropped from the physical disability list and still need services.

“If we work together, that’s the best way we’re going to be able to make sure people are getting the right services at the right time,” Haehn 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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