KanCare bombshell: Patients suffer as clueless Brownback and Colyer claim victory

Sam Brownback needs to step up and fix KanCare, not defend it.

Gov. Sam Brownback needs to step up and make sure KanCare is fixed.

Kansas Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer better help in that effort, too.

Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer better help in that effort, too.

UPDATED 2 PM THURSDAY: Kansas lawmakers are furious Thursday after the feds dropped a bombshell on Kansas’ privatized Medicaid program known as KanCare. But legislators are a big part of the problem, too.


The report says people appear to be suffering from lack of good care in a program that’s fully backed by Gov. Sam Brownback and Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, a plastic surgeon and the state’s supposed health care czar.

It’s clear today that too many in the Legislature ignored the dozens of troubling stories in recent years about the failings of privately managed care in serving more than 400,000 Kansans.

GOP Rep. Dan Hawkins, chairman of  the KanCare Oversight Committee, complained Thursday that the Legislature was “blindsided” by the news. That’s a terribly weak excuse. What does Hawkins think the word “oversight” is supposed to mean? He’s not supposed to trust what Brownback and Colyer tell him and his panel.

The sharp comment from Democratic Rep. Jim Ward was more on target: “If Sam Brownback was the manager of a McDonald’s, and ran it like he runs this state, you would have fired him two years ago.”

The Topeka Capital-Journal’s Jonathan Shorman broke this story and reported late Wednesday:

“Kansas’ Medicaid program is ‘substantively out of compliance’ with U.S. law, federal officials say — a situation they argue poses risks to recipients and prompted them to deny a request to extend KanCare by a year.

“The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services found serious concerns during an on-site review of the privatized program conducted in October. Limited coordination between state agencies poses a risk to the health and safety of some participants and Kansas didn’t provide sufficient oversight of the managed care organizations, the review found.”

The Kansas Legislature needs to hop on this problem, and quickly. The state could be wasting tens of millions of tax dollars on paying private companies that aren’t properly taking care of needy patients.

For one thing, lawmakers ought to look into why — as Colyer announced last month — the Brownback administration extended state contracts with the three private health insurance companies that manage KanCare. That averted bidding on the contracts this year. That now looks to be a highly questionable move, even foolish, in light of the new federal findings.

But based on recent defenses of KanCare, don’t bet on the Brownback administration leading the effort to fix the mess.

KanCare spokeswoman Angela de Rocha whined Wednesday evening, “It is perplexing that CMS granted 11 other states extensions of their … waivers, but denied Kansas.”

It’s really not that surprising if you read the summary of the feds’ findings, that KanCare looks to be a disaster in many ways for the people of the Sunflower State.

By Thursday, de Rocha was in further denial mode, saying, “We think it’s politically motivated, the last blow from the Obama administration as they go out the door.”

Get a grip: The feds’ visits to Kansas occurred before the election; the problems of KanCare are longstanding; and the Medicaid oversight group has approved requests by other states to proceed with their programs.

Brownback seemed as clueless as usual last week about a problem happening in his own back yard, when he praised KanCare in his State of the State address.

He said, “Fortunately for our budget, Kansas had the foresight to reform Medicaid — a policy others are following.  Instead of an open-ended fee for service entitlement, Kansas became the first state in America to serve its entire Medicaid population through managed care. ”

Then there’s Colyer. As Peter Hancock of The Lawrence Journal-World reported earlier this month, the lieutenant governor was praising KanCare — the story labeled him the “chief architect of the plan” — for allegedly providing good managed care for the elderly and disabled. The feds harshly disagreed.


The new report raises the ugly possibility that KanCare is an even bigger fiasco than its critics have claimed the last few years.

Elected officials — from Brownback to Colyer to Kansas lawmakers — are responsible for leading the charge to make sure state workers and the private companies involved in KanCare make swift improvements.