AP: Kansas house panel approves Brownback's services plan


TOPEKA (AP) — A Kansas House committee Thursday approved Gov. Sam Brownback's proposal to shift projected savings from an overhaul of the state's Medicaid program into services for the disabled but added what amounts to a poison pill for some advocates.

TOPEKA (AP) — A Kansas House committee Thursday approved Gov. Sam Brownback's proposal to shift projected savings from an overhaul of the state's Medicaid program into services for the disabled but added what amounts to a poison pill for some advocates.

The extra language was approved by the Republican-controlled Appropriations Committee and would counter an effort to keep long-term, in-home services for the developmentally disabled from being included in the Medicaid overhaul. The program covers medical services for the needy and disabled, and Kansas this year turned over the administration of most of it to three private health insurance companies and renamed it KanCare.

Advocates and service providers for the developmentally disabled and their families are wary of having their long-term services administered by insurance companies. Their vocal protests last year led Brownback to delay including their services in the Medicaid overhaul until next year, and on Wednesday, hundreds of people rallied at the Statehouse to have the state "carve out" those services permanently.

Brownback and his allies believe that the Medicaid overhaul will cut the state's costs and still provide better- coordinated and more effective care for program participants. They've pointed to recent projections of greater-than-anticipated savings as proof that KanCare is working well.

State officials estimate that the state will save $62 million more than previously anticipated during the current fiscal year and the fiscal year beginning July 1. Brownback proposed earmarking $8 million in savings to in-home services for the physically and developmentally disabled, reducing waiting lists for those services.

The House committee's version says that if the state continues to carve out in-home services for the developmentally disabled, it can't use Medicaid savings to reduce the waiting list for their services, costing them $4 million in state funds. Rep. David Crum, an Augusta Republican who proposed the change, said carving out services for the developmentally disabled would lessen the state's savings.

"It's very important that we capture the savings," Crum said. "I'm firmly convinced that they're going to have better care under KanCare."

The House committee's decisions Thursday were directions to the chamber's negotiators on budget issues. Three senators and three House members are negotiating over the final version of a budget of roughly $14.5 billion for the fiscal year beginning in July.

Lawmakers must pass a spending plan for state government to wrap up their business for the year, and legislative leaders hope to finish next week.

Tom Laing, executive director for Interhab, which represents providers of services to the developmentally disabled, called approval of Crum's proposal "a harsh act." The House committee's vote was 14-7, largely along party lines.

Advocates have pushed the state for years to increase spending on in-home services, which can include an attendant to help the disabled wth daily tasks, so that they can live as independently as possible. More than 5,500 Kansans were on waiting lists for such services in April, and the governor's proposals would provide assistance to more than 650 of them, according to legislative researchers.

Under Crum's proposal, if the state continued to carve out long-term services for the developmentally disabled from KanCare, more than 200 of them would stay on the waiting list.

"It's a blatant attempt to bully people into sitting down and shutting up," Laing said.

Brownback remains committed to bringing such services for the developmentally disabled under KanCare next year, spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag said.

"KanCare has proven it is possible to increase services and reduce cost at the same time," she said in a statement. "Now we have an opportunity to use those savings to dramatically improve the lives of hundreds of our most vulnerable citizens."

In other action, the House committee approved nearly $1.2 million for a new center to research medical cures using adult stem cells at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan. Brownback signed a bill creating the center into law last month and proposed the funding.

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