TOPEKA — The state of Kansas renewed managed-care contracts with two for-profit insurance companies operating the privatized $3 billion Medicaid system and replaced a third company after reviewing a half-dozen bid proposals, officials said Friday.
United Healthcare and Sunflower State Health Plan, a division of Centene, were retained by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, but Amerigroup was dropped. KDHE chose Aetna Better Health Kansas to fill the void left by absence of Amerigroup, which has been a provider since the Medicaid program was privatized in 2013. The KanCare program serves 400,000 people with disabilities, disabled, pregnant women and children.
The three-year contracts with United, Sunflower and Aetna were signed Thursday, but Theresa Freed, deputy secretary of public affairs at KDHE, said the documents couldn't be released by KDHE because they were "property" of the Kansas Department of Administration. She initially described the agreements as five-year contracts, but later amended that to say they were three-year pacts with a pair of one-year options.
Consumers enrolled in Amerigroup will have the opportunity to select a new managed-care company during an enrollment period beginning in October. Amerigroup will remain under contract until Dec. 31.
The privatized Medicaid program, financed with a combination of state and federal funds, has been shrouded in controversy driven by recipients, providers, advocates and politicians. The administrations of Gov. Sam Brownback and his replacement, Gov. Jeff Colyer, have said taking Medicaid out of the hands of state employees and placing it in under control of managed-care organizations reduced growth in cost to the state and improved services to people.
KDHE Secretary Jeff Andersen said he appreciated "tremendous feedback" received during the contract evaluation process from diverse sources with vested interests in Medicaid.
"We strive to provide Kansans with a cost effective and dependable Medicaid program that serves their needs, and the new contracts will further that objective," he said.
Sean Gatewood, representing KanCare Advocates Network, said he was interested in reviewing fine print of the state contracts with each of the managed-care companies. He said the Colyer administration ought to do a better job of holding KanCare contractors accountable and should robustly incentivize each of the companies to build stronger service networks, especially for people with disabilities.
"There hasn’t been clear evidence that KanCare has saved money or improved the health or quality of care of the Kansans it was created to serve," Gatewood said. "It is important that the state and the MCOs focus on quality improvements going forward."
Colyer, a physician who championed privatization of Medicaid as lieutenant governor, said KanCare was proven to be an "effective and efficient delivery model" in Kansas. He said the state achieved cost savings while expanding access to preventative care and improving health outcomes.
KDHE officials said the contracts would improve oversight and accountability, respond better to consumer needs and care coordination, and support an employment pilot project for people with disabilities and behavioral issues. In addition, adult dental benefits will remain part of the contracts.
In a statement, KDHE said, evaluation of the six bids included analysis of cost and technical capabilities for delivery on requirements set by the state. A 17-member review committee submitted recommendations to Andersen. The Kansas Department of Administration reviewed and approved the contracts.