Elderly Kansans who are so poor as to be eligible for Medicaid already face innumerable challenges. Now, The Star reports, changes the state has made to its Medicaid application and renewal process have only added another brick to their load.

The changes have created a virtual maze for destitute seniors seeking medical help. As The Star’s Andy Marso reported, Kansas in 2015 moved to a new computer system for applying for Medicaid, or KanCare as it’s called in the state. Then it made another switch that involved eliminating regional offices that once processed applications in favor of a centralized “KanCare Clearinghouse” in Topeka.

The state contracted with a company called Maximus to staff the Clearinghouse.

Since then, a strange thing has happened. In a state with an aging population, the number of seniors that KanCare covers for in-home nursing help has actually declined. So has the number of Kansans covered for nursing home beds.

Officials point out that the situation makes no sense, and they’re right. The logical culprit here is the byzantine application process. …

Change is needed and needed soon. The man to lead it is Gov. Jeff Colyer, the architect of the state’s push to privatize Medicaid via contracts with three private health care companies. The move has generated sharp criticism, and Colyer and former Gov. Sam Brownback last month halted plans for a revised program, known in Topeka as KanCare 2.0. One big concern was that lawmakers were still pointing to a myriad of problems with the original KanCare program. …

A plastic surgeon, Colyer is well positioned to oversee needed changes in the Medicaid application process. Give his young administration credit: New leaders in the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, which oversees the Clearinghouse, are pushing Maximus hard to improve. Some have gone so far as to suggest that the state should severe its ties with the company altogether.

Another option is to levy substantial fines on Maximus if its performance doesn’t improve. …

Restoring local eligibility offices to help seniors navigate this complex system also would be a solid step forward. Caring for our most vulnerable citizens is a top responsibility of any government. Kansas has to step it up.

— The Kansas City Star