KanCare officials showed a surprising but encouraging willingness to roll back unwelcome changes in mid-December in response to feedback. A new system of codes for formerly bundled services meant that Kansas pediatricians who see children on Medicaid saw a significant reduction in payments starting Nov. 1. Reimbursement for an office visit dropped, in some cases, from $70 to $26 for a 1-month-old child.
For pediatricians, changes to Medicaid reimbursements have real consequences. Nearly 40 percent of Kansas children are covered by Medicaid or CHIP, a supplemental program. For most pediatricians, Medicaid reimbursements make up a significant percentage of their income. Kansas already pays less for well-child checkups than surrounding states, making any reduction particularly burdensome.
At a KanCare Advisory Council meeting, lawmakers and public officials heard concerns from pediatricians about the new billing structure. Some physicians told the council that they would likely be forced to scale back the number of Medicaid patients they treat, a move that risks cutting off children from health care.
In response, Kansas Medicaid director Jon Hamdorf announced only a few days later that he would reverse the billing change, raise reimbursement rates and make changes retroactive to ensure pediatricians get the compensation they need.
The speed and sensibility of the approach may surprise Kansans accustomed to hearing stories about KanCare application backlogs, confusion from consumers and concerns from service providers statewide. Despite clear challenges, there are hard-working, dedicated professionals working in the KanCare system who are willing to act quickly in the service of Kansans.
Public servants working within KanCare should get the opportunity to share their ideas and suggestions with the Kansas legislature and newly elected governor in the coming year. There is welcome momentum towards reforming KanCare to correct long standing service issues.
Expanding Medicaid, a practical policy decision long endorsed by this newspaper, would also go a long way toward ensuring the system has the resources it needs to function efficiently.
Every child in Kansas deserves the opportunity to grow, learn and succeed, which requires access to quality health care. When any barrier, bureaucratic, financial, or otherwise, stands between our children and the care they need, we must act quickly, as seen last week, to correct the problem.