Nothing but problems. That’s been the theme of the state’s transition to a privatized Medicaid program that closed regional offices and failed to deliver on promises of efficiency and cost savings. KDHE contracted with Maximus, a for-profit company with annual revenues in access of $2.4 billion, that specializes in privatizing government programs such as Medicaid.

Since contracting with Maximus in 2015 to create and manage a clearinghouse for Medicaid applications in Kansas, the KanCare oversight committee has heard from health care providers, Medicaid applicants, and even representatives from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, which oversees the contract, about payment backlogs, coverage denials and delayed applications.

At the August 2016 meeting, legislators from both parties were exasperated by the failing system. Then chairman of the oversight committee, Rep. Dan Hawkins, R-Wichita, told then-KDHE Secretary Susan Mosier the story of a person who applied for services in October, was denied services in January, died in March and still hadn’t received a response from KanCare (in August).

“I’m frustrated. I’m truly frustrated,” he said.

Solutions looked to be on the horizon in February, when Jon Hamdorf, the state’s new Medicaid director, told legislators he was considering fining Maximus as much as $250,000 a day if problems with the clearinghouse serving disabled, elderly and low-income Kansans weren’t corrected by June. After testifying that Maximus remained far behind on handling eligibility applications and had only a 40 percent accuracy rate in making financial payments despite a contractual obligation for 98 percent accuracy, Hamdorf said this was “one of my highest priorities to get this resolved.”

But the June 1 deadline came and Maximus made no measurable progress.

So, what did Gov. Colyer and his administration at KDHE propose to do? It wasn’t to terminate the contract for the company’s failures. Nor did they follow through with plans to impose fines.

Instead, they announced last week that the state will stay the course and pay Maximus even more of our tax dollars in the process.

Now, Kansans are supposed to accept that a private entity bid low to win the contract, and after failing to deliver after years of effort, we’re going to increase the size of their contract while tasking our state employees to handle the more difficult cases.

Kansans deserve better for their tax dollars.

— The Topeka Capital-Journal