Monthly Archives: November 2011

Brownback’s administration rolls out Medicaid reform package

TOPEKA – Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration this morning announced a major Medicaid reform package that will shift thousands of disable, elderly and low-income residents into a managed care system that aims to reduce hospital visits and slow the growth of Medicaid spending over the next five years without reducing benefits.

The “person-centered” integrated care program is called KanCare, and it will be managed by three companies that win state-issued contracts and are evaluated and paid based on their outcomes, such as reduced emergency room visits.  The contracts are for three years.  (View the request for proposals documents here.) KanCare will take effect in January 2013.

The companies will be asked to provide incentives to consumers for healthy decisions, such as quitting smoking and losing weight. And the companies will not be able to reduce the amount they pay to reimburse health care providers.

Medicaid, the state’s health care program for about 350,000 disabled, elderly and low-income residents, is one of the state’s largest expenses. It cost about $2.8 billion in state and federal money last year. Costs have been growing at 7.4 percent per year over the past decade.

Brownback assigned Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer to lead a group of state agency in the reform effort. The group has worked more than nine months, including multiple meetings with health organizations and town hall-style meetings in several cities across the state that Brownback’s administration says drew a total of about 1,700 people.

Officials project the reform package to save $853 million over five years, which translates to slowing the growth of Medicaid spending by about a third. But the officials provided only a few details today about how they calculated the projected savings. They said that efficiencies, competition and a better coordination of care for those who need the most services will result in savings. One move will make 3-5 percent of payments as an incentive for quality improvements, another will penalize companies with low quality or insufficient reporting. Read More »

Goddard Mayor Gregory makes health-care case to Rep. Pompeo

Rep. Mike Pompeo addresses a small group at Gerrard's Restaurant in Goddard. Goddard Mayor Marcey Gregory, second from right, pressed Pompeo over the national health care law that he's vowed to work to repeal.

Saying she had benefited as both a small-business owner and a mother, Goddard Mayor Marcey Gregory today pressed Rep. Mike Pompeo to change his view that Congress should completely repeal the national health care law.

Pompeo didn’t back off from his long-held stance that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — which he and other Republicans derisively call “Obamacare” — should be repealed in its entirety.

He did, however, express some support for safeguards against insurance companies denying people coverage.

The exchange took place at Gerrard’s Restaurant in Goddard, where Pompeo made a whistle stop as part of a three-day campaign kickoff swing through the 4th District.

Pompeo timed the kickoff tour to coincide with the one-year-anniversary of his 2010 election when a Republican wave — spurred in part by voter unrest over the health-care law — returned control of the House to the GOP.

Gregory, who has run for state Legislature and Sedgwick County Commission as a Democrat, told Pompeo that her business — the First Gear running store in Wichita Old Town — has benefited from employer tax credits in the Affordable Care Act.

“In my business, we pay 100 percent of the premiums of all of our employees,” Gregory said. “And this is the first time we’ve ever gotten tax credit for doing that.”

She also said she’s taken advantage of a provision allowing parents to cover their children until age 26.

“I’ve got a 23-year-old son that I’m able to keep on my health-insurance policy,” she said. “So I think there are good portions of it that we need to be able to hold on to and maybe just discard the bad.”

Pompeo conceded there are “laudable goals” in the bill, but added “I can’t imagine keeping any of it.” Read More »

State marketing campaign aims to recruit adoptive families

TOPEKA — The state plans to use $300,000 in federal funds to recruit adoptive parents for some of the children in state custody who are the most difficult to place, Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services Sec. Rob Siedlecki said today.

Siedlecki said it’s difficult to find families who want to adopt kids who are age 8 and older, are in a minority group, have a disability or want to stay with siblings, he said. The marketing campaign will help find more parents to take those children in, he said.

About 900 children are available for adoption in Kansas, though many live with a relative or a foster family that plans to adopt. About 420 of those children are searching for families on sites such as www.adoptkskids.org, according to SRS. Adoptions through the state are free, legally secure and available for state subsidies, Siedlecki said.

“These 400 children really are alone, and they need our love and attention,” he said, before showing a public service announcement that will be shown statewide.

During the 2011 fiscal year, 761 adoptions were finalized statewide. Since the 2012 fiscal year started in July, 178 adoptions have been finalized for children in state care, according to SRS. The agency has set a goal of 800 adoptions by the end of the fiscal year.

Gov. Brownback: MU leaving Big 12 bad for Kansas City

TOPEKA — Gov. Sam Brownback said this morning that he is  sorry to see the University of Missouri leave the Big 12 Conference, and he thinks it’s a bad move for Kansas City, which has enjoyed the economic boost that accompanies the annual Border War game at Arrowhead Stadium.

“I think this is bad for them,” he said.

Brownback said he called Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon and the head of the board of curators for the University of Missouri to say he didn’t think it was a good move, particularly for the Kansas City area. But he welcomed West Virginia University and Texas Christian University to the Big 12.

Brownback said that, compared to the situation the Big 12 was in a year ago, things are going better.

“I believe it will ultimately be the strongest conference in the country,” he said. “The level of competition is excellent and growing.”

Kobach picks voting-office employee to replace Election Commissioner Gale

Deputy Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman has been appointed to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Commissioner Bill Gale.

Gale had recommended that Lehman be appointed as his successor. She was appointed by Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

“Mrs. Lehman is extremely familiar with the election process and her experience will be invaluable going into the 2012 election year,” Kobach said in a statement. “Her commitment to defending the voting rights of Kansas citizens is unwavering.”

Her first major challenge will be implementing new voter photo-ID and proof-of-citizenship requirements passed by the Legislature this year at Kobach’s urging.

Lehman testified in favor of the new law during legislative hearings in Topeka. She told lawmakers that she felt there were security gaps in existing law because election officials did not have the ability to guarantee that the people they registered are citizens.

She also said requiring identification numbers, particularly on advance ballots, would help election officials remove duplicate registrations from voter rolls; and that state-issued photo ID, which can be scanned electronically, will speed up the process of checking people in to vote.

“People have to provide ID to do the most simple things in daily life and this is a more important matter,” she said today. Read More »

Ranzau blasts county economic development efforts

Ranzau

Sedgwick County Commissioner Richard Ranzau lashed out Tuesday at county economic development incentives, saying they violate biblical law and are like the federal Solyndra scandal.

And Ranzau’s example of a company that makes it on its own — Apple — actually has received hundreds of millions of dollars in government aid.

“You know we have the (commandments), ‘Thou shalt not covet,’ and ‘Thou shalt not steal,’ ” he said. “Our economic policy on forgivable loans violates both of those because a business comes in and says, ‘I want somebody else’s money, I’m going to covet the taxpayer money.’

“And we say, ‘OK, we will take that and redistribute it to you.’ That’s theft.”

Read More »