Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Opinion: Kansas Shouldn't Shift Medicaid Program to Managed Care Too Quickly

TOPEKA, Kans. -- Health care providers and advocates — as well as state legislators — have ample reason to be nervous and cautious about major changes in the state’s Medicaid program.
The rising costs of the program make it a natural target for Kansas officials trying to trim the state budget or divert funds to other uses. Kansas isn’t the only state that is pursuing ways to cut its Medicaid costs — sometimes with mixed success.
Kansas already uses a private managed care provider for its HealthWave program, which serves children in low-income families. Gov. Sam Brownback now is proposing a plan that would include the elderly, disabled and mentally ill in managed care plans and to make the entire transition in one year’s time, by Jan. 1, 2013. Although other states are moving toward managed care plans administered by private insurance companies, making such a fast and complete shift is unusual. What works for children in low-income families may not work as well for elderly nursing home residents or people who need long-term assistance because of developmental disabilities.

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