disabilities

Heartland Health Monitor

The Disability Rights Center of Kansas is seeking more information from the state about its backlog of Medicaid applications to determine whether Kansas is breaking federal rules.

Rocky Nichols, the center’s executive director, said the organization has filed an open records request to examine whether the state is doing what the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services requires for Medicaid applicants stuck in the backlog.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

A proposal to reimburse some KanCare providers at a higher level based on patient outcomes drew skepticism from a crowd of hundreds who gathered Tuesday afternoon in a Topeka hotel ballroom.

Tuesday’s public meeting was the first in a series that state officials are hosting as they prepare to renew their federal application for KanCare, the state’s $3 billion managed care program that privatized all Medicaid services under three insurance companies in 2013.

Similar gatherings are scheduled Wednesday in Kansas City, Kan., and Wichita and Thursday in Pittsburg and Hays.

State officials have scheduled five meetings to gather public comment on KanCare in advance of renewing contracts to administer the state’s privatized Medicaid program.

The contracts currently held by UnitedHealthcare, Amerigroup and Sunflower State Health Plan (a subsidiary of Centene) expire in 2018. Those private insurance companies serve as managed care organizations that operate KanCare.

Susan Mosier, secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said her agency wants to hear from the public on what to include in the next contracts.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration will not fight a legislative directive to postpone the integration of Medicaid waiver services for Kansans with disabilities, according to an email sent by an administration official.

The Legislature passed a budget early Monday that included a provision prohibiting spending in the next fiscal year on any waiver integration plan to be implemented before July 2018.

Susie Fagan / Heartland Health Monitor

Legislative budget negotiators have agreed to insert a provision in the state budget preventing Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration from consolidating Medicaid support services for Kansans with various disabilities.

The Medicaid waiver integration plan has been a point of contention between the administration and a legislative subcommittee appointed to study the issue. The subcommittee issued a report recommending the integration be delayed a year to Jan. 1, 2018, and requesting more details on the plan.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

When Shannon Lindsey moved from Missouri to Kansas two years ago, she decided she wanted to go to Johnson County Community College to get a nursing degree that would make her more employable.

Lindsey, now 49, has several disabilities, so she contacted Kansas’ vocational rehabilitation office for assistance. In Missouri she had the same vocational rehabilitation counselor for years — a state worker who understood her needs, what was available to help her and how to get it to her quickly.

Courtesy Bill Stovall

A statewide registry is in the works to make it easier for Medicaid patients to find qualified, reliable personal care workers.

That’s good news for Bill Stovall of Topeka and others like him who help direct care for their family members.

Stovall has a long list of complaints against personal care workers who have cared for his sister in recent years, including punctuality problems and a lack of training.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

Hundreds of Kansans with developmental disabilities rallied Wednesday outside the Capitol, as legislators said they are close to reaching a deal with Gov. Sam Brownback to postpone changes to disability services.

Rep. Les Osterman, a Republican from Wichita, told the crowd that a legislative proposal to delay the administration’s Medicaid waiver integration plan until 2018 was a done deal.

“I stopped the waiver integration,” Osterman said. “At least until 2018.”

Alex Smith / Heartland Health Monitor

Editor's note: Finn Bullers, a champion of disability rights, unexpectedly died Sunday of complications related to pneumonia. He was 52. For many years, he was a reporter at The Kansas City Star, where he covered Johnson County government. Dan Margolies, editor of KCUR-based Heartland Health Monitor, has this remembrance.

Advocates for elderly and disabled Kansans are anxiously awaiting the publication of the state’s plan to combine seven Medicaid waivers into one.

The waivers currently provide home and community-based services for people within a range of support categories, including developmental disability, physical disability, traumatic brain injury or frail/elderly.

Jillisa Washington

The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services is reviewing a waiting list for developmental disability services after counties reported discrepancies between how many residents they have waiting and how many are on the state’s list.

There are more than 3,000 Kansans with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) on the KDADS waiting list for Medicaid-covered support services meant to allow them to remain in their homes and communities rather than live in institutions.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

Cabinet officials say Kansas’ quest to combine Medicaid waivers for people with seven categories of disabilities is intended to provide better care and outcomes, not cost savings.

But costs will go down if care improves as intended, they say.

Officials from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services are beginning a statewide listening tour on the proposed changes after briefing a legislative committee on them Friday.

Andy Marso/KHI News

  Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer was on hand Thursday for the unveiling of a book to educate children about interacting with people who have disabilities.

“Darby Boingg Has an Adventure and Meets a Person with Disabilities” features Boingg, a wallaby with human characteristics, who meets Ian, a young man in a motorized wheelchair.

Sunflower State Health Plan hosted the book signing at the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library. The event featured  author Michelle Bain and Ian Kuenzi, a Topekan with cerebral palsy who was her inspiration.

C.J. Janovy / KCUR

First Friday in Kansas City's Crossroads neighborhood is always a street party. But on the first Friday in August, the third annual Southwest x Central Street Fest spotlights artists who don't typically get as much exposure as others: the musicians, writers and artists of Imagine That!, a non-profit studio of artists with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

One out of five adult Kansans and nearly one out of four adult Missourians has at least one disability, says a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In Kansas, difficulty walking was the most common disability (13 percent), followed by cognitive impairment (9 percent); inability to live alone due to physical, mental or emotional conditions (5 percent); difficulty bathing or dressing (3 percent), and seriously impaired vision (3 percent).

A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice said Tuesday that the department is still investigating complaints about Medicaid waiting lists for disability services in Kansas.

The services are daily living supports in home and community-based settings that people with disabilities would normally receive Medicaid coverage for if they were in assisted living facilities.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

A year ago there were almost 3,500 Kansans with physical disabilities awaiting Medicaid coverage for services to help them live in their homes and communities.

Much has changed in 12 months. The physical disability (PD) waiting list is down to fewer than 1,500 people, and Kari Bruffett, secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, told members of the National Council on Disability who visited Topeka earlier this month that more reductions are coming.

Jim McLean / Heartland Health Monitor

Kansans with disabilities make up about one-fourth of KanCare, the state’s managed care Medicaid model.

But they’re a vocal segment, and they and their advocates painted a picture Tuesday of a system struggling to provide them with the long-term supports they need to stay in their homes and communities rather than institutions.

Ben Nuelle / for KCUR

Alda Owen of Fairport, Missouri is legally blind, and sees only outlines of images with the details blurred out. But still, she drives herself and her border collie, Sweet Baby Jo, a short way up the road to work cattle.

When she was just 10-years-old, doctors diagnosed Owen with histoplasmosis. She got the disease and went blind after collecting chicken eggs. It is caused by breathing in spores of a fungus found in bird droppings.  

To add to the struggle of being blind, doctors diagnosed her with breast cancer in 2008.

Dave Ranney / Heartland Health Monitor

It looks like the state won’t be spending more money on its four hospitals for people whose disabilities or mental illnesses prevent them from safely caring for themselves.

Budget committees in the House and Senate have adopted Gov. Sam Brownback’s plan for keeping the hospitals at their current spending levels through fiscal year 2017.

The committees each have forwarded their flat-spending recommendations to their respective chambers.

A Kansas House committee unanimously passed a bill Tuesday to allow for tax-free savings accounts for children with disabilities. But even as they sent the bill to the full House, committee members expressed concerns that cost could keep it from coming up for a vote there.

House Bill 2100 would allow the families of Kansas children with disabilities up to age 26 to set aside up to $14,000 a year for them, with up to $100,000 not counting against their Medicaid benefits.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

 

On a day when Congressman Kevin Yoder testified before a Kansas House committee, it was a 15-year-old Olathe South High School freshman who stole the show.

Rachel Mast, who has Down syndrome, ebulliently encouraged the Children and Seniors Committee to approve a bill to allow tax-exempt savings accounts for Kansas children with disabilities that would not jeopardize their Medicaid benefits.

Courtesy photo / KCUR

Finn Bullers guides his $30,000 electric wheelchair by using the bright beam of a light lodged in its frame.

The 51-year-old has been battling Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, a rare form of muscular dystrophy, since he was growing up in Iowa.

As a young boy, Bullers would stuff his clothes with pillows to defy his already atrophying body and spend hours on a frozen farm pond trying to skate like the other kids.

State officials say they’re having a hard time contacting disabled people who have expressed interest in receiving Medicaid-funded services designed to help them live in community-based settings.

Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services Secretary Kari Bruffett on Friday said that between Jan. 1 and Dec. 15, the agency had reached out to 1,627 people on its waiting list for services for people with physical disabilities.

More than 830 of these individuals are now receiving services.

BigStock image

Update: Nov. 4, 2014   2:30PM

On Election Day, respondents to a new Tell KC query told us their polling places were not well-equipped to help them vote.

Mary-Corinne Corely has cerebral-palsy-like symptoms in her legs due to an illness when she was an infant. Some days, she says, the symptoms make it impossible for her to do steps at all.

Dave Ranney / KHI News Service

 

 

Parents of adult children with developmental disabilities say state officials are breaking a pledge made during negotiations last year that led legislators to include Medicaid-funded home- and community-based services for the developmentally disabled in the state's KanCare program.

Wikimedia Commons

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis says if elected, he will reverse Gov. Sam Brownback’s controversial decision to put the private companies managing the state’s Medicaid program in charge of delivering support services to Kansans with developmental disabilities.

Brownback, a conservative Republican seeking a second term, privatized the state’s $3 billion Medicaid program in 2013 and renamed it KanCare to achieve two — and some say conflicting — goals of improving care and reducing costs.

The U.S. Department of Labor on Tuesday granted a six-month delay in enforcement of a new rule applying federal minimum wage and overtime provisions to home care workers employed by so-called “self-directed” Medicaid consumers.

Dave Ranney / KHI News Service

State officials are intensifying their efforts to help Kansans with disabilities get jobs.

But advocates in the disability community are skeptical that an initiative announced Monday will be enough to reverse a recent trend that has seen a steady decline in the number of Kansans with disabilities placed in jobs.

The initiative, dubbed “End-Dependence Kansas,” will provide $25 million in mostly federal funds over the next five years to organizations that operate programs that help people with disabilities find employment.

File photo

Former Sen. Bob Dole is campaigning for Pat Roberts in his Senate re-election effort, but on the issue Dole has been most vocal about lately — the U.S. signing on to a United Nations agreement solidifying the rights of people with disabilities — Roberts’ opponent seems more in line with Dole's views.

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