KDHE

Hewlett Packard Enterprises

Computer giant Hewlett Packard Enterprises has entered into a $215 million contract with the state of Kansas to upgrade a Medicaid computer system that tracks patient claims payments to providers.

KU Center for Mental Health Research and Innovation

The director of a University of Kansas research center that recently lost the contract for its main body of work is open to resuming negotiations with state officials.

Rick Goscha, director of the KU Center for Mental Health Research and Innovation, said he continues to receive emails and phone calls from mental health providers across the state who want to see the center and the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services work through their differences so that a longstanding training and evaluation program operated by the center can continue.

Rebecca Lyn Phillips, of Topeka, has schizophrenia and writes a blog about the challenges of living with the disorder. She says the prospect of step therapy is 'terrifying' to many people with severe and persistent mental illnesses.
Jim McLean / Heartland Health Monitor

Although every state has now adopted some form of “step therapy” to control prescription drug costs, patient advocacy groups in Kansas remain deeply distrustful of the policy scheduled to take effect July 1.

Also known as “fail first,” the policy requires providers participating in KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program, to start patients on less expensive drugs before moving them to more expensive alternatives if medically necessary.

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.

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The Kansas Legislature added several patient protection measures to a bill allowing “step therapy” for Medicaid drugs before passing the legislation early Monday morning.

Advocates for Kansans with mental illness and other conditions were pleased with the changes but remain concerned about the possible effects of the underlying bill on vulnerable patients.

Step therapy requires Medicaid patients to try the least expensive medications for treating their ailments first. If those fail, they can then “step up” to a more expensive alternative.

File photo / Heartland Health Monitor

Federal officials have reversed position on a long-standing ban on paying for some inpatient psychiatric care, giving a possible boost to Kansas crisis centers.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released a proposed rule Monday that will place new requirements on managed care organizations administering Medicaid, such as the three insurance companies that operate KanCare, the state’s privatized $3 billion program.

Susie Fagan / Heartland Health Monitor

Representatives of 15 groups that advocate for Kansas Medicaid populations sent a letter to state leaders this week urging them to eliminate a Medicaid application backlog that has left thousands of Kansans awaiting coverage.

The groups have formed a coalition called the KanCare Advocates Network. They represent children, pregnant women and Kansans who are elderly or disabled.

Kansans from those populations have been waiting months, in some cases, for their Medicaid applications to process.

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Editor’s note: A backlog of Medicaid applications has caused financial strain for nursing homes and put thousands of Kansans at risk for loss of medical care. State officials trace the beginnings of the backlog to a computer system switch.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

The Kansas Legislature’s auditors say that the rollout of the computer system the state now uses to process Medicaid applications was long delayed in part because the contractor’s software required numerous modifications.

State officials say the system is improving and ultimately will make applying for Medicaid and social services a much more efficient process.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

A sudden exodus of top officials has public health officials concerned about the immediate future of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

Two KDHE leaders were terminated and three others announced their retirements in recent weeks. Combined, the five have more than 80 years of agency experience.

“Our concern is the fact that the Department of Health and Environment is going to be weakened by the loss of all these people who had so much experience,” said Dennis Cooley, a Topeka pediatrician who is one of the state’s most vocal child health advocates.

A Kansas House committee this week agreed to recommend Gov. Sam Brownback’s proposed budget for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

But the recommendation by the Kansas House Social Services Budget Committee comes with a big caveat: There’s a good chance that some of the projected savings won’t pan out.

“The KDHE budget that we have before us includes some questionable savings,” said the committee’s chairman, Rep. Will Carpenter, a Republican from El Dorado.

Dr. Robert Moser, who resigned last month as secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, has a new job.

Earlier this week, Moser was named executive director for the Kansas Heart and Stroke Collaborative at the University of Kansas Hospital.

Bob Hallinan, a spokesperson for the hospital, confirmed the hiring late Thursday afternoon.

KDHE Surveyors Sent To Osawatomie State Hospital

Oct 30, 2014

State officials on Wednesday confirmed reports that surveyors with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment were dispatched last week to Osawatomie State Hospital, and that the surveyors in turn summoned the Office of the State Fire Marshal.

Sara Belfry, a KDHE spokesperson, said the nature of the surveyors’ concerns will not be made public until after survey findings are reviewed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a process that’s likely to take several days.

State health officials are looking for connections in seven reported cases of kidney failure commonly caused by a type of bacteria sometimes found in food. 

A total of seven cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome have been reported to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. These cases have not been confirmed yet, according to KDHE spokeswoman Sara Belfry. 

Advocates Still Wary Of Infectious Disease Bill

Apr 17, 2013
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Kansas health officials are trying to assure local health groups that a controversial bill dealing with infectious diseases needed an update to response protocols for occupational exposures. Some HIV advocates, however, aren’t completely sold.

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Kansas health officials have been touring the state this week, holding public education sessions on a plan to overhaul the state’s Medicaid program.

The nation's midsection is a hot spot for influenza right now, and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment says there’s still time to be protected by a flu shot.