Advocates and supporters of the community of individuals with disability were ready when the Kansas Legislature kicked off the 2021 session last week. Many groups, such as Interhab, SACK, and KanCare Advocates Network, spent the last few months of 2020 preparing their legislative platforms in hopes of making significant progress in the state legislature this year and moving forward initiatives and solutions to benefit individuals and families affected by disability. We’ve compiled a brief guide to some of the issues our community hopes to address in this year’s legislative session.
At the forefront of every Kansan’s mind is the COVID-19 pandemic. For individuals and families affected by disability, the pandemic brought unique challenges that advocates are pushing to remedy. Some of these include:
- Requiring reporting of outbreaks in all long-term care facilities, group homes, or any home health care facility;
- Creating the right to appeal an involuntary discharge or transfer from an adult residential care facility. HB 2004 was introduced Jan. 11 to the Kansas House of Representatives. This article from the Kansas Reflector shows first-hand how detrimental an involuntary discharge can be for residents, families, and local hospitals during the pandemic;
- Telehealth and broadband network expansion; and
- COVID-19 funding transparency.
KanCare Expansion and Reform
At this time, 36 states have expanded their Medicaid programs. Kansas has not. Alliance For a Healthy Kansas breaks down why expanding KanCare matters now more than ever to the nearly 150,000 Kansans that currently fall into a health coverage gap.
First, by law, the cost of expanding the state’s program will be covered 90% by the federal government. Research shows that it will stimulate economic growth, bringing more than 13,000 new jobs to the state. In addition, it will protect access to care in rural areas. Over 7,400 Kansas military veterans and their spouses would gain access to affordable coverage, and expansion will help control health insurance costs.
KanCare reform is needed, along with expansion. Advocates are pushing for more oversight and accountability for contractors servicing the program. Years of complaints of backlogs and other problems spurred the state to replace its previous private contractor, Maximus, with a new servicer. However, without specific reform measures in place, the state cannot guarantee that it will not face the same problems with the new private contractor, Conduent.
Other reform measures proposed include collecting and analyzing data on specialized service gaps. This would allow the state and community partners to correctly identify these service gaps and work to fill the needs of the community.
Perhaps one of the biggest hurdles the disability community faces is financial. In 2020, after years of requests and data comparison, the Kansas Legislature appropriated $22 million (a 5% increase) in funding for the stretched thin intellectual and disability disorder (I/DD) providers to be made available July 1, 2020. That funding was cut by Gov. Laura Kelly in June 2020, a week before it was to be distributed, as a response to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. During this legislative session, advocates, agencies, and the community will push to protect the current level of funding, and hope to receive reallocation of the 5% increase for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2021.
In addition, there will be continued conversations regarding multi-year strategies to address the 4,000 adults and children on the waiting list for I/DD services in Kansas, as well as raising the protected income limit for Kansans receiving services.
Arcare is committed to advocating for our clients and their families at all levels of government. Check our blog for updates on these legislative priorities. Your generous donations allow us to continue our advocacy work.