Kansas delays planned Medicaid changes after massive disability protests

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More than 800 advocates for people with disabilities, operating under the banner of “Don’t Gamble with Our Lives,” swarmed into Topeka on April 25 to rally against a highly publicized plan to hand over control of the state’s Medicaid services to private, managed care companies.

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Only hours after the rally finished, Gov. Sam Brownback announced a one-year delay in changes to disability services. For disability advocates, the state’s long-term care services should remain the exclusive domain of the state government.

“We have a hard time believing that for-profit insurance companies will understand the value of these services and the power they can have in someone’s life,” said Tom Laing, executive director of the disability advocacy group InterHab, in an article in the Topeka Capital-Journal. “This is not their expertise. This is not their field.”

The state is planning to begin handing out contracts to managed care companies for other types of services this summer, according to an Associated Press article.

However, more than 3,500 people are currently awaiting services for long-term care services, many of whom have been waiting for longer than three years. The Department of Justice is currently investigating Kansas’ Medicaid program for Americans with Disabilities Act violations for failure to provide services so people with disabilities can avoid being unnecessarily institutionalized.

The Lawrence Journal-World reported April 24 that talks have broken down between the Justice Department and state officials, raising the possibility of future litigation against the program.