TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Efforts by Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, R, to overhaul his state’s Medicaid program — including the nursing home benefits component — have hit a rough spot.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas, Topeka, has decided not to bid on a contract to help manage the program.
Executives at Kansas Blue, the state’s largest health insurer, said last week that submitting a bid for a state contract would require the company to make dramatic business changes in less than a year.
Brownback’s administration plans to issue three contracts this year for the state’s $2.9 billion program, which provides health coverage to poor families and disabled and elderly Kansans. The contracts would start Jan. 1, 2013.
Kansas has asked the federal government, which helps finance Medicaid, to waive some of its rules so that the contracts can cover the disabled and elderly and include financial incentives for improving services while controlling costs. Critics worry Brownback’s administration is moving too quickly.
Brownback’s efforts to overhaul Medicaid represent the first time the state has attempted to cover the disabled and the elderly, including those in nursing homes, with a managed-care program.
“It’s crystal clear now that it’s going to be for-profit, out-of-state, multinational, probably publicly traded, Wall Street companies,” said Rocky Nichols, executive director of the Disability Rights Center of Kansas, adding that fellow advocates worry about “placing profits” between Medicaid recipients and services.
Brownback spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag declined to comment about the Kansas blue decision, because the bidding process isn’t complete. Companies had until Tuesday to submit technical details for their proposals but they still have until Feb. 22 to complete their bids, and the administration is not releasing a list of firms still seeking a contract.
Blue Cross was among 15 companies represented at a mandatory conference for potential bidders in December 2011. Others included large, multistate firms such as Coventry Health Care Inc., Bethesda, Md. (NYSE:CVH); UnitedHealth Group Inc., Minnetonka, Minn. (NYSE:UNH) and WellPoint Inc., Indianapolis (NYSE:WLP).
Administration officials have said the overhaul will lead to better coordination of services for high-need Medicaid participants and will eliminate duplication. The plan calls for participants to be able to choose from three statewide contractors.