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Kansas legislators hear health care update

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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas insurance department official said that the agency is working with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas to provide guidance for continuing coverage for some 10,000 policies that previously were canceled because they wouldn’t have conformed to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).

Linda Shepherd, the health policy director for Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger, told a legislative oversight committee Monday that Kansas Blue would renew the policies for one year for customers who still want them and was working to get the policies reviewed and in place.

“We expect that Blue Cross will be sending letters to these insured in the very near future explaining the various options that are available to them,” Shepherd said.

The company opted to restore the policies after President Barack Obama announced this month that insurers would be allowed to keep offering existing plans for at least another year, even if those plans don’t comply with federal coverage mandates. At least 4 million U.S. customers had already received cancellation notices.

Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, a Shawnee Republican and chairwoman of the Legislature’s Health Care Oversight Committee, said there remained many unknowns about the federal system and how it would impact residents and their coverage.

“We don’t know where we will wind up,” she said.

Shepherd said the agency was providing additional information to Kansas consumers on its website to help inform them about insurance plans and costs until they are able to access the federal government’s exchange enrollment system, which has been fraught with problems.

The state website was developed by existing staff and resources to allow Kansas residents to explore their options and see what the cost for coverage would be depending on their address and whether they would be eligible for a federal subsidy, Shepherd said.

The federal government has reported that only 371 Kansans had selected a health plan through the marketplace from Oct. 1 to Nov. 2.

The committee was also hearing from state agencies, health care providers and consumers about the implementation KanCare, the state’s managed care system for administering Medicaid services to the poor, elderly and disabled. Residents began enrolling in the system in late 2012 and the three companies began their services in 2013.

Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration is hoping to slow the growth of Kansas Medicaid costs through the managed-care system while providing better health outcomes for program participants.

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