SWKAAA becomes SWKADRC and other realities of the Brownback years

Of all the unpopular changes originating in Topeka these days, one strikes particularly close to home. On January 1, 2013, KanCare will replace the current Medicaid system in Kansas and the services for Kansas’ elderly and disabled populations will be administered by three for-profit insurance companies. Over the past year, budget cuts initiated by the governor’s office have decimated staff levels at the former Kansas Department on Aging, which has been recast as the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services. It is safe to say that these days any entity which receives funding, directly or indirectly, from state government has its head on the chopping block. Stay tuned in 2013 to see what happens as tax cuts initiated by the governor and his loyalists take effect.   

What this means in southwest Kansas is that all of the Medicaid customers formerly served by area agencies on aging will now have case managers through an insurance company, also known as a managed care organization or MCO. Also, the place where I work now has a new name. Effective November 1, 2013, the Southwest Kansas Area Agency on Aging has morphed into the Southwest Kansas Aging and Disability Resource Center (SWKADRC), Due to losing essentially half of our customers, the main office for SWKADRC in Dodge City has initiated layoffs at the main and satellite offices, including Pratt, to compensate for projected revenue losses beginning next year. Subsequently, I will soon lose two great co-workers, one of whom begins employment with an MCO on November 26. I hope to remain employed with my new/old employee for many years to come, but I can’t help but think of the saying, “Will the last person to leave please turn out the lights?”

Who will be the ultimate winners and losers of the reduction of state government? Governor Sam Brownback will likely score political points as he polishes his resume prior to another run for the Presidency in 2016, 2020, or 2024. The losers will undoubtedly be the frail elderly and other underserved populations in Kansas, those often forgotten or ignored by the powers that be. Insurance companies are in the business of making money. The three MCOs will be paid a flat rate by the state for each Medicaid client they serve. To maximize profits, I suspect that the insurance companies will eventually cut services to this need-based population. The writing is clearly on the wall.