Monday, November 23, 2015

Breaking News: KDADS Secretary Resigns

InterHab received word this morning that Kari Bruffett, secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, will resign effective Dec. 31. See the KHI News article below for more information. 

Gov. Sam Brownback announced Monday that Kari Bruffett, secretary of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, will resign effective Dec. 31. Bruffett has been a member of the Brownback administration since he took office in 2011. 

Before being named KDADS secretary in May 2014, Bruffett was director of the Health Care Finance division of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. 

As KDADS secretary, Bruffett oversaw a $1.6 billion agency responsible for the state’s Older American’s Act programs, behavioral health programs, and home and community-based services for older adults and people with disabilities. 

Bruffett will join the Kansas Health Institute as director of policy on Jan. 6, 2016. The Kansas Health Institute is the parent organization of the editorially independent KHI News Service.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Reviewing Power Up! 2015

Another year,  another conference. We really do think it was the best conference yet, and so did many of you!

Thank you for all who attended and participated in the many interactive sessions. Thank you to the great speakers who took the time to share the material. Thank you to the vendors and sponsors and advertisers who helped create the many networking and learning opportunities by contributing funds.

Thank you to our emerging leader group and those who jumped in to serve as facilitators:
Sherry Biddle, Tim Wood, Chris Gafford, Lexi Harper, James Quillen, Carri McMahon, Alice Lackey, Bailey Stiggins, James Brown, Liz Lewis, Christy Downing, Patrick Butler, Dave Hager, Brooke Roy, Dave Murphy, Sarah Schlitter, Dan Hermreck, Elizabeth Lewis, Jessica Wolford

We thought we’d take some time and share some of our post-conference survey results and respond to a few comments. Watch for these over the next few weeks. And thanks to you for making PowerUp! 2015 the best. conference.ever.

What did you like best? The networking. INFORMATION CAFÉ… Excellent Idea!!
What did you like least? The Idea Café was a bit of a fail. Needed more facilitation.

As with anything, you can’t please everyone. We did have great response to the concept of the Idea Café and hope to carry it forward into next year.  Networking is not everyone’s jam – that’s for sure. One of those things where you either love it – or you hate it. That’s why we did keep sessions running during this time so attendees would have options.

As for coffee, introverts rest easy. Next year we will add some additional room hosts and the options of more structure for those who aren’t interested in open chatting in the café setting.

One suggestion was to: Keep the idea café running all day one day. Giving all a chance to participate and network.  Someone else suggested the following as an option: Perhaps a “diary room” where you can record thoughts, observations or encouragement and those short videos can be available on YouTube or shown at various times during the conference… continue the use of technology!

And since you mentioned technology…
We had several comments from those who felt the conference had a “hipper” feel this year. We had a much larger social media presence than ever before and reached many new people through these efforts. New additions included the selfie-contest, the games throughout conference, the magazine feel of the program, food trucks and the launch and use of our InterHab App. In fact, 75% of attendees rated the App as Excellent! However, we did have this comment: Missed understanding the App component… better inclusion of that info to less talented tech users.  

About those food trucks… Many picked this as one of their favorite things about the conference but here’s what one had to say: I would like to try the food trucks again, but figure out a way to get the food faster. Would have been fun to sit around and visit but spent most of the time in line. 86% rated the Game Night and Food Trucks Good-Excellent.

And with that, we’ll leave you with one last comment:
It was my first time and I there so many great arrangements then expected. First the location was perfect. The InterHab app was very impressive and let me know where, what session and great updates. Also after attending the session it was great to know that I had sources to refer too especially for the session that I enjoyed and can and will apply at work and in my personal life.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

House Speaker ousts three Republicans from health committee

According to several articles published by media outlets across Kansas today, an overhaul of the House Health Committee resulted in the loss of three members. The three Republicans have voiced support for Medicaid expansion and believe this is the reason for their removal.

Read the story quoted from the Topeka Capital-Journal below for more on the House Speaker's decision to remove these members of the committee.

House Speaker Ray Merrick ousted three Republicans from the House Health and Human Services Committee Wednesday, a move the lawmakers said took aim at their support for Medicaid expansion.

Reps. Barbara Bollier, Susan Concannon – the vice chair -- and Don Hill all said the speaker’s office told them they were being removed from the committee. And Concannon said the speaker’s office had conveyed that her reassignment was related to her support for expansion.

The reassignments also remove three lawmakers from the committee who have close ties to healthcare. Bollier is a retired physician, Hill is a pharmacist and Concannon served as the executive director of a health foundation.

“This isn’t about me, this is about the people. They deserve the ability to have expertise, the most knowledgeable people helping shape healthcare policy in the state. It’s not only about Medicaid expansion or not. I find it tragic to take the three of us incredibly knowledgeable people off of that committee,” Bollier said.

The speaker’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The ousted lawmakers said it was their understanding the speaker’s office would release a statement Wednesday.

Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita, and the ranking Democrat on the committee, said he believed Medicaid expansion legislation would pass the committee if brought up for a vote.

“It’s a desperate act by people who are on the wrong side of history trying to stop the momentum of the people of Kansas who want a vote and want Medicaid expansion,” Ward said.

Under the federal Affordable Care Act, signed into law in 2010, states can use federal funds to expand Medicaid. Thirty-one states have chosen to do so but some states, Kansas included, have chosen to not expand Medicaid.

Under the law, commonly called Obamacare, the federal government will cover 100 percent of the costs of Medicaid expansion initially and 90 percent of the costs by 2020. Opponents of Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, including Gov. Sam Brownback, argue that state cannot cover the costs.

“I don’t think we have the resources to get it done,” Brownback said during a Hutchinson stop in September.

Merrick also opposes Medicaid expansion. Last month, the speaker sent a memo to fellow Republicans with talking points for rejecting an expansion.

Read original article here. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

KHI reveals State to use money to fill budget gap rather than reduce waiting lists

Controversy surrounds a recent announcement that the Brownback administration will be using Medicaid cash from a Federal budget deal for the Kansas general fund.

KHI News published the article below on Nov. 9, 2015.

A budget deal in Washington, D.C., is helping Kansas balance its own books temporarily with an infusion of Medicaid cash.

But a Democratic senator says the savings should be used to provide home and community-based services to Kansans with disabilities.

A KHI News article today reported that a $125 million federal deal is in the works that the Brownback administration would plan to shift to the state general fund.

Gov. Sam Brownback’s budget director, Shawn Sullivan, answered lawmaker questions Monday about the administration’s plan to shift about $125 million to the state general fund.

The transfers are needed because state revenue estimators revised tax receipt projections down for the fourth straight time last week, leaving Kansas with a projected deficit for the fiscal year that ends June 30.

Almost half of the $125 million comes from the state highway fund, but about $25 million of it comes from Medicaid.

Sullivan said some of that money is available because the D.C. budget deal reduced projected Medicare premiums for low-income residents who get their premiums paid through Medicaid.

Sullivan said the rest of the Medicaid savings comes from revised actuarial cost estimates that will not affect any recipients or providers within KanCare, the state’s managed care Medicaid system that serves more than 425,000 Kansans.

“It does not involve any service reductions or provider rate reductions or changes,” Sullivan said. “It is, this part, a change in the estimates.”

While facing a tight budget in the last year, the state has used increased federal money from the Children’s Health Insurance Program and a prescription drug rebate program to fill gaps.

Sen. Laura Kelly, a Topeka Democrat, asked Sullivan if the $25 million could be used to fund services for Kansans with disabilities on waiting lists for Medicaid programs that provide services to help them remain in their homes rather than institutions.

Sullivan said they could, but the state’s budget picture compels the administration to go a different route.

“Just like anything, when you have savings, you can either choose to use that for state general fund or reappropriate to something else,” he said. “Yes, we could do that, but in our case we’re helping with the state general fund shortfall.”

Sullivan said fully funding the current waiting lists would cost more than $100 million.

The Brownback administration has, in past years, used savings from the managed care switch to pare down some of the waiting lists.

After Monday’s meeting of the Legislative Budget Committee, Kelly said the administration also should consider using the latest savings to further reduce the number of people on the waiting lists, given that Brownback has made elimination of the lists a pre-condition of the state considering Medicaid expansion.

“We could take 25 percent of people off the waiting list, right now,” Kelly said.

The $125 million in fund transfers also includes $9 million from the Children’s Initiatives Fund, which pays for early childhood health and education programs.

Sullivan said the Children’s Cabinet that administers the fund had been improperly holding over money from the Early Childhood Grant Program from one year to the next. He said bringing the $9 million into the general fund would not affect the program.

Shannon Cotsoradis, president and CEO of the Topeka nonprofit Kansas Action for Children and a member of the Children’s Cabinet, disagreed.

In a statement released last week, Cotsoradis said nearly $60 million has been transferred out of the Children’s Initiatives Fund since passage of controversial income tax cuts in 2012.

“While Budget Director Sullivan continues to suggest these decisions are without consequences for our state’s children, that is simply false,” Cotsoradis said. “Unlike the tax plan that got us into this perpetual budget crisis, these are evidence-based programs that offer a tremendous return on investment for the state while changing the course of a child’s entire life.”

The latest budget transfers also include $5 million from the Kansas Bioscience Authority, an agency that provides start-up help for human and animal health innovations.

KBA advocates say several years of budget cuts have put the future of the agency in doubt.

Sullivan said the state also was transferring $3 million from the Health Care Access Improvement Program, $2.2 million from the Kansas Eligibility Enforcement System and $2.5 million from an Osawatomie State Hospital fee fund to help balance the budget.

He said the KEES savings came from payments that will not be made to the contractor Accenture due to ongoing delays in implementation of the computer system overhaul. The Osawatomie State Hospital savings came from increased funding from non-state sources, such as patient co-pays and insurance payments.

Some of the transfers are one-time money, but Sullivan said some may be carried over into the next fiscal year, when the state faces a projected deficit of $175 million.

Link to original KHI News article

Monday, November 9, 2015

InterHab Update

Tune in and hear from Ashley Nadeau and Tom Laing on InterHab's latest news.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Kansas Action for Children report calls attention to child care concerns

Infographic from KAC showing how child care
assistance corresponds to child poverty rates. 
We know that all parents are challenged by the task of finding affordable child care, but consider the compounded challenge for a family in need of child care for a child with developmental disabilities.

As rewarding as raising a child with a developmental disability can be, it can also be daunting and exhausting. There are many appointments to keep. Finding and funding the needed child care and support services can easily overwhelm families of any income level.

According to a recent Kansas Action for Children article, State lawmakers and policymakers have been engaged in philosophical debate over the past year about how to best help low-income Kansans escape the cycle of poverty. The article points out the arguments in favor of increased public supports explained how cash and child care assistance gives families the boost they need to stop the cycle, while others suggested public supports promote government dependency and discourage people from working.

Whatever your philosophy on the subject of poverty, it is difficult to ignore how access to child care impacts a family's ability to find and maintain employment.

In the past 10 years, the number of Kansas children receiving child care assistance has declined significantly. According to the Kansas Department of Children and Families, in the 2015 fiscal year an average of 12,779 children were served each month, compared to more than 19,000 in 2006.

Today, eight percent of the 211,000 eligible children receive child care assistance from the state.

How has this decrease in access to child care assistance impacted poverty? Not surprisingly, as child care assistance declined - child poverty increased. 

Kansas Action for Families shared their thoughts on this trend:

"The 2016 legislative session will offer a unique opportunity to strengthen child care assistance in Kansas as part of the implementation of the reauthorized Child Care and Development Block Grant. Policymakers say they want to help Kansans who rely on public assistance transition to meaningful and rewarding work. Given that, we expect overwhelming support for making child care assistance more accessible to Kansas families in 2016.

Child care assistance helps Kansas parents get back to work or enables them to go look for work. It is a critical step in helping low-income families get off welfare rolls, onto payrolls, and out of poverty."

Thursday, November 5, 2015

DCF forgoes $15M for disabled employment program

A state agency charged with helping people with disabilities find and maintain employment has returned $15 million to the federal government.

Why? The decision, according to Michael Donnelly, director of rehabilitation services at the Kansas Department for Children and Families, was made because fewer people were asking the agency for help.

If KDADS hadn’t returned the $15 million to the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA), an agency within the U.S. Department of Education, it would have had to put up roughly $3.5 million in matching funds, he said.

It didn’t make sense, Donnelly said, for DCF to spend state dollars on federal funds it wasn’t in a position to spend amid a tight Kansas budget situation. The $15 million constituted nearly 60 percent of the state’s $25.5 million federal allotment of vocational rehabilitation funding for the year. No other state, according to RSA reports, relinquished a higher percentage of the money set aside for it.

The unspent funds have been made available to employment programs in other states. Kansas also returned $7.5 million in FY 2014, Donnelly said.

Donnelly defended the decision to relinquish the $15 million, noting the department has enough money in a reserve fund to cover the program’s projected costs for this year and will have access to its allotment — roughly $29 million — in the next federal fiscal year.

Read entire KHI News Article for more on how this decision will impact Kansans with disabilities.