JOHNSON COUTNY, Kan. - On Feb. 1, 2014, an insurance company will be responsible for deciding the level of care for 29-year-old Gena O'Neil. Gena has Cerebral Palsy and needs around-the-clock care.
Right now, her long-term day services are managed by Johnson County supports. On Saturday, Gena will be one of 8,500 people in the state of Kansas who will now be part of KanCare, the state-run Medicaid program designed to save $1 billion.
Gena's mother, Michele, doesn't want her level of care to be reduced under the system.
"I'm scared. I got a lot of anxiety. They don't know her as person. They don't know her disability," she said.
In 2013, dozens of people in Kansas experienced a handful of bumps and bruises during the first year of KanCare. Last year, Finn Bullers, a Prairie Village father who can't walk or breathe on his own, was expected to lose about 40 hours of care under KanCare.
Small healthcare providers were also on the verge of closing after many faced mounting billing issues under the program.
According to a state spokesperson, the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Service put in new safeguards to protect people moving forward. The state will thoroughly review any reduction in care recommended by an insurance company. The state has also laid out new billing procedures to make sure small providers get paid in a timely manner. The state also plans to do ride-alongs with care providers to meet families like Michele and Gena.
While there is some hope, there is still a lot of fear of the system.
"I don't have answers and I don't know if they've got the answers. I just know that when they start making changes and every change that they've ever made it hasn't been for the best," Michele O'Neil said.
KanCare was expected to expand in Jan. 1, 2014, but was delayed. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid encouraged the state to work out several issues before they were able to include more people in the program. On Jan. 30, 2014, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid gave the state the green light to expand.
In a statement issued by the state, Governor Sam Brownback wrote:
"This is an important step forward for KanCare and the I/DD community," Kansas Governor Sam Brownback said. "We are witnessing improved outcomes that have resulted from coordinating the behavioral and medical care needs of people with I/DD. Coordinating those two elements of care with their other support services will further enhance the care provided to them, improving both their physical well-being and their quality of life."