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  • Writer's pictureKansas Reflector

Opinion: For Kansans living with disabilities, KanCare program poses constant challenges

The transition of Kansas Medicaid to the KanCare program created many new and continuing challenges, writes Rebecca Phillips. (Getty Images)

By Rebecca Phillips, special to the Kansas Reflector

Imagine if all of your health care was dependent upon the state’s administration of KanCare, also known as the Medicaid program.

So many Kansans depend upon KanCare and have faced huge obstacles. Consider the renewals and incredible high rate of terminations of individuals’ health insurance because of problems with the renewal process, denials in asking for certain services and much more. The drama and trauma of Kansas Medicaid, as well as the health care coverage it actually does provide, is kind of like a movie.

As my grandpa used to say to me, “Stay tuned.”

When the state created KanCare, hiring three managed-care companies to administer the Medicaid program, a lot of changes happened. For those with psychiatric disabilities, many of those changes were traumatic and interrupted their lives and recovery.

For example, Valeo Behavioral Health Care had to adapt to working with not just one Medicaid insurance program, but with three managed care companies. There used to be a wonderful program at Valeo called the C.A.R.E., in which clients could come to basically any educational group during the day, or stay all day and have a hot breakfast provided and a nutritious lunch. Educational groups were offered during the day by highly trained and compassionate social workers. The groups grappled with topics such as grief, anger, relationships and groups for those who experienced addictions. Valeo serves all types of people with mental illness and those who may also have an addiction.

The C.A.R.E. program was a place that was safe. Clients could be cared for and heal from the trauma of their psychiatric disability. They could get a bottle of water or a Coke and sit and visit with their friends, who were also on the lifelong journey of recovery from mental illness. The support was invaluable, and the compassion given was strengthening.

Unfortunately, the C.A.R.E. program is no more. Valeo has had to work with KanCare to provide services for folks in need. Valeo also provides much care to those who have no insurance. Valeo CEO Bill Persinger fights for the clients at Valeo to provide the best care possible, but with KanCare it’s a challenge.

Another type of disability is developmental or intellectual disability, and folks with those challenges have really struggled with KanCare. The needs of these individuals is highly complex and complicated, and they often require a lot of different types of services. Minds Matter CEO Janet Williams truly cares about families who are trying to navigate the world of KanCare in order to receive the best possible outcomes. She is truly a warrior for the vulnerable.

There is no easy answer here. It must also be said that KanCare is a blessing for many.

Families with loved ones with serious disabilities and also seniors who access KanCare need our support and compassion. Families need easy-to-access support in navigating KanCare. Disabilities are difficult enough: They don’t need to encounter even bigger problems and issues just trying to access the provision of their health care.

The time is now to provide families with resources helping them understand how to navigate their health insurance. The process of the KanCare renewals is traumatic enough, and too many Kansans lose their health insurance due to the problems with the renewal process. That needs to change. Let’s reach out to families who are hurting and offer a lifeline. We need to understand what they are going through and what they have been through.

We need to give them hope.

Rebecca Lyn Phillips is a published author, speaker and mental health advocate. Through its opinion section, the Kansas Reflector works to amplify the voices of people who are affected by public policies or excluded from public debate. Find information, including how to submit your own commentary, here.

This article was reprinted with permission from the Kansas Reflector. The Kansas Reflector is a non-profit online news organization serving Kansas. For more information on the organization, go to its website at

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