"I'm so relieved," she said. "It looks very positive, and I'm very optimistic about it."
Critics, including a few Republican legislators, questioned whether Brownback's administration was moving too quickly. Advocates for the developmentally disabled were particularly vocal skeptics, and their concerns prompted Brownback to agree to wait until 2014 to deal with their long-term services while permitting pilot programs.
Tom Laing, executive director of InterHab, which represents groups providing services to the developmentally disabled, said there are still questions about the extent of the companies' provider networks and how disagreements over services will be resolved.
"It'll be a little bit like a computer system that's activated before it's debugged," Laing said.
Most Kansans who receive state medical assistance are covered by managed care through private contractors, but the Medicaid overhaul represents the first time the state has tried to include relatively expensive, long-term care for the disabled and the elderly, including those in nursing homes.
The state awarded contracts in June to subsidiaries of Amerigroup Corp., based in Virginia Beach, Va.; Centene Corp., headquartered in St. Louis, and United Healthcare, based in Minneapolis. Since then, WellPoint Inc., based in Indianapolis, has moved to acquire most of Amerigroup.
The contractors are offering competing plans, so that Medicaid participants have choices. Participants have until April to switch plans.
The state's contracts include incentives for the companies to pay claims quickly and will result in new coverage, including preventive dental care for adults.
"This is a really big deal," Brownback said. "Instead of cutting services, cutting providers, we're adding."
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