Sen. Laura Kelly: KDHE has ‘bad rep’ over access to information regarding KanCare

A Democratic senator slammed the state agency running KanCare on Tuesday over difficulty in obtaining data about the program’s performance.

Sen. Laura Kelly, of Topeka, criticized the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, which oversees the state’s Medicaid program, during a meeting of the Legislature’s KanCare Oversight Committee. She expressed concerns over a lack of access to data.

“You guys have a really bad rep regarding data sharing. It’s gotten progressively more difficult, including legislators, to get information from your shop,” Kelly said.

Kelly’s remarks, directed at KDHE Division of Health Care Finance director Mike Randol, came after Sean Gatewood, director of the Kansas Health Consumer Coalition, raised concerns about access to records earlier in the meeting. Gatewood told the committee that KDHE had stopped posting monthly medical assistance reports to its website.

Medical assistance reports track Medicaid expenses. Gatewood said KDHE stopped posting the reports in January. But the agency resumed, he said, after his organization filed an open records request for the document.

Beyond the report itself, Gatewood said consumer data from the medical assistance reports has been missing for more than a year. The consumer data measures how KanCare is being utilized. The information is key, he said, in tracking what services the managed care organizations are providing versus what the organizations are being paid.

“I don’t believe we can truly understand how the KanCare system is functioning without greater access to data,” Gatewood said.

When Kelly asked Randol about Gatewood’s testimony, Randol said the lack of postings was a resource issue. Two data analysts have departed, he said, adding KDHE has been looking for replacements.

Kelly suggested the issue is more than just resources.

“I understand resource issues, but I’m not always sure that’s been — there’s been a reluctance to give out data that might not be in your favor or somebody else’s,” Kelly said.

Kelly asked whether anyone can still request the report, even if it isn’t posted. Randol indicated the agency has a process in place for data requests.

“We have a very specific process on our website, the Division of Healthcare Finance, you can go on there and there’s a data request form, a data request process for external entities. Because we have to be very careful, we go through a very stringent process before we can release any data,” Randol said.

Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, R-Shawnee, chairs the KanCare Oversight Committee. She told reporters she hadn’t heard of any concerns with transparency at KDHE before the meeting and had found the agency to be responsive to her questions.

“This is the first time I’ve heard that people have had difficulty with that,” Pilcher-Cook said.

Jonathan Shorman can be reached at (785) 295-5619 or
Follow Jonathan on Twitter @jshormanCJ.

This article is published on the Topeka Capital-Journal’s website here.