Brownback appoints new KDHE secretary

TOPEKA, Kan. (CAPITOL BUREAU) – The Department of Health and Environment has a new leader.

Jeff Andersen was appointed as new Acting Secretary Friday by the Brownback administration.

“Andersen’s extensive and successful background on both the provider side of healthcare as well as with managed care makes him a great leader for this very important agency,” says Governor Brownback, “We are pleased he has chosen to join our team in this role.”

“I started out in the insurance manage care side of healthcare, but migrated over to the provider side working for the largest hospital organization in the country,” Andersen said.

Andersen officially starts his position on Tuesday, taking over for Interim Secretary Darin Dernovish.

On Friday, Andersen sat down with Capitol Bureau Chief Courtney Ryan to talk about his priorities for the department.

“I know the leaders in the department are already looking at ways to improve care coordination for the patience of Kansas, and really simplifying the benefit so it’s simple for the patience to navigate the Medicaid system,” Andersen said. “Ultimately the big picture goal would be to run a program that’s really a model for other states.”

When it comes to KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid system, which is overseen by KDHE and the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Service, Andersen looks to improve the current model.

“Whether you call it 2.0 or not, we know there are ways to improve what we currently have,” Andersen said.

The state is currently in the process of applying for a federal wavier to launch “KanCare 2.0” which would take effect in 2019. Under “KanCare 2.0” work requirements would be required for some people receiving Medicaid benefits.

“My understanding is we followed the CMS guild lines as it related to the work requirements, and incidentally of the 420,000 or so Medicaid recipients in our state only about 11,000 or two percent of the Medicaid population would be subjected, or potentially deal with those work requirements. So I think we’re just following the success other states have had there, and trying to model and customize this for Kansans,” Andersen explained.

The work requirements are something Sean Gatewood, a representative for the KanCare Advocates Network, says could do more harm than good.

“Who this would effect, is largely going to be people that have a mental illness, have a substance abuse disorder and have children.  A lot of single parents and you’re sort of throwing them off when they’re already in a very high pressure situation,” said Gatewood.

Earlier this week, Senate leaders released a statement expressing concerns over KanCare 2.0, in part saying “We believe there is still work to do to stabilize KanCare 1.0 and that there is no certain path forward for KanCare 2.0, at this time.”

“You just need to get things ironed out before you add more complicated factors,” explained Gatewood.

One issue Gatewood would like to see ironed out include more accountability within the system.

“When they have issues with KanCare to be able to have some assistance in solving them,” he said.

Andersen said improving accountability with the eligibility clearing house and the managed care companies is on his list of priorities.

“All those programs have to work together if all those program are going to be as effective as they should be,” said Andersen.

KanCare is overseen not only by KDHE but also the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services.

Andersen officially starts his new role next week.

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