Gov. Sam Brownback celebrated a reorganization of state social services agencies Monday, joining with children and members of his administration in taking an oversized pair of scissors to yellow and blue ribbons.
The changes, prompted by the Republican governor's overhaul of the state's Medicaid program, took effect Sunday. Brownback announced them in February when he signed an executive order. The changes are meant to curb the growth in state health care programs.
"These are works in progress," Brownback said. "We will continuously work on these things."
Under the changes, the Department of Children and Families replaces the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services. The new agency is smaller, shedding involvement in Medicaid to focus on services for families. Secretary Phyllis Gilmore said the emphasis would be on protecting children, promoting healthy families and promoting personal responsibility.
The former Department on Aging has been expanded into the Department on Aging and Disability Services, picking up former SRS programs providing long-term care for the disabled.
"There are differences between the older adults and persons with disabilities whom we will serve under the new agency, but they also represent many common challenges," said Secretary Shawn Sullivan.
Brownback's administration issued contracts last week to three private companies to manage the $2.9 billion-a-year Medicaid program, which covers health care for people who are poor, disabled and/or elderly.
The governor said Monday that the changes in the agencies and the new contracts would "restrain the growth" of Medicaid spending by as much as $1 billion over the next five years.
State medical programs provide services for an average of 380,000 people a month, and the bulk already receive state health coverage through private contractors. By bringing the disabled and elderly into a managed-care system, the state would add Kansans who need relatively expensive long-term services.
Administration officials have said the overhaul will lead to better coordination of services for high-need Medicaid participants and will eliminate duplication. Critics have raised concerns that the administration is moving too quickly.