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Kansas Rolls Out Final Phase of Welfare, Medicaid System Upgrade

The Kansas Statehouse. (Photo by Stephen Koranda)

The overhaul of the Kansas computer system for processing welfare and Medicaid applications recently went through its final implementation phase. State officials say the process went smoothly, especially compared to the system's initial rollout that delayed thousands of Medicaid applications.

The Kansas Eligibility Enforcement System, or KEES, combines the processing for Medicaid and welfare benefits. The more than $200 million system got off to a rocky start with delays before its eventual 2015 launch and backlogs for Medicaid applicants.

The new section of the project focused on welfare benefit applications and family services. Glen Yancey, who helped oversee the project for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said he and others working on the project learned from those early stumbles.

“As time goes on, people get more experienced,” Yancey said. “As those people go through and do that work they get better at it, so they’re better at anticipating the business needs and how to implement that.”
 
The state worked with a private contractor, Accenture, to develop KEES, which was plagued by issues after its launch. An audit released in January 2016 shed light on some of the problems with KEES, including the fact that the state is unlikely to see the system’s projected $300 million savings.

The system was down from August 19 to August 27 during the recent upgrade, which was a shorter outage than originally planned.

Robert Choromanski, executive director of the Kansas Organization of State Employees, said not all information migrated properly to the new welfare system during the August upgrade. That means workers will need extra time to go through benefit applications that piled up while the system was down.
 
“It’s just taking a long time,” he said. “Hopefully over the next couple of weeks, as more and more employees get familiar with KEES, the new system, the processing times will get a little bit faster.”
 
Yancey said welfare benefit applications that would normally take about 10 days to process are currently taking around 14 days.

The update also indirectly affected Medicaid applications. Medicaid services were merged into KEES during the first phase of the program, but Angela de Rocha, spokeswoman for the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, said the system for Medicaid applications was also down during the latest upgrade.

“Medicaid application processing continued. They just couldn’t use the electronic system,” de Rocha said.

She said the outage did increase a backlog of applications waiting to be processed, but she didn't specify by how much. As of now, there are around 2,500 Medicaid applications that have been in the system for more than 45 days. Almost half of those are delayed, she said, because the applicant needs to provide additional information.

De Rocha said state officials have added staff to reduce the number of applications in the backlog.

“Managers believe we will be back down to where we should be shortly,” de Rocha said.

The number of delayed Medicaid applications ballooned after the health insurance program was merged into KEES, hitting a high of nearly 8,000 applications in the system for more than 45 days in 2015.

During 2016, some Kansas nursing homes reported financial issues while awaiting Medicaid renewals for residents. 

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