A left-of-center policy institute has cited KanCare as a prime example of how state and local governments have allowed for-profit corporations to take advantage of unsuspecting taxpayers.
“We’re not against government contracting. It’s been done since the beginning of time, and it will continue to tbe done,” Donald Cohen, founder and executive director of In the Public Interest said during a teleconference with news reporters. “We just want it to be done well, and we think public-sector agencies can often do it better.”
The teleconference called attention to the release of the group’s 22-page report, “Out of Control: The Coast-to-Coast Failure of Outsourcing Public Services to For-Profit Corporations.”
“All too often,” Cohen said, “outsourcing means taxpayers have very little say over how tax dollars are spent and no say on actions taken by private companies that control our public services. It means taxpayers cannot vote out executives who make decisions that hurt public health and safety, it means taxpayers are contractually stuck with a monopoly run by a single corporation, and it leads to a race to the bottom as wages and benefits fall while corporate profits rise.”
Included in the report were 11 recommendations aimed at ensuring transparency, accountability, completion, and workers being paid a living wage. Among the recommendations:
Require public contractors to reveal their profits;
Make sure contracts include language allowing government to cut ties with poor-performing companies;
Ban language that guarantee company profits;
Allow government employees to submit counter-plans for saving money or improving quality; and
Require contractor’s to guarantee taxpayers a 10 percent savings before any service is outsourced.
Most of the report’s findings were based on news stories on how government contracts often contain language that guarantees contractor profits while allowing little public review or input.
Kansas’s KanCare program was criticized for allowing three private insurance companies — Amerigroup, UnitedHealthcare and Sunflower State Health Plan, a subsidiary of Centene — to save money by limiting medically fragile adults and children’s access to Medicaid-funded services.
“We have a governor who sold our public services to private corporations who seek to profit off of Kansas taxpayers and, quite frankly, some of our most vulnerable citizens,” said Mike Gaughan, a former executive director of the Kansas Democratic Party, said during the press conference.
Gaughan, who now serves on the Douglas County Commission, said he was exploring the possibly of adding the language proposed by In the Public Interest to the county’s contracts with private companies.
“This isn’t a partisan issue,” he said. “It’s a common-sense issue. It’s about holding contractors accountable for the work they do and for the services they provide.”
Gaughan said persistent reports of Medicaid providers not being paid on time were “unfortunate examples of what can happen when we hand over these critical services to contractors who are focused on their bottom lines.”
Miranda Steele, a spokesperson for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said the criticism of KanCare by In the Public Interest was off-target.
“Remember, we had very clear instructions from the governor to not cut rates for our providers, not cut people from the program, and not cut those services that were being offered in Medicaid,” Steele said. “The (managed care companies) are actually providing more types of services than we had prior to KanCare — and at no (additional) cost to the taxpayer.”—-By Dave Ranney
KHI News Service