Why would Kansas consider extending contract with Medicaid provider that blew it?

Put this one under the category of nothing makes sense in the world any more.

The state of Kansas is looking to extend a contract with a Medicaid application processing company that by most accounts provided lousy service. Under the new arrangement, the state would pay Maximus Inc. of Reston, Virginia, more while absorbing some of the administrative duties involved.


Apparently not many of the Kansas lawmakers who sat in on a joint House-Senate oversight committee last week got it, either. "Troublesome," is what state Sen. Richard Hilderbrand, a Baxter Springs Republican, called the actions of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

"If there is a rebidding process, surely you're not going to let Maximus rebid, right?" Hiilderbrand said at the hearing.

Another senator, Laura Kelly, who happens to be the Democratic Party's nominee for governor, made the dramatically common-sensical remark at the same hearing that state government can't afford to do business with companies that don't do what they've signed up to do.

Problems with Maximus have been well-documented. The company handled applications from those seeking to enter the state's troubled Medicaid program known as KanCare. Kansans were hampered by application backlogs, mistakes and numerous complaints that KanCare wasn't serving them well.

Given the testimony from KDHE Secretary Jeff Andersen, none of this is surprising. Andersen revealed that Maximus had intentionally low-balled its original bid to secure the work from Gov. Sam Brownback's administration. That's right, according to Andersen, Maximus got its contract because it provided the lowest bid surely knowing that in doing so, it wouldn't be able to provide satisfactory service.

It only follows that Maximus failed to provide the number of staffers necessary to process applications. That led to the backlog, and that contributed to high error rates.

"In some cases, you get what you pay for," Andersen said in a revealing understatement from an official in a conservative administration. Even he admitted that "the subsequent performance has been unacceptable."

Kelly said she had a big problem with the company's low-ball bid.

"It's almost like we're rewarding them for underbidding," she said. "That makes no sense."

It truly makes no sense, and you can't help but marvel at the stranglehold that Maximus appears to have on the state for whatever reason.

In a statement Thursday, Andersen said Maximus was making $10 million in concessions to the state, although he didn't identify them. "The price we will pay going forward will ensure the Medicaid eligibility process meets the standards Kansans deserve," he wrote.

At least he got that part right. But why Maximus will continue to be part of KanCare at all remains a perplexing mystery.

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