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Kansas expands Medicaid support for brain injury victims

July 6, 2019

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Medicaid support for people with brain injuries has been expanded to include those acquired through internal forces, such as strokes or tumors, following years of advocacy for change.

A quirk in Kansas’ Medicaid statute had meant the only patients to qualify were those with a traumatic brain injury from a blow to the head. But a bipartisan coalition of Kansas legislators approved changes to the law and, as of July 1, acquired brain injuries from events such as strokes, tumors and asthma attacks, are now included, the Kansas City Star reported .

The lawmakers also voted to expand services to children under 16, but that won’t go into effect until October, giving the state time to determine what services the youths need.

“We got so many calls for people that were not eligible,” said Heather Matty, who works at the Brain Injury Association of Kansas and Greater Kansas City. “It was a sad reality. I’m just very thankful that they finally were able to get this changed and they finally came to an agreement, because it’s taken a long time to get this done. And it’s going to help a lot of people.”

Janet Williams is the founder of Minds Matter in Overland Park, the state’s largest provider of services to people with brain injuries. She noted that Kansas was the first state, in 1986, to establish a Medicaid “waiver” specifically to allow brain injury victims to get all the same therapy services at home that they can receive in an institution.

From the start, though, lawmakers have restricted it to people with traumatic brain injuries because they were concerned about the cost of offering it to everyone with brain damage.

“They were afraid of the numbers and it was supposed to be like a trial to see if it worked, and then every time we came back to get the definition changed, they’d bring up the fear of numbers,” Williams said.

Expansion advocates such as Williams asserted that offering those services can save Kansas money in the long term if it encourages self-sufficiency.

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Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com

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