Advocates and beneficiaries of Kansas’ Medicaid program are pushing for more oversight and questioning a new work requirement as Kansas officials submit the program for approval by the federal government for another five years.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services have been taking public comment on “KanCare 2.0,” which renews and tweaks the state’s embattled private Medicaid program, KanCare.

KDADS Secretary Tim Keck said the departments submitted an application last month to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for a renewed waiver to run the program privately through managed care organizations. Keck said that once the state receives public comments, officials will write responses and send them to CMS for approval of the program.

At issue for beneficiaries and caretakers is whether KanCare 2.0 steps up oversight after they lodged complaints about limited communication from state officials and lackluster provider networks that leave them with few or no choices for their care. CMS criticized the program earlier this year for limited oversight, initially denying it a one-year extension. Beneficiaries and advocates have also questioned new mandatory work requirements that could be imposed on 12,000 of the state’s 440,000 beneficiaries if the program is approved. The state contends the work requirement will help move people out of poverty, off Medicaid coverage and into the workforce.

“Ultimately our goal — we do feel that it is a path to independence,” said Jon Hamdorf, the state’s new interim Medicaid director.

Hamdorf’s predecessor, Mike Randol, left last month.

Hamdorf said the state is taking note of feedback from consumers on the new work requirement.

Sheldon Weisgrau, director of the Health Reform Resource Project, said he thought providing more supports and training to find beneficiaries work would be helpful, but he opposed mandatory work requirements.

“I think the effect of it will be that it will become a barrier to coverage for a lot of people,” he said.

The state’s proposal would require able-bodied adult caretakers with children older than 6 to work, volunteer or get job training in order to receive KanCare services. After 36 months receiving KanCare and working, they would no longer be eligible for KanCare services.

Weisgrau said he thought those time limits would make it difficult for people who fall in and out of poverty to receive care, and they might struggle to get health coverage if they make too much money to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to buy insurance.

“The types of jobs that we’re probably talking about, probably low-wage jobs, are not going to be putting these people into any type of position to buy insurance,” Weisgrau said.

Sonja Willms, a disabled KanCare recipient and double organ transplant survivor, said KanCare beneficiaries who want to work may be afraid of losing their health coverage. Adults who would be subject to the work requirement qualify with an income below the federal poverty level.

Beneficiaries and caretakers are also looking to KanCare 2.0 with the hope that it will fix some of the issues they have lodged against the current program.