KanCare survey for those with severe mental illness shows a mixed bag of results

KanCare survey for those with severe mental illness shows a mixed bag of results

Nick Gosnell

A survey of Kansans with severe mental illness that are using KanCare found that they were happy with some of the direct care for those specific problems they received, but that other gaps in medical and dental care need additional attention.

“The majority of people who were in our study who had serious mental illness also had some kind of comorbid physical health condition,” said Jean Hall with the University of Kansas. “They do aggravate each other. If your physical health is not good, that doesn’t help your mental health and if you can’t get your mental health improved, then that can affect your physical health. It’s treating the whole person.”

The dental care provided by KanCare was a big drawback for this group.

“All that it covers is a cleaning,” said Hall. “A lot of people surveyed specifically said they wouldn’t even go and do that because then they would find out all of the things that were wrong that they couldn’t afford to take care of. Whether that was fillings or teeth that needed to have some more extensive work on them or gum disease, things like that would be found in a cleaning session but would not be addressed.”

There were also communication issues between patients with severe mental illness and their managed care organizations.

“A lot of reports of people not being able to get information from their MCO or from the state about which providers were covered or what services were covered before they had to have that service,” said Hall.

In rural areas of the state, finding providers for those with SMI is a challenge.

“We did have people talk about how difficult it was to find a provider at all, let alone one that was close by,” said Hall. “That was compounded by difficulties using the transportation system. One of the things that happens with the transportation is, you have to schedule an appointment three days in advance, but sometimes the doctor will call you the day before and say, I’m sorry, we have to reschedule, and then they couldn’t get to that appointment, even if they could find a provider.”