TOPEKA, Kan. — A state audit has found that Kansas spent more than $2 million trying to clear a backlog of unprocessed first-time applications for Medicaid, the government health coverage for the poor.

The audit released Wednesday also found that the state has stopped reviewing renewal applications for now, although it continues to provide services to those waiting, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported (http://bit.ly/2cwziwg ). As of mid-August, nearly 35,000 renewal applications were waiting to be processed.

Auditors also found that Kansas isn’t complying with a federal law requiring eligibility determinations to be made within 45 days, or 90 days for individuals applying based on a disability. There are currently about 1,700 applications that have lingered for more than 45 days, which is down from a peak of about 14,000 a few months ago. No enforcement action is expected once the backlog is resolved.

Auditors couldn’t verify the backlog figures, because the database queries used to generate the figures were beyond their technical abilities. But audit staff said they believe the figures provided by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment aren’t far off.

KDHE Deputy Secretary Aaron Dunkel said the agency has made good progress and would continue to make improvements.

“To date, we have been successful in our efforts to reduce dramatically the backlog and we anticipate the full elimination of the backlog within the next few weeks,” Dunkel said in his written response to the audit.

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, suggested the administration deserved credit for working to reduce the backlog.

“It appears to me they’re making some pretty good progress on that. Not sure why they sent out those flawed numbers to begin with,” Hensley said.

The audit report, provided to lawmakers, traces the development of the backlog to problems with an electronic eligibility system that KDHE deployed in July 2015, as well as the agency underestimating the number of Kansans who would apply for Medicaid under the federal health care reform act.

As of August, KDHE had spent $2.3 million on efforts to work through the backlog, which primarily included boosting staffing.

KDHE faulted one of its contractors, Accenture, for making errors leading to the miscounting. KDHE said it would withhold a $750,000 payment to Accenture. Accenture has said it didn’t provide inaccurate information.


Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, http://www.cjonline.com