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Kansas official rejects appeal by unsuccessful bidders on state's $4 billion KanCare contract • Kansas Reflector

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Kansas official rejects appeal by unsuccessful bidders on state's  billion KanCare contract • Kansas Reflector


TOPEKA — The Kansas Department of Administration’s procurement director rejected complaints submitted by Aetna Better Health and CareSource Kansas that alleged misconduct in selection of three managed-care companies to operate the state’s $4 billion Medicaid program.

Separate protests by the unsuccessful bidders were denied, meaning decisions by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to enter into contracts with Sunflower Health Plan, United Healthcare Community Plan and Healthy Blue could go forward. The immediate outcome was Healthy Blue replaced Aetna Better Health.

Both challenges questioned KDHE’s system of scoring applicants for the KanCare contract. They invited scrutiny of Healthy Blue’s corporate lineage to Amerigroup, which had been dropped from the state’s Medicaid program in 2018. Issues were raised about potential conflicts of interest among personnel linked to Healthy Blue, which is affiliated with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas. From 2021 to 2024, BCBS Kansas hired a handful of people who had worked in the administration of Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly or the Kansas Legislature.

Todd Herman, director of procurement and contracts in the Department of Administration, informed attorneys representing CareSource and Aetna Better Health that their appeal had been denied. Documents that Herman sent to the two failed bidders were comparable in that both concluded KDHE’s process adhered to Kansas law and the outcome was based on objective evaluation of sealed bids that answered to the state’s 450-page request for proposals.

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“The state of Kansas followed the negotiated procurement process permitted by state statute,” he said in the explanatory document sent to Aetna Better Care. “The awarding of a contract to United Healthcare, Sunflower and Healthy Blue … is supported by the facts.”

 

Kelly not involved

Herman said the burden of proof was on the protesting company to demonstrate the procurement process was fatally flawed, and neither complaint satisfied that requirement.

In terms of the Healthy Blue contract award being tainted by BCBS Kansas’ hiring of four people who previously worked in state government, Herman said movement of staff to the private sector didn’t result in favoritism or conflicts of interest.

“The state’s governmental ethics laws are specific to the individual,” Herman said. “They do not require a state contract to be declared invalid or should not be awarded to a specific vendor due to an individual leaving employment with the state of Kansas and going to work for a vendor who becomes a state contractor.”

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Herman said the current governor had no part in the KanCare procurement process. He said neither Kelly nor her staff reviewed the sealed bids. He said it was folly for Aetna Better Health to claim Kelly’s political advocacy for expansion of Medicaid eligibility in some way disadvantaged the company.

The letters sent to Aetna Better Health and CareSource listed shortcomings of proposals made by those companies, which included problems with describing ways to improve services to about 450,000 Kansans enrolled in Medicaid.

Adam Proffitt, secretary of the Department of Administration, told a joint House and Senate Medicaid oversight committee the decisions by Herman would be considered the “final agency action” because no other mechanism existed for an administrative appeal.

 

‘Arbitrary, capricious’

Jane Brown, president and CEO of Aetna Better Health, said it was the company’s position KDHE deployed an “arbitrary and capricious” process to break its scoring tie with Healthy Blue. She said KDHE unfairly fabricated grading criteria after bids from the seven applicants were submitted. She also said the exit of Aetna Better Health from Kansas Medicaid program would be disruptive to about 100,000 Kansans.

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Chad Moore, president of CareSource Kansas, said Healthy Blue should have been disqualified early in the bidding process due to “significant conflict of interest concerns” involving BCBS Kansas.

However, Herman’s written reply to CareSource said arguments put forth by the company to challenge the contract decision were “insufficient to warrant the remedies being sought.”

Herman said the new three-year contracts were in the best interests of the state and the implementation process would proceed ahead of the effective data Jan. 1, 2025.

Companies losing an administrative appeal in Kansas may file lawsuits in an attempt to secure a verdict affirming flaws in the KDHE process. In 2018, Amerigroup challenged its ouster from the KanCare program, which lost its spot to Aetna. Amerigroup failed at the administrative and court levels.

Under Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, Kansas privatized the state’s Medicaid program in 2013. The collection of three contractors was shuffled by Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer five years later. As the Kelly administration prepared to issue new contracts for management of the KanCare program, the GOP-led Legislature forbid her from proceeding. The intent was to see if Republican governor candidate Derek Schmidt could defeat Kelly in November 2022 and enable a Republican governor to again pick KanCare contractors.

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Ninth-Inning Kansas City Collapse Paves Way for Diamondbacks to Win Game, Series Over Royals

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Ninth-Inning Kansas City Collapse Paves Way for Diamondbacks to Win Game, Series Over Royals


Things were headed in the right direction for the Royals in their series finale against the Diamondbacks on Wednesday. While neither team had scored a run since the fourth inning, Kansas City was in front by a run going into the ninth inning, when it called upon James McArthur to close out the visitors at Kauffman Stadium with a 4-3 lead.

It couldn’t have gone much further downhill from there.

Arizona (53-50) scored five runs in the top of the ninth inning, including a three-run home run by All-Star second baseman Ketel Marte. A too-little, too-late rally by the Royals in the bottom half of the inning yielded two runs and brought the tying run to the plate, but it wasn’t enough to prevent the Diamondbacks from winning the game 8-6 and the series 2-1.

The scoring started early. Each side plated a run in the second: the Diamondbacks on a Eugenio Suarez solo home run and the Royals on a Drew Waters RBI double. In each of the first two innings, Kansas City stranded a runner on third. It left men on the corners in the first. Those chances mattered.

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During the fourth inning, the Diamondbacks’ bats started to get hot after Kansas City started Michael Wacha had a clean third frame. Designated hitter Joc Pederson and first baseman Christian Walker hit back-to-back home runs. The Royals again responded quickly, getting two of the first three hitters on in the home half. They each wound up scoring, and Kansas City took a one-run lead when center fielder Kyle Isbel scored on a wild pitch by Ryne Nelson, his second such pitch of the game.

While the scoreboard was quiet for most of the night afterwards, it was not without close calls. Arizona stranded a man on third twice, once in the fifth and again in the eighth. In that fateful ninth, McArthur got Suarez to whiff on a ball that wasn’t even in the neighborhood of the zone, then singled a relatively inauspicious single to Lourdes Gurriel Jr., who had entered the game earlier as a pinch hitter. A double play would’ve ended the game, giving the series to the Royals.

Instead, the next batter (shortstop Geraldo Perdomo) walked. Catcher Gabriel Moreno doubled in his next at-bat, giving the Diamondbacks the lead back with one swing of the bat. Affectionately known by its fanbase as the “Answerbacks” during its pennant-winning 2023 season, Arizona had lived up to that billing Wednesday night. The visiting side wasn’t done. After Corbin Carroll singled to stop the bleeding on what had been an 0-3 performance at the dish, Marte sent the dagger out of Kauffman Stadium with his 22nd long ball of the year.

Diamondbacks closer Paul Sewald, who has the propensity to run into trouble spots on occasion, did so again as Kansas City attempted a huge comeback bid of its own. He gave up a leadoff single to Maikel Garcia, then gave himself some breathing room by retiring the next two batters. However, shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. got his third hit of the night next, placing runners on the corners for first baseman Vinnie Pasquantino. After Witt advanced, Pasquantino sent both runners home.

That was all she wrote for the Royals’ rally, as catcher Salvador Perez flew out to left field to end the game. He did not have a night to remember offensively, hitting into two of the three double plays that plagued the Kansas City offense in the game.

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Another home interleague series is on deck for the Royals, this time against the Chicago Cubs. The team has an off day on Thursday as it looks to regroup from two bad nights in a row at the ballpark, after having started the official second half of the season strongly with four consecutive wins out of the All-Star break.



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Kansas man creates large portrait of Kamala Harris in field after Biden announces exit from race

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Kansas man creates large portrait of Kamala Harris in field after Biden announces exit from race


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A Kansas man is sending a political message using agriculture-inspired art in a tribute to Vice President Kamala Harris. 

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Stan Herd, creator and owner of Stan Herd Arts and a contributor with Earthworks, created a large mural in a field in Lawrence, Kansas, of Vice President Kamala Harris, who is now running for president on the Democratic ticket.

“I’ve long been on the political progressive side. I’ve long believed that women should be in leadership, not just in the United States but around the world,” Herd said as he explained his reasoning behind the portrait. 

Herd said this was not his first piece of art related to the vice president. He also did a portrait of her and one of Biden when they were elected four years ago.

HARRIS’ MIXED RECORD ON ISRAEL ENTERS SPOTLIGHT DURING NETANYAHU VISIT

Stan Herd of Earthworks created a portrait of Vice President Kamala Harris in a field in Lawrence, Kan.  (Stan Herd/Earthworks)

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“I created a portrait of Kamala Harris back then as his VP, hoping that Biden would fulfill his promise to be a stepping stone to the new generation,” Herd said. 

Herd said the portrait took 12 days of work and 25 yards of mulch and was created using the Earth’s natural resources.

“It’s just exciting to be involved and traveling around the country,” Herd said. “I am hoping that it reaches people and makes some difference.

TRUMP FLAG PHOTO JOINS PANTHEON OF IMAGES THAT CAPTURE AMERICAN RESOLVE, ERASE POLITICAL DIVIDES

Vice President Kamala Harris

Vice President Kamala Harris delivers remarks during the Women’s Economic Participation in the Industries of the Future meeting at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders’ Week in San Francisco Nov. 16, 2023. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

“I started to do a Gretchen Whitmer piece and actually started to lay out the image, and then things happened that made me realize I needed to wait. So, two days ago, we put a question mark in there. And we will be working as quickly as possible when she makes that decision or the party makes that decision on who the upcoming VP will be. Then we will be out there on the field creating that portrait,” Herd said. 

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HARRIS’ BACKING OF BAIL FUND DURING GEORGE FLOYD PROTESTS DAMPENS TRUMP ‘PROSECUTOR’ CAMPAIGN PITCH

Harris rally

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks to supporters during a campaign rally at West Allis Central High School July 23, 2024, in West Allis, Wis. (Jim Vondruska/Stringer)

Herd said he does understand retaliation for his work is always a possibility and said it would just be another part of his story if anything like that were to ever happen. 

“It is time to take the temperature down in this political thing, and it’s not going to go down in the next four months, but I hope it does, obviously, when this comes to its conclusion,” Herd said.  

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Herd, now 73 and a native of Kansas, has been doing artwork for 40 years, and it’s been featured in 13 states in the U.S. and across the world in China, Cuba, Australia and Brazil.  

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CBS pairs duo with Kansas City connections for another season of NFL broadcasts

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CBS pairs duo with Kansas City connections for another season of NFL broadcasts


KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) – Football fans in Kansas City will hear a pair of locals again this season during NFL games on CBS.

University of Kansas alum Kevin Harlan and former Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Trent Green are broadcast partners for another season, CBS Sports unveiled Wednesday in a preseason press release.

Harlan and Green will be paired with Melanie Collins, who will provide sideline reports during the broadcasts.

BLOG: Chiefs continue training camp Wednesday in St. Joseph

The Kansas City pairing is unofficially CBS’s third team, behind the trio of Jim Nantz, Tony Romo and Tracy Wolfson, and trio of Ian Eagle, Charles Davis and Evan Washburn.

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During his career, Harlan spent time broadcasting games for the Kansas City Chiefs radio network as well as the University of Kansas and University of Missouri. Along with his NFL broadcasts, Harlan calls basketball games in the NBA and NCAA for Turner Sports.

Former Chiefs quarterback Trent Green was at the Ronald McDonald house in Kansas City, Mo., in September 2023.(KCTV5)

CBS also announced broadcast assignments for the first three weeks of the 2024 NFL season.

The Nantz, Romo and Wolfson crew will be in Kansas City in Week 2 when CBS broadcasts the Chiefs matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals.

Harlan and Green will broadcast the Jacksonville Jaguars and Miami Dolphins’ Week 1 game, the San Francisco 49ers and Minnesota Vikings’ Week 2 matchup, and the Dolphins trip to Seattle to play the Seahawks in Week 3.

For more on CBS’s broadcast plans in 2024, click here.

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