Former Star reporter Finn Bullers becomes face of KanCare fight

Finn Bullers, a former Kansas City Star reporter, is making headlines for his fight against KanCare, the state’s Medicaid privatization plan, which he says will kill him. He was the subject on a Pitch cover story about KanCare’s impact on the poor, and has been featured by just about every news outlet in the city.

Bullers suffers from a rare form of muscular dystrophy and requires round-the-clock care. The state wants to reduce the number of hours a caretaker oversees Bullers – by 75 percent, according to KCUR – something he told a state panel could have deadly consequences.

“I hate to sound that dramatic,but if this tube comes off I’ve got two minutes tops — and then I die,” he said, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal.

The state says he’ll be OK, even as Bullers contends the reduction in hours – and payments to providers – could have dire consequences.

Bullers, from Prairie Village, says his 24-hour care has been threatened since Kansas moved to KanCare this year and assigned most of the state’s Medicaid recipients to one of three managed care organizations.

State officials dispute that, saying Bullers will still have the care he needs to stay in his home under the plan floated by his managed care company, United HealthCare.

Bullers is one of 8 percent of people receiving Home and Community-Based Services whose coverage is being considered for service reductions, KCUR reported. He told FOX4 KanCare cuts could force his wife to divorce him.

The state, for whatever reason, has continued to sound like a heartless, tone-deaf, death-paneling hangman when it comes to Bullers’ case. (The C-J, by the way, notes others have a had a positive experience with KanCare.)

Department of Aging and Disability Services chief Shawn Sullivan told FOX4’s Rob Low the agency is “comfortable” with Bullers’ situation:

“He believes this is not about better outcomes but simply saving the state money?  I’ve reviewed his case, four other people in my agency have reviewed his case, we are comfortable with the proposed reduction in hours,” Sullivan told FOX 4’s Rob Low.

The Pitch notes Department of Aging Angela de Rocha’s bizarre response when discussing the criticism KanCare’s gotten, as if the state’s Medicaid population is part of a food-stamp president’s welfare army:

In an earlier interview, de Rocha offered an analogy for Medicaid recipients upset by KanCare’s reduction in services. She says it’s as if she had been giving someone a new car every year and then suddenly stopped.

“Your natural response to that is going to be, ‘Why is she being so mean to me?'” de Rocha tells The Pitch. “That’s just human nature. It’s very difficult to take away something once you get it. People get used to it. They think that’s what you need.”

To Bullers, access to caregivers isn’t like getting a brand-new car, but rather is a life-and-death matter. If a tube feeding air from a respirator to a hole in his throat fell out while he was alone, he would have about three minutes to live. If that ever happened, there wouldn’t be enough time for paramedics to reach him.

For Bullers, its simply not enough: “It’s essentially like the state is saying, ‘You’ve got four apples that you need to have to survive, and we’re willing to give you one apple.”

PHOTO CREDIT: JIM MCLEAN/KHI

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One comment

  1. Pingback: Finn Bullers, former Star reporter battling muscular dystrophy, wins KanCare fight | MediaKC

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