Gov. Sam Brownback has long opposed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.
He has returned more than $31 million in seed money that would have helped Kansas set up a health-care exchange, a marketplace where consumers could compare and choose health plans. And he has refused to allow Kansas to comply with federal guidelines, first insisting that the Supreme Court would rule Obamacare unconstitutional and then insisting that when Mitt Romney became president, he would issue a grand waiver that would render the issue moot.
All the while, Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger has tried to persuade the governor to at least put Kansas in position to set up its own exchange. She had prepared a partnership application that would have enabled the state to handle management and consumer assistance, and, with legislative approval, likely would have received federal funding to help build the partnership exchange.
But the new Kansas Legislature, filled with conservatives who ran against Obamacare, would not likely accept the money. As for the governor, he doesn’t want the state to have any more to do with Obamacare than is necessary.
In fact, rather than ensure that Kansas has as much control over the exchanges as possible, he has decided to leave it in the hands of the federal government. Not only is it ironic that he would abdicate state control to the federal government, but federal control comes in the person of former Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, who sought to expand health care in Kansas and is now secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.
In announcing his rejection of a state health-care exchange last week, the governor said Kansans regard Obamacare as “an overreach by Washington.” He also said, “My administration will not partner with the federal government to create a state-federal partnership exchange because we will not benefit from it, and implementing it could cost Kansas taxpayers millions of dollars.”
He’s not alone; Missouri and other conservative states also have rejected Obamacare. Unfortunately, Gov. Brownback doesn’t explain how participating would cost millions of dollars more than not participating — an argument he didn’t make when he thought Obamacare would fall to the Supreme Court or a Romney presidency. In fact, by rejecting the money, the governor has cost Kansas the tens of millions of dollars that the federal government was more then willing to invest in a Kansas insurance exchange.
Nor does Gov. Brownback elaborate on how Kansas would not benefit from a state-run exchange. Commissioner Praeger, a nationally respected insurance expert who is motivated more by the desire to meet Kansas residents’ insurance needs than by ideology, is convinced the exchange would benefit the state.
If, as the governor says, a health care exchange partnership will cost Kansans millions more than not participating, he owes Kansans an explanation as to how and over what time period. Otherwise, he ought to recognize that Obamacare is the law of the land and make the transition as smooth as possible.