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Compact wouldn’t help Kansas

Endeavor is largely a political statement

By The Mercury

Though some Kansas House members are content to embarrass the president, many of the 74 who voted for a bill that would permit Kansas to join a compact of states seeking to exempt themselves from Obamacare actually believe it would leave Kansas — and Kansans — better off.

We’re not so sure. In fact, we have sufficient enough misgivings to regard the proposal as counterproductive and that Kansas legislators — at least until there are monumental political changes in Washington, D.C. — are wasting time and energy.

On health care issues, we’re inclined to give the benefit of the doubt to Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger. She’s a Republican, but more important to her than partisan politics is seeing that Kansans have good health care options and good enough information to make prudent health care and Medicare decisions. This has put her at odds with Gov. Sam Brownback and the conservative bloc of the state Republican Party over the Affordable Care Act, which she supports.

She’s wary of the state health care compact, saying “it could jeopardize the coverage and benefits that seniors have come to count on.”

Another factor that, given projected budget shortfalls in the coming years, should concern all Kansans is the possibility that lawmakers could shift money from health care to pay other bills, just as they’ve already done with money once earmarked for highway programs.

Ms. Praeger and many advocates of Medicare beneficiaries also have valid concerns that benefits could be cut and out-of-pocket expenses could rise sharply for the state’s 400,000-plus Medicare participants.

Advocates of the compact argue that it would allow Kansas to continue to receive federal health-care money but set its own health-care policies and priorities. In addition to being exempt from Obamacare’s regulations, Kansas could exempt itself from other federal regulations.

There’s no question the state sovereignty argument is attractive. That’s partly why a handful of other states, including Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas, already have joined and why another dozen are considering it.

Trouble is, for the compact to become effective, both houses of Congress and the president would have to sign off on it. Not only is that not going to happen with a Democratic Senate and a Democrat in the White House, it would take a filibuster-proof Republican majority in the Senate, which even the most optimistic projections rule out.

This proposal originated in ALEC — the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC is a nonprofit advocacy group consisting of conservative state lawmakers, including Kansas legislative leaders, and subsidized by large corporations, including Wichita’s Koch Industries.

This proposal might be good for them, but it’s not good for Kansas.

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