Kansas, Oklahoma lawmakers want rejected health funds to go toward deficit

McClatchy NewspapersSeptember 15, 2011 

WASHINGTON — Rep. Mike Pompeo had no problem with his state sending back a $31.5 million federal grant that would have helped put the new federal health care law in place.

But the Kansas Republican introduced legislation Wednesday that would ensure that the rejected dollars can be used by Washington only to reduce the nation's deficit.

"Simply giving the money back to the Obama administration to be spent elsewhere is not acceptable in light of our current debt situation," Pompeo said.

Pompeo sponsored the bill with Republican Rep. Jim Lankford of Oklahoma. The entire Kansas and Oklahoma House delegations also have signed on.

Kansas and Oklahoma were two of six states selected to serve as laboratories for how states could develop the technology behind the health insurance exchanges, where consumers will be able to shop for health insurance coverage, if they qualify.

To be eligible, consumers must either be unemployed, self-employed or working for a company that does not offer health coverage, among other possibilities.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, who voted against the health care law as a Republican senator in 2010, said the money came with too many strings. He also said he was concerned whether the federal money would be there in the future. Oklahoma also received a grant but passed on it as well.

"Kansas and Oklahoma have sent a clear signal to this administration that they reject its strings-attached funding," said Pompeo, who was not in Congress when lawmakers voted on health care but opposes the measure. "Let's use these funds to pay down our deficit."

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