Sandy Praeger, the Kansas insurance commissioner, spoke at a meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures on Thursday in San Antonio. Her topic was how to set up a state health insurance exchange.
But back in Topeka, a misguided and blatantly political move by Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration will severely hamper Kansas’ ability to design a regulated health insurance marketplace to serve the state’s consumers and businesses.
Brownback and his lieutenant governor, Jeff Colyer, announced the state would be returning a $31.5 million grant it received early this year to work on creative ways to design an insurance exchange.
They framed the rejection as a protest against federal mandates and spending.
“We will work to find innovative, Kansas-based solutions to Kansas challenges and be very selective in the federal funds the state applies for and receives,” Colyer said.
But Brownback had signed off on accepting the grant only a few months ago. His about-face appears to be motivated by accusations from conservative groups that by accepting the money he is encouraging implementation of the health care reform law known as the Affordable Care Act.
The Kansas GOP Central Committee is meeting to draft the party platform this weekend and is expected to consider resolutions urging the governor to reject the law and any money that comes with it.
The governor’s inability to stand up to pressure from his own party will slow progress. The rejected grant was also helping to fund information technology intended to make the state’s Medicaid eligibility process more efficient and cost effective. Now that project also may be jeopardized.
The Affordable Care Act calls for states to design health insurance purchasing exchanges by 2014. Individuals and small employers will go to the exchanges to find a plan that best meets their needs or qualify for federal subsidies.
Regardless of what one thinks of the entire health care reform package, consumers would be well served by an easily accessible marketplace in which to shop for insurance information. That alone makes Brownback’s decision indefensible.
To read the complete editorial, visit www.kansascity.com.