Topeka In June, Gov. Sam Brownback stood before a standing-room-only crowd at the Johnson County Republican Party’s Elephant Club in Leawood and defended the state’s acceptance of a $31.5 million federal grant to set up an insurance exchange, which is part of the federal health care reform law.
But on Tuesday, Brownback announced he was rejecting the grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
What happened between then and now?
“As we’ve studied the issue over the course of the past six months, it has become clear that the money would not allow the state sufficient flexibility,” the governor’s office said. “The timeline with regard to legislative input was the big issue here.”
But Richard Fry, founder of the November Patriots, said on Wednesday that Brownback rejected the grant because he was feeling the heat from opponents of federal health reform.
November Patriots is an advocacy group that works on several issues, including opposition to federal health reform and in-state tuition for some undocumented immigrants and support of photo ID for voting. Fry is from Olathe.
Fry was the one who asked Brownback at the Elephant’s Club to clarify how he could campaign against “Obamacare” but accept the “early innovator grant.”
At that time, the governor reiterated his position that he thought “Obamacare” was unconstitutional, but that the state was going to use the grant to set up a health insurance marketplace that could increase competition among insurance companies to benefit Kansas consumers.
Fry then said to Brownback that by accepting the grant the state would have to accept the federal health reform law. Brownback responded, “My interpretation and other legal counsel that I’ve had did not agree with yours.”
On Wednesday, Fry said, “I’ve driven 1,500 miles around the state informing the citizens of what is going on, and they are enraged to find out the governor who campaigned against Obamacare is accepting money to implement Obamacare. There is a groundswell of resentment.” He said the same thing happened in Oklahoma, which also has rejected an early innovator grant.
And Fry said he still suspects that even though Brownback has rejected the grant, he will still try to establish a health insurance exchange through another grant or with private dollars. If that were to happen, “the grassroots will explode again,” he said.