Archive for Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Statehouse Live: Health exchange committee will continue work despite Brownback’s rejection of grant

August 24, 2011, 3:18 p.m. Updated August 24, 2011, 4:27 p.m.


— A committee working on establishing a health insurance exchange in Kansas decided on Wednesday to continue its efforts even though Gov. Sam Brownback rejected a $31.5 million federal grant to set up the exchange, and many in the Legislature want nothing to do with it.

Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger said that under federal health reform, Kansas will have to implement an exchange by 2014. The question is whether Kansas will have one that is developed by the state or the federal government, she said.

Praeger argued that planning should continue despite Brownback's decision. "I still think the best course of action is trying to be ready," she said.

Kansas had received an "early innovator" grant from the federal government to work on putting in place the exchange, which is designed to help consumers access health insurance, and will be key in providing subsidies for people to buy coverage. Most of the work in developing the health exchange, Praeger said, is overhauling the state's Medicaid enrollment system.

The health insurance exchange is major part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act signed into law by President Barack Obama.

Praeger, a Republican, had argued that Kansas could use the federal grant to put in place an exchange better suited to Kansas needs.

Brownback, also a Republican, signed off on Kansas' grant application earlier this year, but two weeks ago he announced that he was rejecting the grant, saying there were too many strings attached and there was too much uncertainty about future federal funding. Critics said Brownback bowed to political pressure from those within his party who want no part of the federal health reform law, which many consider Obama's signature piece of legislation.

In a meeting Wednesday of the health benefit exchange steering committee, Kansas insurers, health care providers and others argued that the committee should continue working on the initiative.

Some expressed frustration with Brownback's actions.

Brenda Sharpe, president and chief executive officer of Merriam-based REACH Healthcare Foundation, said Brownback's refusal of federal funds, was disappointing.

Sharpe rejected the idea that health care foundations may be able to help fund the state's effort to set up an exchange, saying foundations were stretched thin trying to patch budget shortfalls for safety net clinics and mental health centers.

"We are not going to supplant dollars that were accepted and then rejected," she said.

Sheldon Weisgrau, director of the Health Reform Resource Project, said while the federal reform law comes under constant attack many forget why it was approved. "We have serious problems in our health system," he said. He said critics of the bill seldom come up with a viable alternative.

In Kansas, more than 300,000 people are uninsured. More than 500,000 Kansans are expected to benefit from health insurance exchange to purchase coverage, and nearly half of those will receive premium subsidies, officials said.

Several other committee members said that although it was important to push on with planning for the exchange, they didn't expect Brownback or the Republican-dominated Legislature to budge on the issue.

"With the political structure as it is now, I don't think it's realistic they're going to change their minds," said Robert Stephan, who is a former Kansas attorney general. "I'm very pessimistic," he said.

Stephan said when he heard of Brownback's rejection of the grant, "My first reaction was to hell with it, but I don't cuss."

Praeger is scheduled to appear before legislative committees in September and October to brief legislators on the status of health care reform.


cowboy 6 years, 10 months ago

You go Sandy , Then challenge this SOB in the repub primary ! Praeger for Governor , I'm a dem but she may be our only hope !

George_Braziller 6 years, 9 months ago

I worked with Sandy many years ago at Spencer Museum of Art when she was the docent coordinator and long before she entered the political arena.

She's smart and a level thinker. She may be registered as a Republican but she doesn't bow to the whims of either party.

I would classify her as an old school politician. Not about ego, fears about being re-elected, or rigid ideology, but working for what is best for the state and her charge in a particular situation.

Brock Masters 6 years, 10 months ago

Interesting....the focus has been on a dem stepping forward to challenge Brownback, but Praeger doing it is a novel and just might work idea.

Wouldn't it be ironic if Brownback's turning back the grant ultimately led to his downfall.

jafs 6 years, 10 months ago

It might be a good idea for moderates to register as Republicans so that they can vote in the Republican primaries.

That may be the only way to defeat Brownback or others like him next time around.

globehead 6 years, 9 months ago

That is the ONLY way to accomplish it in this state. In Missouri, I registered as a democrat for exactly the same reason. If you want to have any say in getting the best candidate on the general elecation ballot, you simply MUST register with the party which holds an overwhelming majority. Hold your nose and use your brain. In Kansas, especially larger counties/cities, you will often find 4-5 candidates in the republican primary, but only one in the democrat pool. The dem. is a foregone conclusion here. The best will often get flushed out of the repub. pool in KS. The same thing happened in the demo. pool when I lived in MO. Frankly, I resent that party primary elections are even publically funded. The party should be bearing the total cost of their primary. Inasmuch as they are publically funded, I intend to vote in them as I see fit, regardless of my political leanings.

mloburgio 6 years, 10 months ago

Kansas not pursuing federal prevention dollars

Major federal initiative will bypass Kansas because no one applied for grant The federal government is poised to start spending $900 million nationwide over the next five years in an effort to battle costly chronic ailments such as obesity and diabetes.

The initiative is considered the single largest push to date by the national government to encourage disease prevention. But Kansas likely won’t see a dollar of that money.

Why not? Well, one big reason is that no one here asked.

The July 15 deadline for submitting applications for the so-called Community Transformation Grants has come and gone.

Alceste 6 years, 10 months ago

Much adoo about nothing.

Kansas: You can't fix stupid. (New State Motto).

Jan Rolls 6 years, 10 months ago

Don't get to excited. If she doesn't get in lock step with the king he will find a way to get rid of her.

KS 6 years, 10 months ago

If its free, I want it. Let some other sucker pay for it. Free, free, free healthcare.

Sparko 6 years, 9 months ago

By design, these exchanges are not free, but designed to bring down costs to where a red state like Kansas, might be able to provide for the common welfare of its suffering masses. You trolls are actually evil in intent. Nothing like shortening lives, prolonging suffering, and contributing to the infant mortality rise to make you all excited. Seek help.

Sparko 6 years, 10 months ago

Brownback appears to be insane. Just thought I would put that out there. Wow.

bolshavik_vw 6 years, 9 months ago

Good he is the worst governor for this state, and his opinion is worthless, just like he is. So we need to do more of this, and act like he does not exist. It's easy to do, just do it to someone you dislike. I do and it works.

Reta Cosby 6 years, 9 months ago

True to his clan, brownnose - back - head.. whatever, doesn't care how many voting citizens need medical care, let alone healthcare. He's where every politician dreams of being, controlling the coffers, getting kickbacks (now called brownbacks), demeaning any progressive efforts in an unstable economy, and putting the blame on the politician doing the most good for the nation. and you wonder why there are hurricanes and earthquakes in divers places. God is trying to tell you something, Governor Sam Brown...

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