Sometimes when a game goes into extra innings, it gives a major player an additional at-bat and an opportunity to swing for the fences. Sometimes that player emerges as the hero who carries the day. Such an opportunity is lining up for Gov. Sam Brownback.
The federal government has extended the deadline for states to form partnership arrangements to operate the health insurance exchanges that are part of the Affordable Care Act — Obamacare, if you will.
So far, the governor has pointedly avoided getting Kansas involved in any way with the exchanges, but now, with the November election results, they’re a fact of life that cannot be ignored.
Kansas has one last chance to have some impact on how the ACA-mandated exchange is operated in Kansas and for Kansans. Feb. 15, 2013, is the new deadline. If the governor and the Legislature give their approval, the state could move forward to become a Federally Facilitated Exchange and have influence on two of five core functions of the exchange that would be implemented for Kansans. Those functions are consumer assistance and plan management, functions that the Kansas Insurance Department already handles.
One clear benefit for the health insurance companies that operate in our state is that they would have a one-stop shop at the state insurance department for plan approval and state licensing, instead of having to deal with a cumbersome two-step arrangement with the feds at Health and Human Services, in addition to the state. A second benefit would be that the state would be responsible for training and overseeing the “navigators” who guide citizens through the operations and choices involved in the process.
Why, after all, wouldn’t the state want as much control as possible, instead of ceding everything to HHS?
Consider a likely danger if a majority of states shrug their shoulders and leave the exchange operations to the federal government: How much easier that makes it to impose “one-size-fits-all” health care implementation practices and policies on the entire nation. As a practical matter, the nation’s 30 states with Republican governors, like Kansas, should do all they can to seize as much control of their own destinies as possible in this matter.
One speaker at a meeting sponsored by the Kansas Health Institute on Tuesday in Topeka suggested that, instead of rejecting federal money, Republican governors should challenge the president on his Medicaid plan by insisting on “block grant” funding so they could privatize their Medicaid services. But that’s another topic.
Concerning the ACA exchange, it makes good sense for Kansas to keep as much control as possible for its businesses and residents. Here’s hoping the governor and the legislature slam a home run in their next at-bat.