Kansas cannot afford to take a head-in-the-sand approach to the Affordable Care Act.
Having already returned $31.5 million in federal money that would have been used to help Kansas tailor its own health insurance exchanges to comply with the new health care law, Gov. Sam Brownback now says he wants to delay any action on the exchanges until after the November presidential election, in hopes former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will be elected and lead efforts to repeal the health care act. Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer has indicated he hopes the U.S. Senate will try to kill the law using its reconciliation rules, but that action also would have to occur after the November elections and would depend on Republicans boosting their numbers in the U.S. Senate so they could garner the 51 votes needed to overturn the law.
The repeal of the Affordable Care Act is far from certain regardless of the outcome of November’s elections. Supporters of the act acknowledge that some aspects of it need work. Opponents concede that many Americans support some aspects of the law, such as coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and allowing children to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26. There likely will be changes to the law, but it’s simply unwise for Kansas not to be ready for its implementation.
Despite the opposition of fellow state officials, Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger has tried to make sure the state won’t be left out in the cold when the care act provisions kick in. However, time is growing short. The federal law requires states to submit their plans for setting up health insurance exchanges by Nov. 16. The exchanges will offer consumers a system, which can be accessed online and through other means, where they can comparison shop for health insurance.
Praeger said it’s already too late for Kansas to set up a state-run exchange, but it could still work with the federal government to assist Kansas consumers and determine which companies could participate in the state’s exchange. The state needs to move quickly, though, if it wants to help build its exchanges to meet Kansans’ needs rather than allow the federal government to dictate those decisions. “It’s a significant giving up of state authority if we don’t move forward,” Praeger said.
It certainly is possible that the November elections somehow will doom the Affordable Care Act, but it’s also entirely possible that the act will continue to move toward implementation after the elections are past. It’s better to be prepared for something that doesn’t happen than to be caught unprepared for something that does. The Kansas insurance commissioner is advocating a prudent approach to this issue. The governor and other state officials need to listen to her.