It’s no secret that Gov. Sam Brownback doesn’t support the federal Affordable Care Act. The question is whether he will risk handicapping his state by refusing to move forward on decisions that will guide, and likely improve, the implementation of national health care in Kansas.
Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger and her staff are working to formulate a recommendation on a basic health insurance plan that should be available to Kansans who purchase insurance through a new online “exchange” or marketplace that federal officials say will be in operation in about 16 months.
Kansas has until Sept. 30 to submit a “benchmark” plan that would meet the essential health benefits enumerated in the Affordable Care Act. If the state doesn’t submit a plan, the choice of benefits for Kansas residents would be left to federal health officials.
Praeger and others see a number of advantages to Kansas formulating its own benchmark plan. Insurance officials who testified at a meeting in Topeka on Wednesday also urged the state to move quickly on settling the benchmark issue so that insurance companies will have time to implement new policies.
To that end Praeger says she will submit a recommendation to Brownback within about a week. Unfortunately, indications are that the governor’s desk may be as far as the recommendation goes.
On Wednesday, Brownback’s spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag reiterated the governor’s position that he would make no decisions “relating to the implementation of Obamacare” until after the November elections. The governor, who also returned a $31.5 million federal grant aimed at helping the state set up its health exchanges, is waiting to see whether Republican Mitt Romney is elected president and makes good on his promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Repeal could happen, but even if Romney is elected, there is no guarantee that the care act, or at least key provisions of it, won’t be implemented. If the plan moves forward either under Romney or Obama, Kansas needs to be ready. It needs to have had a say in how it wants this plan implemented so it provides the best benefit to Kansas residents. Ignoring the fact that this law could be implemented may make a political point, but it’s a poor strategy for the state.
It will cost the state nothing to forward a benchmark plan to the federal government. If the Affordable Care Act eventually is repealed, the state will have lost nothing. However, if the act, indeed, moves forward, the state, by submitting a plan, will have gained a measure of control over how its provisions are implemented in Kansas, for Kansans.
Brownback’s first responsibility is to the people of this state. The choice should be clear.