Topeka Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger on Tuesday urged legislators to join with the federal government in putting together a health insurance exchange that is a key component of the Affordable Care Act.
Praeger said that under the ACA that she, as insurance commissioner, could move Kansas into the partnership with the feds to build the health insurance exchange.
But Praeger said that she wouldn't do that without a nod of approval from the Legislature or Gov. Sam Brownback's office.
"We need to work together," Praeger told the Senate Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee. "We need to keep our options open."
The federal health insurance reform law requires each state to have an exchange in place by January 2014 where consumers could go online and comparison shop for government-subsidized health insurance plans.
Praeger said the state has until Feb. 15 to notify the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on whether it will partner with the agency to put the exchange together.
If the state doesn't, then the federal government will do it. She said it would be better for the state to partner in the endeavor because then it would be able to tailor the exchange to Kansas' needs.
She said the federal HHS is bending over backwards to get states to participate in building the exchanges. "They really don't want to run these exchanges.They would prefer the states do it," she said.
Joining the effort for a state-federal partnership would simply require a letter of support from Brownback, she said.
But Brownback said in November that his administration would not partner with the federal government to create an exchange under the ACA, which was signed into law by President Barack Obama, and is frequently called Obamacare.
"Kansans feel Obamacare is an overreach by Washington and have rejected the state's participation in this federal program," Brownback said.
In August 2011, Brownback rejected a $31.5 million grant from HHS to set up the insurance exchange, even though two months earlier he had defended the state's acceptance of the grant.