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Archive for Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Affordable Care Act nears major milestone; Brownback still opposed

September 3, 2013

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— With a month to go before the launch of a major portion of the Affordable Care Act, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback remains opposed to the law—even as some other Republican governors have softened their opposition and even begrudgingly accepted the new health insurance program in their states.

In October, people without health insurance can enroll in the new health care marketplace at the healthcare.gov website for coverage that beings Jan. 1. The website is already up and providing information.

More than 320,000 Kansans will be eligible for coverage through the marketplace, the Obama administration has said. “Soon, the Health Insurance Marketplace will provide families and small businesses who currently don’t have insurance, or are looking for a better deal, a new way to find health coverage that fits their needs and their budgets,” said U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the former Kansas governor.

But two years ago, Brownback rejected a $31.5 million federal grant to set up a Kansas-based marketplace under the law known as “Obamacare.”

These marketplaces in each state are modeled after travel-shopping websites and allow people to compare and enroll in insurance plans. Since Kansas refused to set up its own website, the federal government will run the marketplace for the state's residents.

In several other Republican-led states, including Ohio, Iowa, Michigan, Florida, New Mexico and Nevada, governors have dropped their opposition and allowed for the formation of the state insurance marketplaces.

The other governors' reluctant acceptance is based on what they call financial prudence and what appears to be political necessity.

"My approach is to not spend a lot of time complaining," Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad said recently. "We're going to do our level best to make it work as best we can."

That view also is embraced by fellow Republicans John Kasich of Ohio, Susana Martinez of New Mexico, Brian Sandoval of Nevada, Rick Snyder of Michigan and Rick Scott of Florida.

It's in stark contrast to the approach taken by Republicans in Washington, where the GOP-led House repeatedly has voted to repeal the law. Congressional Republicans may keep at it this fall to force a budget showdown even though the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the law.

After initial gripes, these Republican governors are now trying to expand health insurance programs for lower- and moderate-income residents in exchange for billions in federal subsidies. Some governors are building and running online insurance exchanges for people to shop for insurance, instead of leaving the task to the federal government.

While all face re-election next fall in states that Democrat Obama won in both his White House races, these Republicans governors say that the 2014 elections and political calculations are not driving the health care decisions.

But a year after Democrats succeeded in casting Republicans as the party of the prosperous, the governors could blunt criticism they are ambivalent to the poor by embracing billions in federal dollars to cover millions of residents without insurance.

"At the end of the day they are making the best out of a crappy situation," says Phil Musser, an adviser to Martinez.

Lori Lodes of the Center for American Progress, a liberal-leaning think tank that supports the law, puts it this way: "They can't risk pursuing a partisan agenda that would turn down taxpayer dollars and deny their constituents health care."

Still, Brownback and several other Republican governors continue to hold out against implementation of the insurance exchanges and other elements of the ACA.

"Kansas Medicaid expansion, under the current ACA guidelines, would cost hundreds of millions of dollars — funding that would have to come from other core responsibilities like schools, prisons and roads," said Ren Mullinix, a spokesman for the state health agency.

Mullinix said the Brownback administration sees its overhaul of the state Medicaid system, now called KanCare, as "the best path forward."

He added, "Though HHS keeps continued interest in the innovative and forward-thinking measures taking place with KanCare, the state is not currently having discussions with HHS about expansion."

Under the ACA, states also can expand eligibility for Medicaid coverage. In Douglas County alone, it's estimated that the measure could increase coverage to as many as 11,400 of the 16,000 residents who currently don't have insurance. The federal government would pick up the entire cost of the program for the first three years and provide no less than 90 percent of the cost after that.

But Brownback and his Republican colleagues in the Kansas Legislature have rejected that offer.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Comments

Michael LoBurgio 1 year, 1 month ago

Did U know Medicare charges 4% to administer our public health insurance program, while private insurers charge 15% for theirs?

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Richard Payton 1 year, 1 month ago

Those that have questions about the Affordable Care Act can ask Sandy Praeger Sept. 17th at KU Edwards Campus 7 P.M. in Overland Park, KS. Other locations and times can be found at the web address insureKS.org.

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Hawkanator 1 year, 1 month ago

Oh, Sandy, I wish you would run for Gov.

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flatlanders 1 year, 1 month ago

Thanks for the link. There has been very little information on the insurance exchange in Kansas. And I really haven't seen any links from the local paper either.

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adastraperapathy 1 year, 1 month ago

"There has been very little information on the insurance exchange in Kansas."

That's intentional. Modern "conservatism" thrives on sabotaging government programs, then pointing at the failures that they have caused as evidence you should vote for them so that they can cut government more.

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tomatogrower 1 year, 1 month ago

Brownback - Insurance? We don't need no stinkin' insurance. Except me of course, because you tax payers love me.

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Phoghorn 1 year, 1 month ago

If we got rid of health insurance, then health costs would come crashing down. Providers can get away with outlandish costs because "insurance will pay for it". If individuals had to pay full cost out of their own pocket, full costs would have to drop.

Instead, we pay our insurance companies to be a "middle man". Obama Care will make the government the "middle man". That is fine if you trust the government...

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Cait McKnelly 1 year, 1 month ago

And this is wrong. Insurance companies can (and do) contract with hospitals, doctors and pharmacies to provide services at lower cost than "retail". The providers do this because it's a guaranteed income stream. I have actually received bills (when I was with Blue Cross) that showed the amount written off by the provider as part of the bill.

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Orwell 1 year, 1 month ago

So people who can't afford insurance – or have pre-existing conditions – get stuck with the inflated "full retail" charges. Do I trust the government as the "middle man?" The government is at least answerable to the public at the polls. The insurance companies? They're answerable only to the owners, and the public interest be damned. Meanwhile, people in need of treatment are in no position to "shop" for competitive alternatives.

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Fred Whitehead Jr. 1 year, 1 month ago

Lets face it, Brownback is a bigoted, racist jerk who was bought and paid for by the Kochs. Nothing will happen without the consent of the buyers. His opposition to the black dude in the White House is well known and nothing will happen as long as Kansas voters continue to return these religious addked politicians to elected office.

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cowboy 1 year, 1 month ago

Brownback , who has never paid a penny for health insurance as we taxpayers have totally funded his and will till he croaks , is the worst of aristocrats. We really should drug test the entire Brownback family as they have been one of the largest welfare recipients in the state.

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Joe Hyde 1 year, 1 month ago

The finest health insurance Kansans can acquire isn't available until next November -- when we can step into voting booths and knock out these Republican "conservatives" who menace our collective health.

15 months to go.

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Kyle Chandler 1 year, 1 month ago

Meanwhile in Oregon, 3 plans, the most expensive being $50/mo......avail Oct. 1.

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adastraperapathy 1 year, 1 month ago

Is the US Department of Health and Human Services looking at KanCare as a success or failure? Because so far, it's pretty much a resounding failure.

1

Success 1 year, 1 month ago

I know of families living up to 133% of the federal poverty level. These families have children who are eligible under the current system for Medicaid coverage and are receiving therapy for traumatic events. Some of these parents acknowledge that they need help. We know that they too have histories of trauma that impair their functioning not only in the workplace but in being the best parents they can to their young children. It seems that the current Governor of Kansas and the current KS Legislature is poised to refuse to expand Medicaid coverage for these parents while claiming to strengthen families and address gaps in the mental health system. This leaves may of us trying to do good work well very confused.

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oldexbeat 1 year, 1 month ago

Hurt the working poor. Yup. Make them so weak they will work for less and less. Then bankrupt them when sick. Good thing liar Sammy isn't really a Christian. He might care then about people besides the Koch brothers.

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Liberty275 1 year, 1 month ago

I hope high deductible HSA friendly policies remain available.

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Orwell 1 year, 1 month ago

Is anyone else in Kansas tired of paying federal taxes to support expanded health care in other states? This wingnut refusal to accept the benefits of a program we're paying for is both rank partisanship and rank stupidity.

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overthemoon 1 year, 1 month ago

Kansas is one of the states that gets more money back from the federal government than it pays in. So you complaint is....???

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hillsandtrees 1 year, 1 month ago

I could be wrong, but I believe that starting in 2014, that will no longer be the case. As other states agree to expand medicaid, with the Federal government paying 100%, and Kansas not getting that money, I think Kansas will be paying in more than they get back.

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overthemoon 1 year, 1 month ago

I meant in overall taxation and spending. We still get lots of money for farm subsidies and military installations. But the healthcare losses may even that out as you suggest.

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overthemoon 1 year, 1 month ago

Brownback wants to spend money on Schools and Prisons. And he supports the privatization of both institutions. So what he really wants to do is funnel more money to his rich cronies while the rest of us slump our way into abject poverty and servitude.

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