Topeka Kansas legislators could be in charge of Medicare and other federally funded health care programs in the state under legislation approved by a Senate committee on Tuesday.
Supporters of House Bill 2553 said the Legislature was in a better position to know the health care needs of Kansans.
"I think we are headed in a direction here where I think the state of Kansas can do a better job," said state Sen. Ralph Ostmeyer, R-Grinnell, chairman of the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee.
But opponents of the bill said the Legislature had no business trying to administer federal health care programs, such as Medicare, which they said is running fine.
"I know how this Legislature operates," said state Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City. He said he wouldn't want to subject senior citizens to the "shenanigans" of the Legislature. Nearly 450,000 Kansans receive health care under Medicare.
George Lippencott, a senior citizen from Lawrence, spoke against the bill, saying he knows what to expect from Medicare and turning it over to a state-run operation "raises all kinds of uncertainties on seniors and others."
The bill would allow Kansas to join other states in an interstate compact. The federal government would turn over federal health care dollars to the states and the individual states could opt to run those programs. If a compact is put together, it would have to be approved in the U.S. House and Senate, but wouldn't need the signature of the president.
State Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, R-Shawnee, said the compact would allow Kansas to reject the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.
"It would be beneficial to our citizens," Pilcher-Cook said. "It would give them back the freedom they have lost through Obamacare."
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, state Reps. Lance Kinzer, R-Olathe, and Brett Hildabrand, R-Shawnee, and Daniel Tripp of Competitive Governance Action also supported the bill.
Opponents included AARP-Kansas, the Kansas Health Consumer Coalition, Kansas Advocates for Better Care and Judy Bellome, an Army veteran, who said the proposal could hurt veterans receiving Medicare.
David Wilson, an advocacy volunteer for AARP Kansas, described the health care compact bill as "frivolous and dangerous."
The bill has already been approved by the House and now heads to the full Senate for consideration. In the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee only Republicans voted for the bill.
Eight states have passed similar legislation including Missouri, Texas, Oklahoma, Utah, Indiana, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. Two governors have vetoed health care compacts in Montana and Arizona.