Topeka — The Senate on Friday sent to Gov. Sam Brownback a bill that could put the state in charge of federal health care programs in Kansas, including Medicare.
State Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, R-Shawnee, said the measure was needed because the federal health care system under the Affordable Care Act was imploding.
"When we go knocking on doors, and people ask, `What are you doing to help us with our health care?', this is a great answer," Pilcher-Cook said.
House Bill 2553 would allow Kansas to join a compact with other states that would decide how to spend federal health care funds. It was approved in the Senate 29-11. Only Republicans voted for the measure.
The compact could only take effect if approved by both chambers of Congress, which Pilcher-Cook said may be possible if Republicans, who already have a majority in the House, are able to win a majority in the Senate in the November elections. Eight states have passed the compact legislation.
Pilcher-Cook said the Affordable Care Act threatened the nation's health care system.
She said the health care compact bill "gives the Legislature an opportunity to address those concerns."
But several legislators, Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger and senior citizen groups have said if the health care compact is established it could threaten Medicare funding.
"I never hear complaints about Medicare from my constituents," said state Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka. "For us to even consider to bring it under our own authority is a disservice to the citizens of our state," she said.
Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka said supporters of the health care compact legislation were "just trying to score political points" at the expense of senior citizens who depend on Medicare.
Last week, Judy Bellome, an Army veteran from Lawrence, said the state isn't ready to handle the complicated reimbursements under Medicare. "I know I speak for many seniors who don't want the state of Kansas messing with my Medicare," she said.