Topeka Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger on Wednesday said a House bill aimed at allowing Kansas to opt out of the federal health care overhaul could jeopardize Medicare funding for seniors.
Praeger said House Bill 2553 would place federal funding for all health care services and health plans under the control of the Kansas Legislature and governor.
Praeger said if state revenues fall short then the funds for Medicare and other health programs could be used to support other state functions.
"It is already happening with dollars meant for highway programs and funds in other state agencies being taken and used to offset spending for other legislative priorities, caused in part by the reduction in state income taxes," Praeger said.
In Kansas, there are nearly 450,000 Medicare beneficiaries.
HB 2553 would allow Kansas to join a compact of states to take control of health care policy within their borders.
The measure is backed by the Kansas Chamber, Republican elected officials who have been critical of the Affordable Care Act signed into law by President Barack Obama, and a Texas-based group called Competitive Governance Action that says on its website that it is engaged in the devolution of government power.
"HB 2553 would restore the right of states to regulate healthcare and avoid the disaster that the ACA has become," said Eric Stafford, senior director of government affairs for the Kansas Chamber.
The bill was brought to the Legislature by state Rep. Brett Hildabrand, R-Shawnee, state Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, R-Shawnee, and Republican Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.
Pilcher-Cook said the health care compact and block grant of federal money would give Kansas citizens their freedom in health care, and would give the state the flexibility to best meet Kansans' needs.
But Gene Meyer, chief executive officer of Lawrence Memorial Hospital, said the bill had the "potential to seriously damage hospitals and physicians in our ability to continue to deliver quality care to those we serve." The measure is also opposed by AARP Kansas.
Praeger urged Medicare beneficiaries to call their legislators "and let them know that they need to leave the funding for Medicare alone."
The measure is before the full House after having been approved by Republicans on the House Federal and State Affairs Committee.
Other critics of the bill say that it is merely a symbolic statement by those opposed to the ACA because the compact could not take effect until approved by Congress. That would never happen, those critics say, because the ACA would have to be repealed, and Congress would have to cede all authority to the states for heath care funding.