Kobach urges Congress to ratify health care compact that he says would avoid Obamacare

? Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is urging Congress to ratify a mechanism that he says would give states an avenue to exempt themselves from the Affordable Care Act.

But critics of the plan have said the plan could jeopardize the health care of people who receive other forms of federal health care benefits, including more than 450,000 seniors in Kansas on Medicare, the federal health insurance program for the elderly.

In an open letter to 94 Republican members of Congress, Kobach called for ratification of a multistate health care compact, a plan that would give those states authority to regulate health care within their borders and to administer federal health care funds that flow to those states.

In 2014, Kansas lawmakers passed a bill to join such a compact. But under a provision of the U.S. Constitution, it requires congressional approval before it can take effect.

“As a former professor of Constitutional Law who recognizes the unconstitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), I feel that it is my personal duty to do everything possible to stop Obamacare in the wake of the Supreme Court’s two erroneous decisions sustaining it,” Kobach wrote in the letter.

“It is the only legal path that we have left to end Obamacare and to restore our Constitution, short of a future Act of Congress to repeal it,” he wrote.

The letter was addressed to the 94 Republican House and Senate members from the nine states whose legislatures have approved the compact. In addition to Kansas, they include Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Utah.

The idea of a health care compact began as model legislation from the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, a conservative group that is funded by large corporations to advocate for pro-business legislation in state governments.

It would entitle member states to receive all of the federal health care dollars that would otherwise be spent in those states to administer under their own health care programs. It would also give those states the primary authority to regulate health care in those borders, and it would empower them to suspend any federal laws or regulations on health care that are inconsistent with their own policies.

Kobach and the Kansas Chamber both supported passage of the bill when it was debated in Kansas last year.

But groups that advocate for the elderly opposed the bill, including the Kansas chapter of the American Association of Retired Persons, or AARP, Kansas Advocates for Better Care, a group that lobbies on behalf of nursing homes, and then-Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger.

Praeger said at the time that the compact could jeopardize Medicare benefits for more than 450,000 seniors in Kansas because state officials could conceivably transfer those federal health care dollars to other state functions whenever state revenues fall short.

“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 last year when the bill was being considered.

Kansas AARP director Maren Turner said that group has not changed its opposition to the multistate compact.

“Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act, ACA, whatever you want to call it is the law of the land and we continue our opposition to anything that undermines the law,” Turner said. “The focus now should be to make sure people get the health care they need.”