Political Points vs. Sound Policy?

Nov 4, 2011

Republican lawmakers in red states are in a pickle. The Affordable Care Act requires each state to set up a health care exchange designed to bring down insurance costs for consumers. Republicans want no part of anything related to Obama's health care reform law, which they see as a federal intrusion on states rights. But if state lawmakers don't set up an exchange, the federal government will. In September, Republican senators in Missouri prevented the state from accepting $21 million of federal money to lay the groundwork for an exchange. Next door, the Sunflower State is in a similar quandary, reports Bryan Thompson of Kansas Public Radio.

Kansas's Republican Governor, Sam Brownback, made opposition to "Obamacare" a central theme of his campaign last year, reports Thompson:

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback never liked the Affordable Care Act, saying "Obamacare [is] an abomination." As a U.S. senator, he voted against it. And during his campaign for the governor's office last year, he made a vow: "What we'll do in Kansas is we'll do what we're required to do, but we're gonna fight it all the way."

Brownback made good on that promise, and, as in Missouri, rejected a federal grant to get the exchange started.

Brownback's move put Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger in a bit of a bind. Praeger, who is a moderate Republican, was in charge of administering the grant. She says the governor is betting that the new health law will be repealed.

A state-run exchange would allow officials to tailor the system to local needs. But it may be too late for Kansas to set one up . The governor has indicated he wants to wait and see if the Supreme Court strikes down health care reform. That decision won't come until June, at the earliest. By then the Kansas legislature will be in recess.

In Missouri, there is still time. The Senate committee charged with seeking public input and reporting back to the legislature has at least one more hearing scheduled. 

If you're interested, it's next week in St. Charles:

Senate Interim Committee on Health Insurance Exchanges Hearing

Date: Thursday, Nov. 10, 2011

Time: 11:00 a.m.

Location: Dunseth Auditorium in Harmon Hall — Lindenwood University 

209 South Kingshighway, St. Charles, MO 63301