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GOP candidates for insurance commissioner support health compact bill

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, April 10, 2014, at 6:36 p.m.
  • Updated Thursday, April 10, 2014, at 7:59 p.m.

Four Republicans campaigning to become the state’s next insurance commissioner said Thursday that they support a bill that would bring Kansas into a compact with other states hoping to become exempt from the federal health care overhaul.

A fifth candidate, a Democrat, said he has reservations about the measure.

The candidates, seeking to replace outgoing commissioner Sandy Praeger, appeared at a symposium sponsored by the Wichita Association of Health Underwriters. About 70 people attended the symposium at the Wichita Marriott.

The bill, HB 2553, would give the state all of the federal funding for the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and grant the state authority to determine how that money is spent and which rules, regulations and policies are followed. The legislation was drafted by Houston-based Competitive Governance Action.

It won final approval in Topeka on Friday and has been sent to Gov. Sam Brownback. The compact would not take effect unless Congress also agreed to it.

The candidates who favored the measure included Ken Selzer, a certified public accountant and insurance executive in Overland Park; Beverly Gossage, owner of a Lawrence-based benefit consulting company specializing in health savings account programs for businesses; state Sen. Clark Shultz, R-McPherson, former House Insurance Committee chairman; and David Powell, an El Dorado insurance agent who ran for insurance commissioner in 2002 and 2010.

Gossage said she supports the measure opting Kansas out of the Affordable Care Act because “we need to do everything we can to push back against this law.”

She said she’s been working with others on a replacement bill for the act.

Shultz said he voted for the bill as a member of the Kansas Senate because it provides the state with flexibility.

“It doesn’t require that we do anything, but it opens some doors if we want to walk through them,” he said. “Obviously we have to be careful, but it does provide flexibility.”

Powell said such compacts aren’t new in this country.

“We need to keep the money close to where it needs to be spent, and make the decision locally, rather than have somebody be dictating to us what we need to be doing with our funds,” he said.

Dennis Anderson, a Democrat who has an Overland Park business that trains insurance agents, said the bill opens up a can of worms.

Kansas can file for an innovation waiver under the Affordable Care Act in 2017, he said. The act offers states the option of seeking such a waiver to expand on the state flexibility that already exists in the ACA if they want to pursue their own strategies to ensure access to high-quality, affordable health insurance for their residents, he said.

“That’s another option down the road for making modifications,” he said.

Reach Fred Mann at 316-268-6310 or fmann@wichitaeagle.com.

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