Maybe the federal health care law will provide better mental health coverage – because Gov. Sam Brownback and some Republicans still seem to be suffering from Obamacare Derangement Syndrome.
How else to explain why Brownback and the GOP abandoned their own reform idea and free-market principles in opposing the state’s involvement in a health-insurance exchange? Do they want a federal government takeover of health care?
Brownback announced Thursday that his administration won’t partner with the federal government to set up a health insurance exchange. Instead, Kansans will have to use a federally created exchange to compare and buy plans.
Brownback justified the decision by claiming that it could cost Kansas money to partner on the exchange. But last year he returned a $31 million federal grant that would have paid for creating an exchange specifically tailored to Kansas’ needs.
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What has never made sense is that the insurance exchange was originally a conservative GOP idea for combating rising health care costs and helping more people afford insurance. The concept – which is a good one – is to increase private-sector competition and increase the buying power of individuals and small businesses.
In fact, when Brownback first became governor, he defended the exchange and noted how it could benefit consumers. But tea party activists pressured him to have nothing to do with Obamacare, lest it undermine the legal challenges, so Brownback reversed course.
News flash: The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the health care law, and President Obama was re-elected Tuesday. So, like it or not, Obamacare isn’t going away. Even House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said last week that his chamber would stop trying to overturn it.
Failing to partner on the insurance exchange also doesn’t make sense given the tens of thousands of dollars that the Kansas Republican Party and groups such as Americans for Prosperity spent on mailings claiming that Democratic candidates supported a federal takeover of health care. So instead of having Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger (one of the few state GOP leaders who hasn’t lost her head on this issue) and local stakeholders set up a Kansas exchange, Brownback and AFP prefer that the federal government be in charge?
That’s not what the public wants. A recent Associated Press poll found that 63 percent of Americans want states to run the exchanges, with 32 percent favoring federal control.
The next issue facing Brownback is whether Kansas will allow an expansion of Medicaid. The Supreme Court’s ruling gave states the right to opt out of the expansion – though it makes no sense to do so.
The expansion would enable nearly 264,000 adults in Kansas to get health insurance, according to the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation – and the federal government will pick up the full cost until 2016 and nearly all the cost afterward. What’s more, the expansion will enable hospitals and doctors to recover some of the costs of the uninsured care they now provide – costs that often are passed on in the rates they charge everyone else.
Simply put, it would be nuts to block an initiative that will help hundreds of thousands of our citizens and strengthen our state’s health care providers. But when it comes to Obamacare, Brownback has been acting a little crazy.
For the editorial board, Phillip Brownlee