Eagle editorial: Senior citizens need to rise up against health care compact

04/09/2014 12:00 AM

08/08/2014 10:23 AM

Kansas senior citizens need to rise up and demand that Gov. Sam Brownback veto a bill that could put the state in charge of Medicare. And during elections later this year, seniors – and other voters – should hold lawmakers accountable for supporting such a radical reform.

The issue is that serious, and the recklessness that unacceptable.

With all the focus this past weekend on the school-funding debate, many people may not realize that the Legislature also approved a bill to have Kansas join a compact of states seeking to exempt themselves from federal health care rules. House Bill 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 full authority to determine how that money is spent and which rules, regulations and policies are followed.

Initially, the bill was dismissed by many observers as yet more GOP grandstanding against Obamacare. It also wasn’t taken too seriously because Congress must approve the compact, and that won’t happen with the U.S. Senate controlled by Democrats. But given the strong possibility that Republicans will gain full control of Congress after the November elections, this issue is no longer just benign political posturing: It’s a real and present danger.

Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita, offered an amendment to exclude Medicare from the compact, but House members – all Republicans – rejected it. Not only that, some argued that seniors would be better off if Kansas controlled Medicare.

“The health care compact helps to protect the future of Medicare,” said Rep. Brett Hildabrand, R-Shawnee.

Seriously? Has he tried renewing a driver’s license or registering to vote in Kansas? KanCare can’t even pay doctors and hospitals on time.

What type of new bureaucracy would the state need to manage Medicare? What would be the rules? Would seniors continue to receive the prescription-drug benefits that are part of the ACA (which so far have saved Kansans on Medicare nearly $94 million)? What happens if there is another economic downturn and the state is short of money?

The fact is, lawmakers have no idea how the compact, which was cooked up by an out-of-state group, would work.

“It could jeopardize the coverage and benefits that seniors have come to count on,” Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger warned – to no avail.

And it’s not only seniors who could be affected. So would some Kansans with disabilities and children. And even though the bill excludes military health care, most veterans who are 65 and older get their primary health care through Medicare.

This bill is not the serious, careful policymaking that is necessary when dealing with the lives and well-being of vulnerable citizens.

Kansans have put up with a lot with these lawmakers. This time they’ve gone too far.

For the editorial board, Phillip Brownlee

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