Thursday, April 10, 2014

‘Health Care Compact’ bill sent to governor despite opposition

A bill authorizing Kansas to join other states in an attempt to gain control of federal health care dollars was approved by the Legislature before it adjourned Sunday.

House Bill 2553, or the ‘Health Care Compact’ bill, would allow Kansas to petition Congress for the right to decide how health care programs are structured and funded in the state.

Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger joined with the Kansas AARP to oppose the measure, citing its potential to transfer oversight of the federal Medicare program to state officials.

According to the Lawrence Journal-World, Praiger said House Bill 2553 would place federal funding for all health care services and health plans under the control of the Kansas Legislature and governor. Praeger also said if state revenues fall short then the funds for Medicare and other health programs could be used to support other state function.

“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.

KHI News Service also reported on the commissioner’s opposition.

“It could jeopardize the coverage and benefits that seniors have come to count on,” Praeger said. “Kansans have paid into this program through payroll taxes and expect to receive the benefits they have been promised.”

Gene Meyer, chief executive officer of Lawrence Memorial Hospital, said to the Lawrence Journal World that the bill had the "potential to seriously damage hospitals and physicians in our ability to continue to deliver quality care to those we serve."

The House passed the compact bill, 74-48, on March 24.

However, some critics say that the bill is merely a symbolic statement by those opposed to the Affordable Care Act. The compact could not take effect unless approved by Congress, for that to happen the Affordable Care Act would have to be repealed with Congress ceding all authority to the states for healthcare funding.  

Kansas is the eighth state to endorse the compact. If approved by Congress, the member states could receive federal Medicare and Medicaid dollars as block grants, giving them the ability to restructure the programs.

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