Brownback Decides Against State Insurance Exchange

Published December 5, 2012

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback decided against implementing a state-based health insurance exchange in the wake of the presidential elections, but has not yet indicated whether he will support the Medicaid expansion required by President Obama’s law.

Brownback notified Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger that he would not support creating a state-based exchange or a state-federal “hybrid” exchange. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services created the hybrid model for exchanges, which have more shared responsibilities, through rulemaking in the wake of pushback from the states.

“Kansans feel Obamacare is an overreach by Washington,” Brownback said in a statement released to the press, “and have rejected the state’s participation in this federal program. My administration will not partner with the federal government to create a state-federal partnership insurance exchange because we will not benefit from it and implementing it could cost Kansas taxpayers millions of dollars.”

Up to Legislature Now

If Kansas elected officials want to pursue implementation of an exchange, they should consider legislation in the 2013 legislative session, Brownback added in his statement.

James Franko, communications director of the Kansas Policy Institute, said Brownback had indicated he would wait until after the election to make a decision on the exchange. He said Brownback was wise to reject a state-run exchange.

“Any exchange is going to be a federal program,” Franko said. “Anything pretending otherwise is just window dressing.”

Medicaid Remains Open Question

But the Medicaid expansion is still unresolved, Franko said.

“It’s an open question whether he would expand Medicaid or not. As we’ve talked to people in the legislature and across the state, we find they’re consistently opposed to it,” Franko said. “We would hope he wouldn’t expand Medicaid, because it could jeopardize the state’s ability to provide Medicaid to those who truly need it.”

In declaring Obama’s law constitutional in June, the Supreme Court said the federal government could not require states to expand their Medicaid programs. Franko says Kansas insurance commissioner Sandy Praeger is generally supportive of Obama’s health care reform law and publicly disagreed with Brownback’s decision to return grants to create the exchange. He noted she could be a factor in pushing to expand Medicaid in the state.

“She was dismayed when the governor returned the $31.5 million grant last year,” Franko said.