Kansas says no to insurance exchange, refuses to comply on HCR

Following a rejection of $31.5 million in funds to build a health insurance exchange, Kansas made it clear yesterday that they will not be complying with federal heath care reform until the US Supreme Court makes a ruling on the constitutionality of the law.  Earlier this month, the state was awarded $31.5 million in grants from the Department of Health and Human Services to create a health insurance exchange; the state was one of six awarded “early innovator,” grants for the merits of its original application.  The state applied for funds before the election of now Governor Sam Brownback, who believes health care reform is unconstitutional and subsequently rejected the money.

When the Governor rejected the funds, he said that the state would be looking at ways to handle the insurance exchange on its own without the use of federal funds. Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, all states are required to build a health insurance exchange which will allow consumers to clearly see and compare health insurance policies, states that do not do this by the 2013 deadline will have one created for them by the Department of Health and Human services.

On Tuesday, the Governors administration clarified their position and said that they would not create an exchange until the US Supreme Court made a ruling on the constitutionality of the law. The announcement came on the heels of the state’s acceptance of a $3.2 million grant funded by money from the health care reform law to provide support for public health immunizations and programs to help people stop smoking.

The Governor’s administration stated its position on the health insurance exchange requirement at the same time it announced the creation of the Kansas Eligibility Enforcement System (KEES), a program designed to help identify waste, fraud and abuse in Medicaid and other public benefits programs. Money for (KEES) comes from the federal government, although the Brownback administration made it clear that it was not part of federal health care reform.

Governor Brownback and Republicans have been making bold moves to ensure their view of how health care should be managed statewide. The legislature recently passed a law that restructured how it will spend federal funding for family planning, the measure allocated the funds to public health departments and hospitals first, leaving no money for Planned Parenthood or other providers that have long been unpopular with Republicans. Under the terms of the new law, Planned Parenthood would’ve been paid monthly and only for services provided, a significant change in how Title X funds are administered. The plan would’ve forced Planned Parenthood to cut services in some areas of the state.

Yesterday, U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten ordered the state to resume funding Planned Parenthood on its original schedule. Even though the clinics will remain open, state lawmakers, in a separate new law, curbed their ability to provide services, requiring a level of regulation that is almost impossible to maintain. Supporters of the regulation are against the clinics providing abortion services in the state.

The state is also seeking $6.6 million in federal funds to promote marriage by providing counseling to unwed parents and giving them free marriage licenses.