By Elise Reuter
KU Statehouse Wire Service
Kansas legislators are considering joining an interstate compact in response to the Affordable Care Act.
The Committee of Federal and State Affairs held a hearing on House Bill 2553 Tuesday, which would join Kansas with eight other states through the Health Care Compact, effectively giving state legislators jurisdiction over health care in Kansas.
“The topic of health care is too large and too complex for a cookie-cutter approach to be applied broadly across the nation,” said Rep. Brett HildabrandR-Shawnee. “This health care compact allows the state of Kansas to address those concerns.”
If passed, the state would be responsible for securing funding and the consent of Congress, both of which are required for Kansas to manage its own health care. The compact would not, however, require President Barack Obama’s signature to go into effect. While the compact would not automatically repeal the Affordable Care Act in Kansas, legislators would be able to suspend federal laws regarding health care.
To fund these changes, Kansas would request just under $7 billion from the federal government. This figure was determined on federal spending for health in Kansas in 2010. But the compact will only become effective with the approval of Congress, which is unlikely to pass under the current body.
“It [the compact] would not make it through both houses at the current time, but could make it through after the next election,” said Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, R-Shawnee. “This would be a very real achievement for the state of Kansas.”
While proponents of the bill argued that Kansas could use the money more efficiently than under the current system, opponents critiqued the lack of a concrete plan.
“There are no solutions involved in any portion of this bill,” said Sean Gatewood, Interim Executive Director of the Kansas Health Consumer Coalition. “What is there to say that this would make it any better?”
Some were more concerned with the potential changes and cuts that the state might choose to make. David Wilson, president of the AARP of Kansas, expressed concerns that changes to Medicare, Medicaid, children’s health and veteran’s programs could be damaging to Kansas residents.
Others speculated whether the bill would even be passed by Congress.
“All of these solutions are speculative, because it hasn’t happened,” said Rep. Valdenia Winn, D-Kansas City. “Right now we’re in the dream world.”