Brownback Health Insurance Exchange Decision Spurs Protest

Brownback Health Insurance Exchange Decision Spurs Protest

Protesters gather on Capitol steps to question refusal to set up insurance exchange, decision to privatize Medicaid

On Thursday, Gov. Sam Brownback made it clear that he will not allow the state to set up its own health insurance exchange nor will be allow it to partner with the federal government to set up an exchange.

The online exchanges in each state are required by the Affordable Care Act of 2010 and are scheduled to begin offering open enrollment on Oct. 1, 2013 with coverage to kick in on Jan. 1, 2014. In states that are not ready or are unwilling to set up an exchange, the federal department of Health and Human Services will run exchanges.

HEALTH PROTEST: A group of protesters gathered outside the Capitol building in Topeka shortly after noon on Friday, expressing concern about Gov. Sam Brownback's decision to refuse to set up a state-run insurance exchange.

On Friday, a group of protesters held a rally on the steps of the State Capitol building expressing their objection to Brownback's decision. They gathered peaceably shortly after noon and head from two speakers expressing concern that the governor's decision not to participate in the Affordable Care Act, to privatize Medicaid and not to expand Medicaid coverage put vulnerable Kansans at risk.

The exchange is designed to provide a competitive marketplace where self-employed individuals, small business owners and workers whose employers do not offer health care coverage can shop for private insurance.  Most farmers in Kansas are among the likely customers for the exchange.

Government subsidies will help low-income workers pay the premiums on those policies. States are also being offered federal help to expand Medicaid program to cover those who can't afford coverage, even with help.

Brownback action came after a request from Kansas State Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger asking for him to sign off on a grant application that would have allowed the state to proceed with setting up a federal partnership on an exchange. Deadline for states to notify Washington if they intend to set up an exchange is next Friday, Nov. 16.

In refusing to participate, Brownback issued a statement in a press release.

"Kansans feel Obamacare is an overreach by Washington 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," the release read.

Last year, Brownback returned a $31.5 million federal grant that had been awarded to Kansas after Praeger submitted a proposal for a state exchange in 2010, prior to Brownback's election in November of that year.

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