Barbara Shelly

Jeff Colyer, phone home

Updated: 2013-09-25T22:10:02Z

By Barbara Shelly

The Kansas City Star

Kansas Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer has been on an anti-Obamacare tear.

Last week he testified before a congressional subcommittee in Washington, implausibly blaming the Affordable Care Act for economic malaise in Kansas.

“Businesses are scared to invest in jobs, they’re scared to invest in expansion and they’re scared to invest in Kansas’ future,” said Colyer, a Republican.

Colyer’s dour claims seem to counter the more upbeat outlook from Gov. Sam Brownback and promoters of the controversial income tax cuts that were supposed to kickstart the Kansas economy. In any case, blaming health care reform for any and all of the state’s ills is, as Republican state insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger told the Topeka Capital- Journal, “balony.”

Colyer was at it again today, griping that he doesn’t think the new online insurance exchange the federal government set up for Kansas is competitive enough.

Actually, to most observers, the initial numbers coming out of Washington about the Kansas exchange look pretty good. Consumers will have a choice of 37 health plans. Once subsidies are factored in, the average rate for an individual to purchase a midlevel policy will be $260 a month. For a family of four, the monthly cost will be $282. Keep in mind that most Kansans will continue to be covered by their employers. Many of the people who will purchase on the exchange have been priced out of policies in the past.

But, in any case, if Colyer had wanted Kansas’ exchange to be more competitive, he should have argued in favor of the state designing its own marketplace. Instead, Colyer and Brownback insisted on returning $31.5 million in federal money intended to help Kansas set up a state-run exchange. That fit of Obamacare pique is the reason Kansas will go with a federally run marketplace.

Instead of piling on with Obamacare blame in Washington, Colyer might want to check in on his state’s KanCare program, of which he was a chief architect.

The Wichita Eagle reported last week that hospitals in that area have seen big increases in the number of Medicaid claims denied by the three managed care insurance companies hired by the state to care for low-income and disabled Kansans. Executives are complaining about administrative red tape, time spent on appeals and pressure on their bottom lines. A spokeswoman for the Kansas Hospital Association said the problem appears to be occurring statewide.

Now there’s an actual, serious problem that Colyer can, and should, do something about. Politically, though, there’s a lot of mileage to be gained in complaining about Obamacare.

To reach Barbara Shelly, call 816-234-4594 or send email to bshelly@kcstar.com. Follow her at Twitter.com/bshelly.

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