Lieutenant governors in Missouri, Kansas agitated over Obamacare

09/28/2013 5:13 PM

09/28/2013 5:13 PM

The rollout of the new insurance marketplaces, courtesy of Obamacare, has rattled Republican politicians like a disturbance in the jungle. The agitation seen in Washington is just the beginning.

In Missouri, Peter Kinder yawned and stretched and emerged from the cave known as the lieutenant governor’s office to warn citizens away from Obamacare. He wants Missourians to steer clear of the new statewide marketplace, known as an exchange, where citizens can shop for an affordable insurance policy, using subsidies and tax credits if they qualify.

“I would hope there would be active resistance to this law — that people would not sign up,” Kinder said.

Easy for him to say. Kinder has received generous health care benefits, paid for by the citizens of Missouri, for 20 years, first as a state senator and more recently as a fixture in the office of ribbon cuttings and ceremonial duties.

Approximately 800,000 Missourians are not so fortunate. They have no health insurance coverage. About half of them would likely qualify for subsidized policies on the exchange, according to the Missouri Foundation for Health.

Most of the rest of the people who make up Missouri’s uninsured population would gain access to health care if the state would expand its pathetic Medicaid eligibility limits, something the General Assembly so far refuses to do. Another case of politicians with taxpayer-funded insurance policies refusing to help low-income families get access to care, even though the federal government would pick up most of the tab.

While Kinder was urging Missourians to act against their own interests, Kansas’ lieutenant governor was also on the prowl. Jeff Colyer has been pacing from Washington to Topeka, faulting Obamacare at every turn.

Testifying before a congressional subcommittee in D.C., Colyer said the law was harming the Kansas economy. “Businesses are scared to invest in jobs, they’re scared to invest in expansion and they’re scared to invest in Kansas’ future,” he said.

Hey, wait a second. I thought Gov. Sam Brownback’s income tax cuts were lighting a fire under the job creators in Kansas.

Well, perhaps not. Let’s get back to Colyer’s testimony, in which he gripes about the insurance exchange the federal government designed for Kansas. The timelines set for interfacing with the state’s data platform were unreasonable, Colyer said. The lack of education and outreach about the exchange is “disappointing.” There’s not enough competition among insurers.

Actually, Kansans will have 37 separate plans from which to choose, and rates will be less than what many people expected.

But what makes Colyer’s complaints so eyepopping is that he and Brownback, in a fit of Obamacare pique, actually sent back $31.5 million in federal money that Kansas could have used to set up its own exchange. That would have taken care of the technical challenges and made the exchange more attractive to insurers.

As for outreach, well, who better to spread the word to Kansans about the new health insurance opportunity than an energetic lieutenant governor?

Colyer might not have time, however. Kansas hospitals are raising a fuss about KanCare, the managed care program Colyer helped design for the state’s low-income and disabled citizens. The Wichita Eagle


that the insurance companies hired by the state to manage the program are increasingly denying Medicaid claims from hospitals. Executives are complaining about red tape, time spent on appeals and pressure on their bottom lines.

KanCare backers chalk up the latest problem to growing pains and pledge to work through them. What a concept — allowing a major health program time to work out the kinks. Think Colyer and others will afford that courtesy to Obamacare? Me neither.

The exchanges will go on line Tuesday, so expect disturbances in GOP-land to go on. Could it be that, in their heart of hearts, Republicans actually love Obamacare? What else gives even the lieutenant governors a chance to rumble?


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