Dave Helling

Dave Helling: Yoder’s vote on GOP health plan could have political consequences

This week, U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder will tell you if he thinks Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback should be in charge of your health care. The congressman is being asked to take a tough vote on a proposal that may never become law.
This week, U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder will tell you if he thinks Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback should be in charge of your health care. The congressman is being asked to take a tough vote on a proposal that may never become law. The Kansas City Star

Democrat Jay Sidie had a simple strategy last year when he ran against U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder in Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District.

He linked Yoder with Gov. Sam Brownback.

Sidie knew Brownback was unpopular in the state, historically so. That was particularly true in the 3rd District, where school funding is a major issue.

Connecting Yoder to Brownback would be simple and devastating, Sidie thought.

The gambit didn’t work. Yoder easily distanced himself from Brownback — it turned out the congressman and the governor had never even served together in state government. And the tax and spending problems in Kansas weren’t federal issues.

Yoder won by 10 points in a district carried by Hillary Clinton.

The outcome may have convinced Republicans that connecting Yoder to state government would be difficult, if not impossible, for any Democratic opponent. And they were right — until now.

House Republicans are nearing a vote on a health care reform proposal concocted by conservative Republicans and House leadership. The vote could come by Thursday.

The proposal does many things. Most crucially, though, it gives states the right to eliminate the minimum insurance benefit requirement in Obamacare.

Under current law, insurance policies have to cover things such as emergency services, behavioral treatments and pregnancy. The law now also limits the amount insurers can charge for patients with pre-existing conditions like cancer or diabetes.

If the House replacement passes, those coverages could go away over the next few years.

Ending those benefits would not require legislative action. Instead, a state could simply request a waiver, which would be automatically granted after easy conditions are met.

If Kansans elect a Republican in 2018 to replace Brownback — and a Republican will be the favorite — the current essential benefits policy will be in serious jeopardy. Kansans would face the prospect of largely worthless insurance policies with high deductibles and narrow treatment options.

A pre-existing condition? Sorry. Pay dramatically higher premiums, or find yourself dumped into an underfunded high-risk pool.

Maternity benefits? Optional.

This week, Yoder will tell you if he thinks someone in Kansas should be in charge of your health care.

That might be, say, Kris Kobach. Or it could be Yoder — if he runs for governor.

Any Democratic candidate would soon point out the obvious: Gov. Yoder would almost certainly end essential benefits coverage. Yoder could hardly vote against Obamacare in Congress but embrace it as governor.

The TV ad almost writes itself, whatever office Yoder seeks.

He’s smart enough to understand this. There are reports he’s reluctant to vote for the bill.

Remember, there’s no guarantee the Senate will ever take up the House bill if it passes. Yoder is being asked to take a tough vote on a proposal that may never become law.

There’s a theory in some quarters that Yoder is invulnerable to a challenge in the 3rd District. To suggest otherwise, one columnist recently wrote, would be “pure folly.”

Perhaps. The road to defeat, though, is paved with elected officials who thought they couldn’t lose. They voted accordingly and lived to regret it.

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