Deal with reality: Obamacare stays
The Kansas City Star
For GOP leaders in Missouri and Kansas, the time for wishful thinking is past.
Mitt Romney will not have the chance to repeal “Obamacare,” as he promised in his campaign. So states must make important decisions about their participation in the Affordable Care Act. And quickly.
Governors face a Nov. 16 deadline to inform the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services about their level of involvement in state-based insurance exchanges.
Because of their own missteps, it is too late for Kansas and Missouri to create their own exchanges and have them operational by January 2014, as called for in the health care law. Their choice now is to partner with federal officials or accept an exchange designed by Washington.
The best course is to enter into a partnership. State officials could have a say in what would be required of health insurers, and continue assisting and educating consumers, among other things. The insurance departments in Missouri and Kansas are fulfilling those roles now, and there is no reason to turn the tasks over to the federal government.
Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger supports a partnership exchange and has requested a meeting with Gov. Sam Brownback. Kansas has already done some of the groundwork and would be in good shape to enter into a partnership if the governor overcomes his Obamacare paranoia.
In Missouri, the situation is trickier. Voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly passed Proposition E, which prohibits the governor or any state agency from “establishing or operating state-based health insurance exchanges unless authorized by a vote of the people or by the legislature.”
It is unclear how that language affects Gov. Jay Nixon’s ability to enter into a partnership with the federal government, or even if employees in the insurance department can lay the groundwork for one. Nixon, who won re-election on Tuesday, needs to convene his legal team to figure that out quickly.
Missouri is far behind the curve on preparing for an insurance exchange. It desperately needs to modernize its Medicaid technology systems, for starters. Nixon and key lawmakers must acknowledge reality and get to work on a plan to present to the legislature in January that would enable the state to have a say over its own insurance exchange.