Nixon, Brownback to Washington: You do it
The Kansas City Star
Well, that didn’t take long.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon and Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback both said Thursday they wouldn’t partner with the federal government in setting up the insurance exchanges called for in the Affordable Care Act.
Like many governors, Nixon and Brownback had awaited the results of the presidential election to comment on whether they would participate in the exchanges. Republican nominee Mitt Romney had promised to undo the health care law signed by President Barack Obama, though it was unclear how he would have gone about that.
With Obama re-elected, the governors could no longer avoid a Nov. 16 deadline to notify the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services if they intended to partner in an exchange. Neither does, but for different reasons.
Nixon told reporters Thursday that he would prefer a state-federal partnership but a ballot proposition approved by voters Tuesday makes it impossible for him to move ahead on an exchange. Proposition E says the governor can’t set up an exchange without approval from either the legislature or a vote of the people.
“The only option for Missouri at this time is to indicate that we will be unable to proceed with a state-based exchange absent a change in circumstances,” Nixon said.
That’s not quite right. Nixon would work on an exchange and let the courts decide whether Proposition E represents an infringement on the governor’s constitutional authority. But that’s not his style.
Brownback had no regrets. He issued a news release informing the public that “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 costs Kansas taxpayers millions of dollars.”
That’s wrong, of course. The federal government would have paid for the technological infrastructure to set up the exchange, and most states are likely to will run their exchanges with user fees from insurance companies. Contrary to what opponents of the Affordable Care Act contend, the objective of the exchanges is to make insurance more affordable for people who purchase policies in the individual and small-group markets.
But Brownback has issued misstatements about the Affordable Care Act since taking office. His intransigence simply means that officials in Washington, led by former Kansas governor and now health and human services director Kathleen Sebelius, will design a health exchange for Kansas.
The same goes for Missouri. All of the irrational resistance to “Obamacare” has stripped the states of important decisions and functions and handed them to Washington. Legislators and governors have only themselves to blame.