Some conservative Kansas
lawmakers are pushing to sever the state from the authority of the Affordable Care Act
Rep. Brett Hildabrand, a Shawnee Republican, introduced a bill in the House Committee on Federal and State Affairs this past week to make Kansas a member of the Health Care Compact, which is a group of states asking Congress to give them independence from the federal healthcare law.
Eight states, including Missouri and Oklahoma, have approved plans to join the compact, the Wichita Eagle newspaper
Hildabrand said he got the idea from an email conversation with Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, a Shawnee Republican, and Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach.
Pilcher-Cook, chairwoman of the Senate Public Health and Welfare committee, conducted meetings last week about the ACA's impact on small businesses.
A Houston-based organization, Competitive Governance Action, designed the legislation. Craig Ellis, a spokesman for the group, said the organization doesn't disclose its donor list and doesn't accept donations from the healthcare industry.
A similar bill was passed by the Kansas House in 2012, but it never made it through the Senate. Hildabrand said he didn't have any contact with the organization before introducing the bill.
Member states would have the ability to "suspend by legislation the operation of all federal laws, rules, regulations, and orders regarding healthcare," according to the bill.
That means member states would be allowed to set their own rules and regulations, Ellis said. If Vermont wanted to adopt a single-payer healthcare system, for instance, it could. By the same token, if Kansas wanted to pursue a business-based solution, it could do that, as well.
"That's the beauty of it. They get to determine," Ellis said.
He said states are better suited than Washington to make that determination for their residents. Under the plan, states would still receive the funds allocated for the ACA but could decide for themselves how to use them.
That is contingent on Congress giving states the autonomy to do that, however.
For the bill to go into effect, Congress must agree to give states the power to enter into compacts, or interstate agreements, as allowed in the U.S. Constitution. No presidential signature would be needed.
"The Constitution is quite clear on this. Congress must give consent. It does not say anything about the president," Ellis said.
While Congress is unlikely to approve such a plan right now, Hildabrand said, that door could be opened if Republicans take control of the U.S. Senate in November.
Rep. Jim Ward, a Wichita Democrat who has been a strong proponent of Medicaid
expansion, said the Legislature should take up more practical measures to improve healthcare for Kansans. He said lawmakers need to conduct more serious — and less ideological — discussions about improving healthcare.
"It's time for my extreme conservative colleagues to say with those being the problems, what are some solutions, without always being against the Affordable Care Act," he said.