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July 25, 2011
TOPEKA Two of the state's leading business groups are joining with the Kansas Insurance Department to sponsor a series of August forums about plans for a Kansas health insurance exchange.
The Kansas Chamber and the National Federation of Independent Business will partner with insurance department officials to collect input from businesses across the state on how to design and implement an insurance exchange.
The federal health reform law of 2010 requires that each state have a plan in place for an exchange by Jan. 1, 2013 in order to be operational by Jan. 1, 2014.
So far, Louisiana is the only state to signal that it will not form an exchange. The Affordable Care Act has provisions that allow the federal government to create the exchanges in states that choose not to do their own.
At least two states, Massachusetts and Utah, already have exchanges.
Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger secured a $31 million "innovation" grant from federal officials in order to begin planning for a Kansas exchange. Work groups have been meeting the past several months discussing how the exchange might operate. Also, an interim committee of the Kansas Legislature is studying the issue in anticipation of the 2012 legislative session.
The exchanges are intended to be online marketplaces where people can shop for and purchase health insurance or enroll in government-subsidized health plans.
Under the reform law, states also are expected to establish Small Business Health Options Programs or SHOP exchanges by January 2014. The SHOP exchanges are intended to bring business owners and small business employees together with insurance providers to assist in selecting and enrolling in health plans.
"As Kansas works to establish an exchange, it's important that the business community has plenty of opportunity to offer input on the exchange," Kent Beisner, chief executive of the Kansas Chamber, said in a prepared statement. "Ultimately, these businesses are the end user and if the exchange is not consumer friendly or doesn't offer competitive and affordable health plans, we're wasting our time. These meetings will provide the input from the business community the insurance department needs to hear."
"We look forward to hearing from business owners and leaders on how a Kansas exchange can best benefit our state," Praeger said.
There is no cost to attend the forums. But those interested in attending are asked to RSVP at least seven days in advance to either email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Those with questions can call the Kansas Chamber at (785) 357-6321.
All meetings are from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. They are scheduled for the following dates and locations:
• Topeka - Monday, Aug. 8 at the Kansas Museum of History (map)
• Overland Park - Monday, Aug. 15 at KU Edwards Campus, Regnier Hall Auditorium (map)
• Hays - Thursday, Aug. 18 at Hays Medical Center, Hadley Conference Rooms (map)
• Wichita - Monday, Aug. 22 at Hughes Metropolitan Complex (map)