Kansas legislators are being urged to join a multistate compact formed to challenge the federal government’s authority to set health policy.
Dan Tripp, national field director for the nonprofit Health Care Compact Alliance, testified Monday to the House Health and Human Services Committee in support of a bill that would authorize Kansas’ membership in the Health Care Compact. Similar bills have passed and been signed into law in four states: Georgia, Texas, Missouri and Oklahoma.
The measures – including the one being considered in Kansas, House Bill 2520 – are based on model legislation promoted by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a nonprofit, pro-business organization that includes state legislators – mostly conservative Republicans – and businesses as members.
Tripp said once 20 or more states have joined the compact, they will demand that Congress ratify the agreement and return tax dollars used to fund Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program to the states. The member states would then be free to manage those programs as they see fit, Tripp said.
“Theoretically the state of Kansas could go to Washington and say, ‘Hey, we think we can do health care better. Give us the money,’” Tripp said. “Well, you know one state doing that is probably not going to work. What we’re trying to do is bring states together as an entity through the interstate compact so that we can get federal approval for the changes (we want) in health care policy.”
Tripp is a former South Carolina legislator and field director for Herman Cain’s suspended presidential campaign. He also served as national political director for Americans For Limited Government, which Politico and other national publications have reported has ties to Kansas businessmen Charles and David Koch. The Wichita-based Koch brothers have used their fortunes to help support organizations that advocate for reduced government spending and lower taxes.
The Health Compact Alliance does not disclose where it receives its financial support.
Tripp said the idea for the compact predated passage of the Affordable Care Act and its objectives are broader than nullification of the reform law.
“Where there are conflicts in health care regulations and laws between what a state wants to do and what the federal government does, it gives them (states) the ability to overturn those federal regulations. It gives the states that sovereignty,” Tripp said.
David Wilson, a Medicare recipient and volunteer lobbyist for AARP Kansas, urged members of the committee to reject the compact bill. He said giving states control over Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP would jeopardize the programs and put those who depend on them at risk.
“It is a frivolous measure that does nothing at best and at worst puts seniors, Kansans with disabilities and children at risk,” Wilson said, noting that governors in Arizona and Montana vetoed compact bills in their states.
Several committee members, most of them Democrats, also expressed opposition to the bill.
Representative Brenda Landwehr, R-Wichita, the committee chair, said she hadn’t decided whether to schedule a vote on the measure. Its chief sponsor, Rep. Jim Denning, R-Overland Park, said because the hearing seemed to generate many questions, he didn’t expect the committee would vote any time soon.
Still, he said, he supports the idea of a compact because he believes that Kansas policymakers could do better than the federal government at setting priorities and controlling costs.
“I really think it’s just that simple,” Denning said.