KHI News Service

Praeger seeks quick insurance exchange answer from governor

Insurance commissioner says Obama victory means "full steam ahead" with the Affordable Care Act

By Jim McLean | November 07, 2012

Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger.

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Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger said today that she wants to meet this week with Gov. Sam Brownback about how to move forward with implementation of the federal health reform law.

<a name="continued"></a>Specifically, Praeger said she wants to talk to Brownback about the state partnering with the federal government on a health insurance purchasing exchange. Kansas no longer has the option of designing its own online insurance marketplace but it can still partner on one with federal officials, if it acts quickly, she said.

Praeger said partnering with the federal government on an exchange would allow the state to maintain its authority to review and license insurance plans.

Praeger, a moderate Republican who supports the reform law, said she must let federal officials know by Friday, Nov. 16 whether the state intends to partner on an exchange. But she said she needs the governor’s blessing on that and a grant application her department has prepared, which must be submitted by Thursday, Nov. 15.

“The governor needs to agree that he won’t oppose us applying for the grant,” Praeger said. “He doesn’t have to give tacit approval necessarily, but just indicate it’s OK if we want to move forward on this.”

Brownback, a conservative Republican, voted against the Affordable Care Act as a member of the U.S. Senate and as governor has tried to block its implementation pending the outcome of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the law and then later the outcome of the presidential race.

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Insurance Commissioner Praeger: Governor's approval needed to move forward

Brownback in August 2011 rejected a $31.5 million federal grant intended to help Kansas develop an exchange as part of a program to develop models for other states to use.

Praeger said President Obama’s re-election means that the reform law won’t be repealed. It also means that states that have been slow to act will have to play catch up to meet approaching implementation deadlines.

Under the law, each state is to have an exchange operational by Jan. 2014.

“It’s time to stop resisting,” Praeger said.

Sherriene Jones-Sontag, Brownback's chief spokesperson said, "the governor is always willing to meet with Commissioner Praeger."

But she didn't directly answer the question whether the governor would accede to moving forward on an insurance exchange or otherwise implement the Affordable Care Act.

“The people of Kansas have spoken loudly three times, they want us to pursue Kansas solutions," Jones-Sontag said referring to the past three state elections, including two generals and a primary. "We are discussing options and alternatives with like-minded states and with our legislative partners in Kansas.”

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