The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

September 25, 2012

Kansas governor asked to set health exchange ’benchmark’

TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas’ insurance regulator is asking Gov. Sam Brownback to spell out the requirements for health coverage to be sold in a new online marketplace mandated by the federal health care overhaul, but Brownback still plans to make no decisions until after the presidential election.

Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger made her recommendations public Tuesday, a day after she sent the conservative Republican governor a letter containing her proposals for the “benchmark plan” that companies must offer to participate in the online marketplace. The federal health care law says such marketplaces, known as exchanges, will start operating in 2014.

Praeger’s proposal calls for requiring companies to offer the same coverage Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas does in its comprehensive plan for small groups, along with additional coverage for children’s eye and dental care. The commissioner noted in her letter that if Brownback does not set the state’s requirements by the end of September, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services could do it for the state.

Brownback has strongly criticized the federal health care law, enacted in 2010 and championed by President Barack Obama. Praeger, a moderate Republican, has praised the law as an important step toward providing universal access to health insurance, and she and Brownback disagree over how aggressive the state should be in setting up an exchange.

“My administration will not make any decisions regarding the implementation of Obamacare until after the November elections,” Brownback said in a statement Tuesday, reiterating the stance he’s long held.

The online marketplaces would allow consumers to comparison shop and are sometimes described as the health coverage equivalent of websites such as Travelocity. Kansas hasn’t started to set one up because Brownback and Republicans who control the Legislature oppose the law.

 

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