Saturday, August 30, 2014

Feds failed with website; Kansas failed on health care

By THE HUTCHINSON NEWS | 10/10/2013

The rollout of “Obamacare” hasn’t been as envisioned, and Kansans are suffering from the failure of both the health care program’s namesake but mostly because of their state’s hostility toward it.

One of the signature features of the Affordable Care Act – health insurance shopping exchanges – went into play Oct. 1. This is where consumers can shop for health insurance from a number of private insurance companies.

It is a great concept. Just like shopping for an airfare or hotel online.

The problem is the federal government has royally stumbled on the launch. The federal health insurance marketplace at Healthcare.Gov has been a mess. It simply wasn’t ready. Whether it works well most people don’t know because it can’t handle the traffic and users can’t make their way through the application process without website failures.

The government only confirmed its reputation for not being able to do anything right. Maybe a private technology company should have been contracted for the job.

A big part of the problem is huge interest in the marketplace. In a way, that’s a good problem to have. HealthCare.gov is handling inquiries from Americans in 36 states, including Kansas.

And that’s where state government’s failures play into the problems. Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback turned down a federal grant so the state could develop its own health insurance marketplace website. If we had taken advantage of this opportunity, we would have a marketplace and website of our own design. And one that works – like Colorado, for example.

Kansans who have been told that Obamacare is evil should check out www.connectforhealthco.com/. It is wonderful. Shopping for health insurance online really can be like shopping for an airline ticket. Kansas politicians shouldn’t be complaining about the federal website when they passed up the opportunity to have their own.

The second failure of our governor and Legislature was to turn away federal money to expand the state’s Medicaid program. As a result, Kansas has a big doughnut hole of people who are too poor to qualify for subsidies under the new federal health care program but too “wealthy” to qualify for the state’s stingy Medicaid program.

Between 130,000 and 150,000 Kansas adults will fall into this gap, Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger said. This would include, for example, a 28 year-old Kansan with annual income below the federal poverty level of $11,490. Likewise, a 63-year-old couple with annual income below $15,510 would qualify neither for the ACA program subsidy nor for Medicaid in Kansan.

That Kansas politicians effectively have denied health insurance to so many of their constituents all because of partisan politics is unconscionable. Not to mention deciding not to make buying insurance on the open marketplace better for consumers. Neither of these would have taken a dime away from their tax cuts for businesses and business owners.

Kansans shouldn’t be cheering them on for this. They should be outraged. They should run them out of office for it.

— The Hutchinson News

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