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Kansas officials ponder next health care step

Associated Press Published: November 7, 2012
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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials are considering their next steps to implement the federal health care law now that the presidential election has been decided and deadlines are looming.

The state has until Nov. 16 to tell the federal government whether it wants to be a partner in creating an online health insurance marketplace. Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger's office is preparing a partnership application and will seek grant money to implement the exchange.

But to do so, Praeger, a moderate Republican, must get a letter of support for the state's partnership from Gov. Sam Brownback, a conservative Republican who is opposed to the health care law. The two are expected to meet this week to discuss the letter and application.

Both are elected officials and have been at odds over how the state should proceed in implementing the law.

Linda Sheppard, project manager for implementing the law, said Praeger's staff hadn't spoken with the governor about what is included in the state's application and didn't speculate on the chances of his approval.

"He has been very consistent that he has not wanted to talk about this and not willing to look at these issues until after the election," Sheppard said.

Brownback delayed the state's decisions hoping that a Mitt Romney victory would lead to a reprieve for states. However, with President Barack Obama's victory on Tuesday night and a ruling this summer by the U.S. Supreme Court upholding the law, chances of the law's repeal vanished.

The governor's spokeswoman, Sherriene Jones Sontag, declined to speculate whether Brownback would sign off on the insurance department's application to partner with the federal exchange.

The federal health care law was a factor in Tuesday's legislative election results, following the trend set in 2010 when Brownback was elected and large numbers of conservative Republicans were elected to the Legislature. Nearly all ran on the platform of opposing the health care law over concerns that it was an unconstitutional intrusion on state and individual rights.

Those victories were followed by more wins by conservatives in the August primary and on Tuesday, which marked defeats of moderate Senate Republican incumbents who opposed a measure to amend the Kansas Constitution granting so-called health care freedom choices to residents.

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