TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas residents will see some changes this fall in how they buy health insurance because of the 2010 federal law championed by President Barack Obama. The state is having the federal government set up an online insurance marketplace known as an exchange.
Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and many members of the GOP-dominated Legislature are critics of the law and wanted the state to have no involvement in an exchange. But the governor hasn't made any decision about whether the state will expand its Medicaid program under the law.
Here are answers to a few common questions.
How many people are uninsured in Kansas?
About 361,000 Kansas residents do not have health insurance, or about 13 percent of the state's population, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau estimates.
How many Kansas residents are covered by Medicaid?
About 343,000 needy or elderly Kansans are covered by Medicaid and another 49,000 children are covered by a state health insurance program for working-class families. Kansas has turned over the administration of Medicaid to three private health insurers and renamed the program KanCare.
What are the prospects for a Medicaid expansion in Kansas?
Officials in Brownback's administration and many GOP legislators are skeptical that the federal government will keep its promise to finance almost all the additional costs through 2020, given its own financial problems. Brownback's administration is preparing estimates on the potential costs of an expansion, but the Kansas Health Institute predicts enrollment in Medicaid would jump by about 240,000, with about 104,000 from the ranks of the uninsured.
What has the state done about an exchange?
In 2011, pressure from conservative GOP lawmakers prompted Brownback to reject nearly $32 million in federal funds for building the computer infrastructure. The governor declared in November that Kansas would not form a partnership with the federal government.
So Kansas will have no role in the exchange?
The state isn't likely to escape all involvement, according to the state Insurance Department.
The department expects to pass judgment on whether companies that want to sell insurance through the exchange are qualified to do so, whether the federal government has its own review. And it expects to handle consumer complaints.
The department is led by elected Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger, a moderate Republican who has been at odds with Brownback over state involvement in the exchange.