New legislation being considered by state lawmakers would place federal funding for all health care services and health plans under the control of the state legislature and governor.

Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger today warned Kansas seniors that legislation being considered by state lawmakers would place federal funding for all health care services and health plans under the control of the state legislature and governor.  

The House Federal and State Affairs Committee has approved House Bill 2553, and it is currently before the full House of Representatives.

“This legislation would include but is not limited to Medicare, Medicaid, the children’s health insurance program (HealthWave), rural hospitals, Hospice and federally qualified health centers (FQHC),” Commissioner Praeger said. “The funding would be received in a block grant to the state, and the state legislature would decide how to spend those health care dollars.”

Commissioner Praeger said that, under the legislation, if the state budget is under-funded in the future, money that should be used to support the Medicare program for seniors in Kansas could be swept from that program to support other state responsibilities.

“It is already happening with dollars meant for highway programs and funds in other state agencies being taken and used to offset spending for other legislative priorities,” Commissioner Praeger said,  “caused in part by the reduction in state income taxes.

“Supporters of the bill may tell you it doesn’t affect Medicare, but that is just not true.  It could jeopardize the coverage and benefits that seniors have come to count on. It would be a serious mistake to turn the Medicare program over to state control. Kansans have paid into this program through payroll taxes and expect to receive the benefits they have been promised.”

Gene Meyer, CEO of Lawrence Memorial Hospital, commented, “This proposal is extremely significant to our fragile health care system in Kansas and would have the potential to seriously damage hospitals and physicians in our ability to continue to deliver quality care to those we serve.

AARP has also voiced opposition to the compact legislation.

Governors in Arizona, New Mexico and Montana have already vetoed similar compact legislation in their states, stating among other concerns the fact that Medicare programs in their respective states could be in jeopardy, the Commissioner said.

“In Kansas there are 448,000 Medicare beneficiaries who rely on this important program to fund their health care services,” Commissioner Praeger said.  “I encourage them to call their legislators and let them know that they need to leave the funding for Medicare alone.  This compact is ill-conceived and has many consequences that can be damaging to our health care delivery system and the citizens of Kansas and their health care services.”