Colyer testifies on federal health changes
TOPEKA (AP) — Kansas Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer told a congressional subcommittee on Wednesday that states face significant challenges under the federal health care overhaul even if they aren't expanding Medicaid coverage.
Colyer testified in Washington before the Joint Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Job Creation and Regulatory Affairs and Energy Policy, Health Care and Entitlement.
He and several Republican state officials from South Carolina and Florida testified that the law enacted in 2010 is flawed and detrimental to ordinary Americans, as well as creating uncertainty for businesses. The law takes effect on Oct. 1, though some parts of the implementation have been delayed.
"This is damaging to everyone, especially the middle class," said Colyer, who is a surgeon. "The effect of the Affordable Care Act on the economy is like ice on the wing of an airplane preventing it from taking off."
President Barack Obama and his allies tout the prospect of millions of uninsured Americans finding coverage, including through online health insurance markets that begin operating in October. But some congressional Republicans are trying to delay or prevent the law's implementation.
Lawmakers asked Colyer and other state officials last week to go to Washington to share their concerns. California Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier noted that much of the testimony included footnotes and appeared to be similar to talking points from the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative association that has opposed the health care act.
Colyer said his staff worked on the material until early Monday to get ready for the hearing.
The lieutenant governor said Kansas had made progress in providing health care for those residents enrolled in Medicaid through implementation of KanCare. The program launched in January uses three private, managed-care companies to administer the program, which Colyer said had resulted in a savings to the state without cutting reimbursement rates to providers or removing any residents from eligibility rolls.
Kansas has not accepted the federal offer to pay for expanding Medicaid over concerns that the state would be left to cover the expenses in future years.
Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger is unusual among Republican officials in Kansas in not harshly criticizing the federal health care law, and she said during a town hall meeting Tuesday night in Overland Park that the overhaul has some real benefits for consumers. About 250 people attended the event.
"It's not perfect — we all know that," she said. "But it's a step in the right direction of getting everyone in our country, hopefully, eventually, covered for health care services, and then we need to tackle the problem of health care costs."