Gov. Sam Brownback issued a statement yesterday that he won't support submitting an application by the November 16 deadline mandated by the Affordable Care Act, and Gov. Jay Nixon stated that he will respect the wishes of Missouri voters, who approved a ballot measure that prohibits the governor from creating an exchange without the input of the Legislature. The position of both governors doesn't stop their states from having a government-run exchange (an online arena where businesses and individuals could compare private health insurance plans). Under the terms of the health care law, the federal government will design and implement the exchange by 2014. And the person responsible for that process is Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the former governor of Kansas.
"Obamacare is an overreach by Washington and (Kansans) have rejected the state's participation," Gov. Brownback said in a release. "We will not benefit from it and implementing it could cost Kansas taxpayers millions of dollars."
While his political stance is understandable, the result of that decision places Gov. Brownback, in particular, in a difficult position. Ceding the responsibility of creating an exchange to the federal government stands in contrast to a core conservative principle of state determinism. In Missouri, Gov. Nixon can logically suggest that his hands are tied. The voters require the input of the General Assembly. The General Assembly is out of session until January. That's that. In Kansas, Gov. Brownback is the one drawing the line by saying he won't support Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger's application for a health insurance exchange.
At a time when both Missouri and Kansas are moving to the right, it's fascinating that such a huge decision would be left to a former governor who stands for the last echo of liberalism in Kansas.