Archive for Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Kansas: Brownback signs Medicare, gun bills

April 23, 2014

— Gov. Sam Brownback on Wednesday signed into law a bill that could put Kansas officials in charge of Medicare and other federally funded health programs in the state.

He also signed a bill that strips cities and counties of the power to regulate firearms and nullifies existing local gun ordinances. House Bill 2578 will also ensure that gun owners could openly carry their firearms across the state, though local officials still could prohibit open carrying in public buildings.

Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger, AARP and other health care groups had urged Brownback to veto the health care compact bill, saying the measure could jeopardize those programs because those federal dollars would be competing with other state budget pressures.

But in signing House Bill 2553, Brownback issued a statement saying it would protect Medicare from the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare after President Barack Obama.

"Obamacare is the most serious attack on Medicare and seniors since the program's inception. By cutting $700 million out of Medicare, President Obama and his allies made a policy statement that ideology is more important than protecting seniors," Brownback said.

Republican opponents of the ACA have repeatedly said the federal reform law took $700 billion from Medicare.

PolitiFact.com, a project of the Tampa Bay Times newspaper that fact checks statements made by politicians, said neither Obama nor the ACA cut a dollar amount from Medicare, but sought to bring down future health care costs in the program.

Under the new law, the state will be allowed to join an interstate compact in which the states would continue to receive federal health care dollars, and each state could administer the programs.

The measure could only be implemented if approved by Congress. As a compact, it doesn't need the president's approval to become law. Both sides have acknowledged that if Republicans take control of the U.S. Senate after the November elections, the health care compact could become a reality.

The bill was backed by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the Kansas Chamber, Republican elected officials who have been critical of the ACA, and a Texas-based group called Competitive Governance Action that says on its website that it is engaged in the devolution of government power.

Brownback said he would oppose any effort at the state level to reduce Medicare benefits or coverage to Kansas senior citizens.

Concerning the gun bill, the city of Lawrence has no ordinance prohibiting the open carry of a firearm. But local officials opposed the measure because they said communities best know what ordinances would work best locally.

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