The Republicans in Washington are wasting no time in moving to dismantle much of the federal government as we have come to know it. Under threat are scores of environmental regulations and labor reforms; the country’s social safety net, which includes the Affordable Care Act,
Medicaid and Medicare, is apparently due for a big makeover; and many significant policy prescriptions, including treaties, trade agreements and economic pacts with European and Asian nations, are under threat of dissolution. And there is bound to be intra-party squabbling over that Supreme
Court vacancy (alt-right conservative, or neo-facist conservative?), the one President Obama sought to fill nearly a year ago but was blocked by Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader.
This and more leads to the congressional trickle-down, the relationship that Kansas officials seek to cultivate with Washington, including the flow of federal dollars into local pockets and, equally important, the power of federal regulation to reinforce state policy. This point is often overlooked in the rush to forecast what may or may not come from – or through – Topeka during a legislative session.
One bold example: Three years ago, during the 2014 session of the Kansas Legislature, ruling Republicans crafted House Bill 2553, a measure that would put Kansas in charge of federal health care programs in Kansas, including Medicare. The legislation allowed Kansas to join a multi-state compact that would transfer health care decision-making and responsibility from the federal Medicare system to member states. Kansas, for example, would implement its own health care system, using Medicare funds collected in Kansas. (In effect, a license to steal.)
The Compact would take effect only if approved by both chambers of the U.S. Congress – not likely then, but possible now, given Republican control of the House, Senate and White House. Eight other states had joined the Health Care Compact: Oklahoma, Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Missouri, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah.
The issue today is whether Kansas seniors are so dissatisfied with Medicare that they want the state to take it over.
Consider the prospects by recalling how the state manages a simple task like issuing driver licenses, or voter registration; KanCare, the Brownback administration’s half-witted Medicaid takeover, still won’t pay doctors or hospitals on time, if at all, and is now a colossal failure. And they want to manage Medicare?
With Washington now in complete Republican control, Kansas legislators could resume their quest to take over Medicare, brother of Social Security. Those Medicare dollars would go a long way to fix that monstrous state budget deficit.
– JOHN MARSHALL