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Health care compact bill approved by House committee

Members of a House committee Tuesday voted to support Kansas joining a multistate compact formed to challenge the federal government’s authority to set health policy.

After just a few minutes of discussion, Republicans on the Health and Human Services Committee voted to send to the floor House Bill 2520, which would authorize Kansas participation in the Interstate Health Care Compact.

Once 20 or more states have joined the compact, proponents of the bill have said the member states will demand that Congress ratify an agreement to return tax dollars used to fund Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program to the states. The member states would then be free to manage those programs as they see fit.

Similar bills have passed and been signed into law in four states: Georgia, Texas, Missouri and Oklahoma. Governors in Arizona and Montana have vetoed compact bills in their states.

"This is a bill that deserves to have some good debate," said Rep. Peggy Mast, an Emporia Republican. "I think we ought to kick it out of committee and give the people in the House an opportunity to debate it."

The lone comment against the bill was from Rep. Geraldine Flaharty, a Wichita Democrat, who moved to table the bill.

"I realize this is a states' rights statement," she said, "But I don't think this bill really accomplishes anything."

The bill is based on model legislation promoted by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a nonprofit, pro-business organization that includes state legislators – mostly conservative Republicans – and businesses as members.

Its chief sponsor, Rep. Jim Denning, an Overland Park Republican, told KHI News Service after the meeting that the bill had potential to be more than a symbolic gesture.

"Right now we're just telling the federal government 'Hey, everybody back in Kansas thinks that we can do a better job than you're doing.' That's the initial blush of the legislation," Denning said. "If we get up to a critical mass of say 15 or 20 states, I think we have a vehicle to make it a reality."

→ Find the bill and read about other bills approved by the committee on