TOPEKA - It wasn’t as bad as State Rep. Jason Probst, D-Hutchinson, suspected. But it could be better, he concluded.
Probst testified before the House Insurance Committee Monday afternoon for legislation he spearheaded to protect those with pre-existing health conditions if the federal Affordable Care Act vanishes along with its language enabling those with pre-existing conditions to obtain insurance. These conditions range from heart attacks, strokes and cancer to concussions, varicose veins, and attention deficit disorder.
Probst said he assumed initially that more Kansans would be denied health insurance. But there are state-level safeguards that would serve Kansans covered by large and small group insurance policies, his research found, if the ACA ended. Left without those protections are those on individual insurance policies, he found.
House Bill 2074 “simply codifies Kansas law across all types of health insurance in the state,” Probst said in his written testimony.
Should the bill move forward, he said in his prepared remarks, “the state-level protections that exist will be extended across all types of health insurance, creating consistency and predictability in Kansas statute for those residents who have pre-existing conditions,” Probst said.
Probst spearheaded the bill. The 17 co-sponsors are all Democrats. The only other testimony for the Probst bill was written testimony from Ken Johnson, president and chief executive officer of Hutchinson Regional Healthcare System.
“There’s a very good likelihood that every member of this committee has a pre-existing condition. I certainly do. As does my mother, my siblings, my children, and most of the people I know,” Probst said in his written statement.
“I believe the committee will find this legislation isn’t overreaching or onerous in any way. It doesn't reach any further than current law for other types of insurance. I’ve deliberately omitted some of the elements - such as price controls - that I personally would’ve liked to have included in this legislation,” he said.
Probst, appearing in person before the Insurance Committee, said he modeled the bill after Colorado’s statute. House Bill 2074 would have no fiscal impact on the state budget, according to the fiscal note.
Testifying against the bill was Bill Sneed, representing America’s Health Insurance Plans.
“We believe the bill is premature,” Sneed said. The ACA is currently in the court, and the Kansas Legislature should wait until a court ruling. If that comes while the Legislature is out of session, Sneed said, he believed the Kansas Insurance Department had the authority to issue an emergency stay, providing the Legislature the opportunity when it convened to address pre-existing conditions rules.
Neutral testimony came from Bradley Smoot, representing Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Kansas, and Noah Tabor, speaking on behalf of Medica Health Plan.
Seventy percent of Americans believe pre-existing conditions should be protected, Smoot said.
Smoot and Tabor would have stretched Probst’s bill to include pre-existing conditions protection for those signing up for non-insurance health benefit packages.
When State Rep. Paul Waggoner, R-Hutchinson, a member of Insurance Committee, sought to verify that point, Tabor said "we are a firm believer" in a level playing field in the individual market.