Kansas will return a $31.5 million grant to the federal government that aimed to help the state set up a health-insurance exchange, state officials announced on Tuesday.
GOP Gov. Sam Brownback said the state would return the money because of doubts surrounding the federal government’s ability to pay for the grant in the future. Kansas was one of six states to receive extra funding in February.
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"There is much uncertainty surrounding the ability of the federal government to meet its already budgeted future spending obligations. Every state should be preparing for fewer federal resources, not more.... That requires freeing Kansas from the strings attached to the Early Innovator Grant," Brownback said in a statement.
Kansas is the second state to turn back "early innovator" funds to set up health-insurance exchanges. Oklahoma refused a similar grant in April after initiailly applying for the funds.
Other Republican governors—most notably Florida's Rick Scott and Wisconsin's Scott Walker—have refused federal transportation money. Scott in February announced he would refuse $2.4 billion to build a rail line between Orlando and Tampa.
Kansas had already used $500,000 of the grant, according to an agency official. The grant was issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, whose secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, earlier served as Kansas' governor.
“We are disappointed that Kansas has given up an opportunity to be a leader in the development of technology for state exchanges, which could have benefitted the citizens of Kansas as well those in other parts of the country,” a spokesman for HHS said in an e-mail.
Last month, Kansas’s Linda Sheppard, who is heading up the state’s efforts to implement the health law, told an audience gathered in Washington, D.C., that the state was using its innovator grant to speed development of a program to enroll people in Medicaid.
Sheppard said the state had specifically reworked the program, which was originally intended just for Medicaid, to fit the expanded population expected on the health-insurance exchange.
Brownback had come under pressure from tea party group Patriot Action Network for saying he opposed the 2010 health care law, but allowing the state to apply for the grant. The group included a fact sheet on its website entitled "How Gov. Brownback Brought Obama Care to Kansas!"