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Column: Working Together on a Nebraska Solution in Health Care


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Just about a year ago, Nebraskans packed into gymnasiums and meeting halls and made their voices heard on the Keystone pipeline project, and these public hearings in Nebraska and Washington led to an important change. Nebraskans made sure that the State stepped forward and took responsibility for determining a safe and acceptable route, and that process is moving ahead today.

We developed a Nebraska solution to a Nebraska problem.

Nebraskans Can Speak Out

Now, we have another opportunity to find a Nebraska solution to a problem that affects us all, the cost and availability of health care. Nebraskans can make their voices heard by attending public hearings that the State convened to discuss a state health insurance exchange as part of the health reform law. Upcoming meetings will be in Lincoln on September 4th and 6th, and in Omaha on the 10th and South Sioux City on the 12th.

Some have played politics with whether the state should set up a state-based insurance exchange, apparently because they are upset with what they think the law will do based on partisan talking points we've heard for two years.
It seems Nebraskans could use these public hearings to express their views and to say whether they agree with the Nebraska Department of Insurance that supports creating a state insurance exchange.

State Insurance Department Supports State-Based Exchange

Last year the state insurance department issued a report, Health Insurance Exchange Planning Overview and Recommendations. On page 18 it recommends: "If (health reform) is found to be Constitutional, NDOI recommends that the Health Insurance Exchange be housed as a division of NDOI."

They went on to explain why: the state's insurance department has the institutional knowledge of the state's insurance market to make it succeed; it has the relationships with federal partners to build one; and creating a new agency would put the project on hold and cause the federal government to take over.

While some may disagree with the decision, the U.S. Supreme Court found health reform constitutional, so let's move forward. State health insurance exchanges are supposed to be like a clearinghouse where private insurance companies will offer a variety of plans and individuals and small businesses can pick and choose which one meets their needs and budgets best.

Since my days as governor I've always backed states' rights. Because of that, when Washington was debating health reform, I pushed for state-based exchanges and opposed the national exchange the U.S. House approved in its health reform bill. Today, states have the power to set up their own exchanges, or join together in a regional exchange, but if they don't the feds will do it.

A State Insurance Exchange Avoids a Government Takeover

A state-written, state-run, state-based exchange would be better a option than handing over authority to Washington bureaucrats. A state insurance exchange could help 50,000 Nebraskans receive health insurance and gain health security. That, in turn will reduce costs to Nebraskans who now have insurance and pay for everyone who doesn't. A Nebraska solution will benefit everyone.

You know, it would be unfortunate if Nebraska doesn't set up a state health insurance exchange. Then, critics who have complained about a federal government takeover of health reform will have helped make sure there is one.

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