July 18, 2012— Today, Nebraska’s Senator Ben Nelson said that it is time for the Nebraska Legislature, health care providers, and consumers to set up a state-based health insurance exchange or regional exchange, because Nebraska’s governor has shown no intention of implementing health reform for Nebraskans.
“It may be time for providers and consumers in Nebraska to move beyond the fight and effort to engage state executive branch officials in developing a state-based exchange and move forward with a plan to create an exchange…” said Senator Nelson. “Because the governor refuses to, it may be time for the legislature to step up and take a leadership role once again. It had to on prenatal care. It had to on the Keystone Pipeline.”
In his weekly conference call with the Nebraska media, Senator Nelson voiced his discouragement that Nebraska’s governor has chosen to accept federal funds allocated to Nebraska for the construction of a state-based health insurance exchange, while fighting all efforts made towards creating such an exchange.
“Obstruct and delay is not the Nebraska way. Yet, it’s clear that the governor continues to embrace this strategy, just as he has from the beginning,” said Senator Nelson. “While state agencies have spent millions of dollars intended to provide a state-based exchange to Nebraskans, the fact is that the governor has thwarted efforts to move forward every step of the way.
“Not allowing state officials to attend last week’s meeting in Lincoln between providers and consumers was his latest effort to protect the status quo and deny medical care to thousands of Nebraskans.”
Nelson noted that unless the State of Nebraska develops a state-based or regional insurance exchange, Nebraska will legally default to a federal government-run health insurance system.  
“Nebraskans don’t want the federal government running their health care. The legislature can make sure that doesn’t happen…” said Nelson. “I would hope the legislature will start working with providers, consumers, and others to develop an insurance exchange that meets Nebraskans’ health care needs. It also could consider working with other states to set up a regional exchange.”
Senator Nelson stressed that while he personally prefers a state-based exchange over a regional exchange, he believes that the flexibility and freedom of choice offered by a state-based exchange would be well-received by Nebraskans.

“As a Nebraskan and former governor, I strongly believe that a state-based exchange is best. It allows Nebraskans greater control over their health care services,” said Nelson. “It would be more responsive to the needs of both consumers and providers. A state exchange could be tailored to better address the unique needs and priorities of Nebraskans.”
Nelson also noted the consequences of the state’s reluctance to participate in the health reform law’s expansion of Medicaid. It would help provide insurance to more than 50,000 Nebraskans currently without health coverage.

“Despite the governor’s best effort to ignore the needs of the sick, poor, and elderly—Nebraskans are already footing their bills,” said Nelson.

The Urban Institute has estimated that $78.5 billion in costs are shifted annually to taxpayers through higher fees and premiums.

Addressing all Nebraskans, Nelson said “(the governor) doesn’t want these costs in his budget, but he ignores the fact that the costs are in your budget – in your health insurance premiums, about $1500 per family. It is his tax to you.”

“The governor and some of his colleagues say the States can’t afford paying 10 percent of the costs if the federal government pays 90 percent,” said Nelson. “What they are really saying is that they like the status quo with 100 percent of the costs being paid through hidden taxes and higher insurance premiums.

“Either way, Nebraska taxpayers are paying. There’s no ‘medical bill fairy’ that pays these bills. You can’t simply ignore the problem in hope that it goes away.”

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