July 28, 2014

Enthusiasm for state-run Health Insurance Exchange cooling (AUDIO)

Gov. Dave Heineman

It appears Gov. Dave Heineman might be cooling on his enthusiasm to create a state-run Health Insurance Exchange under provisions of the federal healthcare law.

Informal public hearings will be held on how Nebraska should build its Health Insurance Exchange, deciding whether to let the federal government run it, to have a state-federal partnership or have the state run it.

Heineman says there doesn’t seem to be as great an advantage to having a state-run exchange as first thought.

“Naturally, most of us would like a state-led exchange. But, so far, the only thing I’ve been able to figure out what that means, the only decision the state of Nebraska gets to make are two: whose going to be taxed and how much,” according to Heineman. “Every other regulation, almost every other piece of information is going to be decided by the federal government.”

Heineman says those attending the public hearings need to state which option they prefer, why and how they would pay for it.

A working group within the Nebraska Department of Insurance has been working on the creation of a Health Insurance Exchange for months. State Insurance Director Bruce Ramge says the guidance from the federal government is coming to the state in a piece-meal fashion. Ramge says it would be helpful to hear from federal officials how a federal-run health exchange would operate and what it would cost so the working group could make comparisons with a state-run exchange.

“So, there are a lot of questions, yet,” Ramge says.

A host of special-interest groups and health professionals will have their say later this month and early next. The governor has announced a series of informal public hearings will be held. Groups both supportive and opposed to the federal healthcare law will speak during two days of hearings September 4th and 6th in Lincoln.

Nebraskans get their say in five public hearings that begin August 27th in Gering. Other hearings this month will be held August 28th in Kearney and August 30th in Nebraska City. Next month, a public hearing will be held in Omaha September 10th. The final public hearing will be held September 12th in South Sioux City.

AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]