December 1, 2015

Nebraska Medicine restarts lung transplant program

Nebraska Medicine and the University of Nebraska Medical Center revived their lung transplant program.

Dr. Heather Strah is the Medical Director of Lung Transplantation and says, “The last lung transplant was done in 1998 because of physician availability the program had to be shut down. After many years of planning all of the right people were in place to restart the program this fall.”

Dr. Strah says patients will no longer have to travel hundreds of miles for treatment and care. With the new program, patients will have care close to home. Patients too ill to travel and receive a transplant may now be candidates locally. They will offer single lung, double lung and heart-lung transplants. Eventually they hope to provide transplants for up to 30 patients a year.

Nebraska Medicine is now one of few institutions in the country that offers all solid organ transplants.

Congressman wants to shield those who lost CO-OP health coverage (AUDIO)

Congressman Adrian Smith

Congressman Adrian Smith

A Nebraska Congressman says the Obama Administration has been slow to acknowledge the financial problems of CO-OPs established under the Affordable Care Act that have left hundreds of thousands without coverage.

Trouble began when CoOportunity Health collapsed, forcing 120,000 Nebraska and Iowa residents to scramble to find health insurance. So far, 12 CO-OPs have failed.

Congressman Adrian Smith says it’s a problem the Obama Administration hasn’t acknowledged.

“This is a problem and I think it’s a crisis, certainly for those folks who are left without coverage as they have to scramble to find different coverage plans,” Smith tells Nebraska Radio Network. “I just hope that there’s a realization by the advocates of Obamacare that this is not working.”

Smith sponsors a measure that would exempt the half a million former CO-OP customers from the health care penalty if they lost coverage through no fault of their own.

United States Sen. Ben Sasse has joined the effort to shine light on the problem, blocking fast-track consideration of Health and Human Services nominees until the Obama Administration gives an accounting of the failures that led to so many CO-Ops collapsing.

Sasse has asked why HHS gave $1.2 billion to 12 failed CO-Ops.

The Iowa Insurance Commissioner moved to liquidate CoOportunity Health after it amassed $150 million in liabilities.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:45]

Co-discoverer of HIV today’s guest speaker at UNMC

The scientist who co-discovered that the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, was the responsible infectious agent for AIDS was today’s guest speaker at the Carol Swarts, M.D., Distinguished Lecture series at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.

Dr. Robert Gallo says HIV treatment has come a long way since the early 1980’s when he and others discovered the virus.

Dr. Gallo says, “If I had HIV tomorrow and you treated me early enough, I’d expect to live a reasonably normal, complete lifespan. I’d have to take drugs and be followed by the right kind of doctor who has experience and knows what he’s doing — for drug resistance and follows me carefully, I’d expect a reasonably normal lifespan.”

Through his work, Dr. Gallo and his team helped to develop the HIV blood test that allowed health care workers to screen for the AIDS virus. This screening helped protect blood transfusion patients from getting the virus.

Dr. Gallo says there is also great promise in HIV vaccines that are currently in the test stages. He says, ““The epidemic will be gone if it worked. There wouldn’t be any HIV. That would be the Holy Grail as they call it. Then I’d feel like, okay, we’re finished.”

Events throughout state will help Nebraskans get health insurance (AUDIO)

EnrollNE_Logo_300h[1]Events are scheduled throughout the state today to help Nebraskans get health insurance through the Affordable Care Act.

Events are scheduled from Omaha to Scottsbluff; Norfolk to McCook in an effort to help Nebraskans get the health insurance that fits their budget and their need.

It is called the Thankful for Health Coverage Day of Action.

“But, I think last year in Nebraska on average there were 36 plans to choose from in each county,” Nick Clasen with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services tells Nebraska Radio Network.

Clasen says insurance premiums can range from $100 a month for basic coverage to $800 a month for more elaborate plans. Clasen advises to review your current policy and use events today to give that policy a checkup.

Julie Brookhart with the Centers says it’s important to shop around.

“You really should, because people are finding cheaper plans and more coverage,” according to Brookhart.

Nebraska consumers who re-enrolled last year and switched plans saved up to $682 annually.

Open Enrollment through the Health Insurance Marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act occurs once a year. Open enrollment runs through January 31st, but if you want coverage to begin with the beginning of the New Year, you must enroll by December 15th.

Free, confidential help will be available at the events today. Click here for a schedule.

Financial help is available. In fact, 88% of Nebraska consumers get some sort of financial help to offset health insurance costs. Penalties will be assessed against those without coverage.

Consumers can also call 1-800-318-2596 for help. Other information is available through or

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:45]


Omaha Tribe moves forward with plan for Iowa pot farm

MarijuanaMembers of the Omaha Tribe are moving ahead with a feasibility study on a proposed marijuana-growing operation in western Iowa that would provide pot for medical, industrial and recreational uses.

Tribal members have voted on three referendums now giving the Tribal Council the authority to legalize marijuana on the reservation in northeast Nebraska. Chairman Vernon Miller says input from tribal members was vital.

“We needed to really gauge the opinions of the Omaha Tribal members,” Miller says. “We didn’t want to take action without their approval and their opinion. They are pretty controversial issues. We posed those questions to the people and they voted on all three and supported all three.”

Miller says the Tribal Council will take the time to research what’s viable.

“Recreational is the most controversial from a legal standpoint so we really need to weigh what’s going to be most feasible at this time…dealing with law enforcement agencies as well as U.S. Attorneys from both Nebraska and Iowa,” Miller says. “That’s something we’re really going to have to weigh after the feasibility study is done, what’s going to be something that we can really effectively do here.”

Miller says generating cash for the tribal community is the biggest priority.

“Is it something that’s going to require the least amount of investment but that’s going to provide the biggest ROI, return on investment,” Miller says. “That’s the only reason we’re really pursuing the profit aspect of it, to generate some revenue. My community has a 69% unemployment rate. We have no jobs. Being a soverign nation, we’re going to take that soverignty and provide for ourselves.”

Miller says the tribe will work to ensure that any plan would not violate federal or state laws. The proposal would allow for the creation of the crop on tribal land in western Iowa’s Monona County. For more than 20 years, the tribe has operated a casino there, near Onawa, with Las Vegas-style gambling.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton