Gov. Dave Heineman has opted for Nebraska to join the federal health insurance exchange, saying that creation of a state exchange would be too costly.
“The cost of a state exchange to Nebraska taxpayers is $470 million more than a federal exchange,” Heineman told reporters during a Capitol news conference. “It is simply too expensive to do a state insurance exchange.”
The federal government gave states a deadline of tomorrow to decide which option they would choose.
Heineman had initially indicated he leaned toward developing a state-run exchange, then seemed to cool on the idea during hearings held across the state.
Heineman said he understood that not everyone would agree with the decision that his administration apparently finalized in the last 24 hours.
“Reasonable people will disagree on this issue, but one thing is very clear, a state exchange is too costly to our citizens,” Heineman stated. “Therefore, the state of Nebraska will comply with the Affordable Care Act by being part of the federal exchange.”
The governor insisted that there are no operational differences between a health insurance exchange run by the state or one run by the federal government. He said that all citizens will have the option to purchase insurance policies through an exchange, no matter who runs it.
The administration office projects that it would cost Nebraska $646 million to create its own exchange, but only $176 million to pay for a federally-run exchange.
Heineman dismissed suggestions that opting for a federal exchange would reduce the state’s voice in deciding health care options for Nebraskans.
“What voice have we had?” Heineman responded. “The federal government totally dictates this and totally controls it. Secretary Sebelius won’t even respond to my letter. I don’t call that much of a partnership.”
Heineman said that United States Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius failed to respond to a letter he sent to her on September 6th in which he asked for clarification on various aspects of the health care law.
AUDIO: Gov. Dave Heineman announces Nebraska will opt to join the federal health insurance exchange. [5 min.]