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Bob Kerrey makes area campaign stop
April 06, 2012 Lisa Betz   

Read more by Lisa Betz

Photo by Lisa Betz/Gering Citizen
Former Nebraska governor and Senator Bob Kerrey speaks to a crowd of supporters at El Charito in Scottsbluff on Saturday. The visit was Kerrey’s first stop in our area to kick off his senate campaign.

SCOTTSBLUFF — Former Nebraska governor and Senator Bob Kerrey said he would support an oil pipeline from Canada, but it must prove itself environmentally safe.

Kerrey made his comments on the Keystone KL Pipeline during a visit to Scottsbluff while campaigning for another run as a Democrat for the U.S. Senate.

“I don’t know the Trans-Canada people, but they’ve behaved badly,” Kerrey said. “You don’t come down before you even have a permit and start claiming right of way. We are very careful about what goes on above the Ogallala Aquifer. If there is reasonable doubt that it is safe for the aquifer, then we should not build this pipeline.”

Kerrey said that while some Nebraskans don’t want the pipeline in any part of the state, we can’t afford a “not in my backyard” attitude.

“We’ve got lots of things crossing the state that improve commerce from one part of the country to another,” he said. “We’re just very concerned about the aquifer. If you pollute it, you’ll never get it back.”

Kerrey also talked about the national healthcare issue. He said the problem is the cost of insuring the public. The cost of healthcare is 17 percent of the Gross Domestic Product and is straining the budgets of businesses, households and individuals alike.

“There are many ways to make the current Obama healthcare plan better,” he said. “I hope the Supreme Court doesn’t overturn it because it’s done a lot of good things.”

He added there have also been a lot of complaints about the healthcare bill, and if he’s elected, he plans to work toward improving the existing law.

Kerrey also said a healthcare mandate wouldn’t be his first choice for solving the problem. He recalled a bit of history as he said he was working as a Senator to develop an alternative to the Clinton healthcare plan in 1994. Only then, it was Republicans were the ones insisting on an individual mandate, while Democrats opposed it.

“I supported the individual mandate and got grief from my fellow Democrats for it,” he said. “The reason a mandate makes sense is that we mandate hospitals to provide care under federal law for people who go to the emergency room.”

He said because it’s illegal for hospitals to turn people away from its emergency rooms, they provide a lot of uncompensated care. That in turn drives up the cost of healthcare for everyone and impacts insurance premiums.

“The question is whether there’s a way to close that gap,” Kerry said. “That’s where the individual mandate comes in.”
He said the concept of a mandate grew out of the need to provide an incentive for people to buy insurance in an effort to reduce the amount of uncompensated care hospitals were dispensing.

“My favorite alternative would be to take all the federal programs we have, put them into a single benefit and put a single group of Americans together,” he said. “Prove that you’re an American citizen or a legal resident and that’s all you have to prove. “This could be a more logical and simpler system.”

Kerrey said the nation has already implemented two similar healthcare models. One is Medicare Part D drug coverage, where private insurance is purchased for the drug benefit and the government establishes the rules.

The other model is the federal employee health benefit program (FEHB), which Chief Justice John Roberts and Kerrey both have. “We pay for our insurance but it’s a group of private insurance companies that satisfy whatever the FEHB puts on them. We have a large group, and it contains 68-year- olds and 38-year-olds and as a consequence, all the aggregate rates tend to be low.”

He added a proposed American health insurance plan doesn’t have to be a once-size-fits- all type. However, the plan should encompass the needs of a variety of age groups and individuals, just as the FEHB plan does. He said that he prefers that the government not make the payments, but that payments are made by the insured.
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