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Nebraska healthcare options discussed
August 30, 2012 Jerry Purvis   

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Representatives from the Nebraska Department of Insurance were in Gering Monday to discuss state options if the Affordable Care Act (ACA) remains law.

The five-stop tour around the state was prompted by a letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius from the National Governors Association. After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled ACA was Constitutional if implemented as a tax, the governors wanted to know what their responsibilities are to provide healthcare under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

A letter to Sebelius said “Our nation’s governors are now grappling with new questions related to the Medicaid expansion, and clear guidance from HHS would help to inform decisions around what is best for each state.”

The Affordable Care Act, as it’s now written, means Medicaid expansion is now optional for states. And the letter asked what those options might be.

Bruce Ramge, Director of Insurance for the Nebraska Department of Insurance, said the tour was to gather information from the public and from groups that would be affected by the healthcare legislation. “We’ll continue to plan and design so that we keep all our options open.” Ramge said there are three basic options the state could adopt: a state-run health exchange, a state-federal partnership or an exchange operated entirely by the federal government.

“The insurance exchange is so that people can shop for private health insurance in the commercial market,” he said. “This will allow people to compare policy benefits and price. It’s also a way for qualifying individuals to obtain an advance tax credit to help pay for their health insurance.”

Ramge said the main benefit of a state-run health insurance exchange is the ability to deal with insurers who are in the local area, as opposed to contacting someone in the federal government. The state would also take care of all the customer service.

He said Nebraskans have also expressed several concerns. “People like the aspect of being able to work with someone local. They’re also concerned about the cost and how it would be financed in the future. And people have different ideas of what benefits should be included in the healthcare plans offered on the exchange.”
If a state decides to select a central health benefit plan, it will need to notify HHS by the end of September. If a state decides to go with a state-run exchange, it will need to submit a blueprint for how it would operate by Nov. 16.

Gov. Dave Heineman had earlier said he won’t make any decisions regarding ACA until after the November election. A new administration and Congress could repeal the bill altogether.
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