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Insurance companies raise questions about health ins. exchangeTell North Platte what you think
 

Gov. Dave Heineman opened a health insurance exchange meeting Thursday by reminding the audience of 100 that he’s not committed to drafting the healthcare exchange until after the November election.

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“Prior to Nov. 16, there’s a very important date: the election on Nov. 6,” he said.

Heineman and other Republicans hope to see President Obama voted out of office and the subsequent repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

Nov. 16 is the date when states are supposed to submit blueprints for health exchanges.

Based on the testimony from a health exchange meeting Tuesday, Heineman said, “Everyone wants someone else to pay for it, and that’s not possible.”

Heineman hosted health insurance exchange meetings on Tuesday that heard from health care advocates and industry professionals.

Thursday’s meeting heard from health insurance providers.

Health insurance exchanges are part of the Affordable Care Act signed into federal law in March 2010. The law requires states to draft their own exchanges within federal guidelines, or create a joint federal-state plan or rely on the federal government to create a plan.

These exchanges are intended as a shopping site for people and companies who do not currently have health insurance.

Thursday’s meeting heard from CEOs of three Nebraska insurance companies: Blue Cross Blue Shield, United Healthcare and Coventry.

All three were proponents of the state-based exchange.

William Tracy, the CEO of United Healthcare of the Heartland, began a theme that echoed throughout the discussion: “We don’t have all the information to make decisions.”

There are regulatory questions about each exchange. While the three on the panel support a state-based exchange, they all questioned who would regulate – the federal government or the state -- and what would be covered.

When Steve Martin, CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield, asked the governor to fight for Nebraska’s sovereignty the best he can in terms of regulation, Heineman insisted, “We lost sovereignty the day they introduced this bill.”

“We have to go on bended knee to Sec. (of Health and Human Services Kathleen) Sebelius and ask, ‘oh, is this OK?’ before we are able to do anything,” he said.

The Department of Health and Human Services distributed a “Blueprint for Approval of Affordable State-based and State Partnership Insurance Exchanges” in May, and a final updated copy was sent out in early August.

The blueprint provides details of options available under a state-based exchange, as opposed to a federal-based exchange.

All three CEOs agreed that it may not be possible to get all the exchanges up and running when enrollment opens in October 2013.

Michael Nelson, CEO of Coventry, said his company would be able to meet the deadline because it’s their business to be ready. When earlier provisions of the Affordable Care Act required insurance companies to extend group coverage to unwed children under the age of 26, allowing them to remain on their parent’s insurance, Nelson said the deadlines were tight, but they were able to make it happen.

Repeating recommendations made at Tuesday’s meeting, the insurance representatives suggested state funding for the state's CHIP program as a source of revenue to operate the new exchange. This program is the Comprehensive Health Insurance Pool, which provides health insurance to Nebraskans who cannot obtain it otherwise.

According to the Nebraska Health Association, the CHIP program will be phased out once the insurance exchanges are in place.

Additional state health exchange meetings will be held Sept. 10 in Omaha on and Sept. 12 in South Sioux City.


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The North Platte Bulletin - Published 9/6/2012
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