By Deena Winter | Nebraska Watchdog
LINCOLN — Gov. Dave Heineman on Wednesday announced a series of informal meetings the state will hold on whether and how to set up a health insurance exchange, as required by President Obama’s health care overhaul.
Heineman is among several governors who have been less than enthusiastic about the exchanges and other provisions of the law, known as Obamacare.
Even though he’s setting up eight statewide meetings, the governor said the November presidential election could negate everything, when control of the presidency and Congress is determined.
The deadline for states to submit plans for running the exchanges is just 10 days after the election.The health care exchanges are online marketplaces where people can buy private insurance plans subsidized by the federal government.
The governor has invited a variety of groups to participate in a Nov. 4 meeting, including AARP, Americans for Prosperity, Nebraska Appleseed and Voices for Children. He said he asked them to come prepared to say which kind of health care exchange they prefer and how they’d fund it.
Some Democrats have criticized Heineman for meeting behind closed doors with special interest groups about health care reform.
“We’re trying to keep the process very open, very public,” the governor said Wednesday in announcing the meetings.
He chided his critics — such as State Sen. Jeremy Nordquist of Omaha – for not prioritizing their bills on exchanges last session. However, the governor also encouraged lawmakers to wait on legislation to see how the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on a lawsuit challenging the law’s constitutionality.
“They could’ve acted; they chose not to,” Heineman said.
Nordquist said he introduced his bill (which would create an advisory committee to make recommendations for implementing the federal law) on the first day of the legislative session, but it wasn’t scheduled for a public hearing until after the deadline for prioritizing bills.
“I don’t know how intentional that was,” he said. “I thought it would’ve been pretty irresponsible to prioritize a bill that hadn’t had a hearing.”
Nordquist said he was glad to see the governor schedule the public meetings, but it’s important that decisions about how to proceed are made in a public manner.
The senator sent the governor a letter Tuesday asking him to work with him on increasing transparency on health care costs, and said he intends to again introduce legislation to that end if he is re-elected in November.
Heineman also has been critical of the Obama administration’s lack of answers to many questions, and said even a state-led exchange basically only allows the state to decide “who gets to be taxed and how much.”
Contact Deena Winter at firstname.lastname@example.org
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