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NE: State officials shun hearing on health-care costs

By   /   November 26, 2012  /   19 Comments

By Deena Winter | Nebraska Watchdog

LINCOLN – Omaha Sen. Jeremy Nordquist said two state officials have declined his invitation to attend a hearing Tuesday on the cost of implementing President Obama’s federal health-care law, and the governor has not responded to his request to send a representative.

An interim study hearing will be held on Nordquist’s resolution, LR546, which examines the fiscal impact of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also called Obamacare.

Nordquist said the state’s Medicaid director, Vivianne Chaumont, and Thomas Pristow, director of the Division of Children and Family Services, declined his invitation, although Chaumont sent Nordquist a letter answering some questions. Nordquist sent a letter to Gov. Dave Heineman last week asking that a representative of his administration attend the hearing, but has not received a response.

The governor’s spokeswoman, Jen Rae Hein, said it was her understanding Nordquist asked that Chaumont and Pristow attend the hearing, and neither were available. Kathie Osterman, spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services, confirmed that neither would be available to attend.

Nordquist and the governor have often clashed on the health-care law, with the senator accusing Heineman of not being transparent enough in making decisions about the law. The senator also disagreed with the governor’s recent decision to allow the federal government to create a health-care exchange for Nebraska, saying he “ceded power to federal bureaucrats.”

Heineman said it would be more expensive if the state created the online marketplaces, where people can buy private health insurance plans subsidized by the federal government.

In July, Nordquist held a meeting on the health-care law, and the governor refused to allow his Medicaid director to attend. The governor called it a closed-door meeting.

Tuesday’s meeting is a hearing of the Health and Human Services Committee and Appropriations Committee — the only chance the two committees will have to jointly examine the costs and benefits of the law, Nordquist said.

“To have a robust discussion, we really should have representatives from the state there,” Nordquist said.

Heineman has said expanding Medicaid would cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars, because he doubts the feds would keep their funding commitment. But, Nordquist said, other states have projected hundreds of millions of dollars in savings.

“They’ve thrown numbers around … that they have not explained,” he said of state officials.

It’s up to states to decide whether to expand Medicaid to people earning 133 percent of the federal poverty level, from the current 100 percent. The federal government would pay for 100 percent of costs until 2017, when its share would drop to 90 percent.

Heineman has steadfastly opposed expanding Medicaid, saying it would require huge cuts to education and other state services.

State agency estimates for the cost of exchanges continue to climb: In July, a representative of the state insurance department said a consultant estimated the cost of a state-based exchange at $61 million to $87 million, plus $17.5 million in annual operating costs. That was a substantial increase from earlier estimates. On Nov. 15, the governor said it would cost nearly $646 million if the state set up the exchange.

“I don’t know where this new number came from,” Nordquist said, adding that the whole discussion of Obamacare has become so political that Heineman won’t allow his administrators to participate in a “thoughtful discussion” of the issues.

“It’s unfortunate if he has a personal issue with me,” he said.

Representatives of the University of Nebraska Medical CenterNebraska Hospital Association and Legislative Fiscal Office will attend the hearing, Nordquist said.

Contact Deena Winter at deena@nebraskawatchdog.org.

— Edited by John Trump at jtrump@watchdog.org

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Deena Winter has been a journalist for over 20 years, writing stories for the Northwood Gleaner, Bismarck Tribune, Associated Press, Denver Post and Lincoln Journal Star before joining Watchdog.

  • Dan

    Nordquist is the perfect example of “you can’t argue with stupid”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/susan.smith.73157 Susan Smith

    Sounds to me like a typical Democrat addicted to spending other people’s money who will keep fishing until he gets the numbers to support his “theory”. Common sense fails Sen. Nordquist when he tries to make us believe that NE would MAKE millions by implementing their own program. Here’s a news flash for you Nordquist…..there is a very good reason Gov. H has the majority of Nebraskans supporting him – get over it.

  • hayseed

    I do not understand Dan’s comment. It is not “stupid” to discuss the impact of the ACA and come to consensus on the cost to implement the law.

  • Franklyn Fahrkwhar

    Our Nebraska Governor does not believe in math, science, evolution, or universal health care. He behaves like a petulant child, sticking his fingers in his ears, chanting “La, la, la!,” hiding from the fact that the United States has moved forward into the 21st century. (My apologies to petulant children everywhere.)

  • D. Mark

    The citizens of Nebraska elected Dave Heineman as their Governor to represent them to the best of his ability. He has done a fine job so far, and if this Governor is not to the liking of Senator Nordquist and he thinks he can do a better job, he will be able to run for that office soon! If Senator Nordquist
    understands Obamacare, he should tell the rest of the nation because I don’t think anyone else understands it! I understand that the University of Nebraska
    Medical Center and the Nebraska Hospital Association will attend the hearing, they want to make sure they have a bigger piece of the pie! By the time all the
    Hospitals, Medical Centers, Insurance Companies, lobbyists, etc., get done with this ACT you know who will pay the price for Obamacare, all you have to do is go look in the Mirror!

  • Goblin Shark

    Actually Dan, you are.

  • Goblin Shark

    LOL you said he’s done a ‘fine’ job! I agree he should pays fine for what he’s done to us but he won’t because Nebraskans make their decisions based on emotion instead of logic.

  • Goblin Shark

    Couldn’t agree with you more…

  • Goblin Shark

    Now we’ve heard from Susan so there’s really nothing left to say!

  • Jazzee

    excellent post……..as time goes on they will see the nightmare and COSTLY mess this is

  • Jazzee

    excellent

  • Jazzee

    well what you have said isn’t exactly earth shattering information

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/David-Harbert/100001406372795 David Harbert

    I’ll agree Heinne is performing to the best of his ability, unfortunately, his ability is very, very limited.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/David-Harbert/100001406372795 David Harbert

    … and Heinne.

  • Dan

    Like i said, you can’t argue with STUPID people like nordquist and goblin and franklin. And mark makes the perfect point, why doesn’t nordquist run for gov campaigning on obamacare and lets just see how far he gets. Oblivious idiots like you bunch apparently are igorant to remember gov Dave giving his reasons on this not one week ago with ZERO outrage from anyone but raving loons like nordquist. Liberals don’t live in reality, free healthcare, birth control and abortions for every man/woman and child. How ya gonna pay for it, well we’ll just stick it to the rich. Well how’s that working out in europe, cuba, and venezuela?? Cuz I’d like to know why all you libs are not clamboring to move to those utopias, answer me that libs???

  • Watching_From_Lincoln

    Proof that a mind is a terrible thing to waste, and that a majority of Nebraskans have chosen to waste theirs.
    .

  • Watching_From_Lincoln

    Once again, the Dictator, er, Governor of Nebraska puts political cronyism and partisan politics ahead of what’s best for the PEOPLE of Nebraska. In a state that ranks among the poorest in the US (skewed “unemployment” rates and Warren Buffet’s billions not withstanding) and has severe problems with rural health care delivery and a rapidly aging population, one would think that our Governor would actually care about the well-being of the PEOPLE of Nebraska, not furthering his own power plays to promote himself and gain political brownie points from his masters.

    For EVERY Medicaid eligible person under the expanded coverage limits outlined in the ACA that Gov. HeineyMan chooses not to cover that dies, I propose that the Governor be charged with a count of Voluntary Manslaughter. Then we can see his legal defense as a serial killer based off of faulty political ideology and just how far that would go in a court of law.

  • Watching_From_Lincoln

    Nor ignorant people like you, Dan.

  • Joan

    AMEN