WASHINGTON, Nov. 30 -- The office of Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., issued the following news release:
Today, Nebraska's Senator Ben Nelson asked why the State of Nebraska requested more than $5 million from the federal government to create state-based health insurance exchanges which it opposes and refuses to implement in Nebraska.
"Why, in this time of constrained budgets, would the Governor ask for $5 million more for an idea he opposes, refuses to implement and wants to repeal? Perhaps he should send it back," Senator Nelson said today during his weekly conference call with members of the Nebraska news media.
"At the very least, Nebraskans deserve to know what the state will do with the additional $5 million," Nelson added. "It's the taxpayers' money - not the State's - and until there is a plan to put in place an exchange, I don't believe it should be spent."
Nelson was referring to a $5.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that the State of Nebraska applied for in order to further its planning, research and design of a state-based health insurance exchange. Nebraska received the grant yesterday.
The new health care law asks the states to establish state-based exchanges for private health insurance so consumers will have more choices available to them and be better able to control costs. Citizens in states that do not establish state-based exchanges will be able to participate in a federally-run health insurance exchange.
The State of Nebraska has taken a position opposing the health reform law, is seeking its repeal and has refused to implement the exchanges at least until after the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the health reform law's constitutionality. Yet, the State of Nebraska had already received $1 million from the federal government to help implement the law, in addition to yesterday's new $5.4 million grant.
Nelson is the former director of the Nebraska Department of Insurance and is a long-time supporter of state health insurance exchanges.
"I support and pushed hard for state health insurance exchanges to keep this at the state level. They're good for consumers, have been around for years, and were operating in other states even before health care reform," he said.
Nelson also pointed out the consequences of repealing the health care law, as Governor Heineman has said is his preference.
"Repealing the law would mean the State wouldn't have to set up exchanges, but it would also result in reinstating a $57 billion hidden tax Americans who have insurance will pay to cover the costs of those who don't have insurance, often referred to as 'free riders.'
"And it would again allow insurance companies to deny coverage for people with pre-existing medical conditions.
"Children who now, up to age 26, are able to remain on their parents' health plans would be denied the ability to do that, and it would open up the doughnut hole once again, which is being closed, for seniors under Part D Medicare."
As a result of the new health care law:
As of September 30th, 14,129 Nebraska seniors have already saved $8.15 million - an average of $576.80 each - on their prescription drugs from new rebates to close the Medicare Part D "Doughnut Hole." These seniors were in the gap in Medicare's prescription drug coverage.
All 239,000 Nebraskans on Medicare can receive free preventive health services.
So far, 145,920 Nebraska seniors have received some type of preventive care which the health care law made free including 7,530 Nebraska seniors who have received a free annual Medicare wellness visit.
Thousands of Nebraska small businesses are eligible for the small business tax credit to offset the cost of providing health insurance benefits to employees.
More than 7,600 young adults in Nebraska are eligible to stay on their parents' health insurance plans until they are 26 years old.
More than 100,000 children in Nebraska with a pre-existing medical condition are protected from being excluded from health insurance coverage.
TNS 23SQ111201-JF78-3697628 StaffFurigay
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