Earlier this week, Governor Heineman expressed his plans to wait to move forward on setting up a Health Care Exchange in Nebraska. Health Care Exchanges are one of the key features of the Affordable Care Act, which was signed into law in 2010. The exchange will be a new marketplace where consumers can purchase health insurance with assistance in the form of tax credits from the federal government. States have the option of setting up their own exchanges, partnering with other states, partnering with the federal government, or allowing the federal government to set up an exchange for them.
New Census data from a few weeks ago reveled that the number of uninsured kids in our state is on the rise. In 2010, there were about 47,000 Nebraska kids — or about 10 percent — without health insurance. We know that health insurance for children matters, especially during the critical developmental years of early childhood.
This new marketplace is an opportunity for these 47,000 kids and others in the state to access the health care they need. Under the law as passed, plans for a state exchange have to be in place by January 2013. This means that this coming legislative session will be the last opportunity for our state legislature to thouroughly and thoughtfully consider the variety of issues involved in setting up an exchange. What form of exchange works best for Nebraska? Who will run the exchange? How will the exchange interact with Medicaid? And perhaps most importantly, how do we set up an exchange that best meets the needs of the 47,000 kids currently without health insurance?
These and other questions are complicated and should not be taken lightly. We hope that the Governor and the Legislature will start taking steps forward on creating a Health Care Exchange that works for Nebraska. We can think of 47,000 reasons not to wait.