In 1997 I was honored to be named an admiral in the navy of the great state of Nebraska. This highest of Nebraska’s honors is bestowed upon very few individuals.

Readers with even a rudimentary knowledge of U.S. geography will realize Nebraska is triply landlocked. As such, there is no actual Nebraska navy, and this is not an actual military position. I do, however, have a handsomely framed certificate attesting to the honor, signed by then-Governor Ben Nelson.

One of the side effects of having now-Senator Nelson’s signature hanging in my office is I pay a bit more attention to his political meanderings than to others with whom I have no connection. During the health care reform debate, I was a bit upset someone such as Nelson, who had been a state insurance commissioner, could vote for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. I am still perplexed at the saga that became known as “The Nebraska Compromise” and the way an otherwise nice and decent guy became hoist on his own petard.

The Ben Nelson I have watched over the years – and I suspect, the real Ben Nelson – was quoted in CQ Healthbeat (12/4) under the headline “Lawmakers Making Plans in Case Health Care Reform Mandate is Declared Unconstitutional.” He told the CQ reporter he is working on legislation that will replace the mandate with financial incentives to get people to buy health insurance.

It is sad in an age when personal responsibility seems like a quaint and antiquated concept, we have to offer incentives to get folks to do what they should do, but it is a whole heck of a lot better than an unconstitutional mandate.

There seems to be a lot of end-around re-thinking going on in DC. With the Department of Health and Human Services offering up waivers like gumballs coming out a gumball machine, and the president considering a request to exempt South Carolina – can he even DO that under the law? – we reiterate for the benefit of the new Congress: Legislate in haste; repent at leisure.

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