LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — State insurance officials assured lawmakers Thursday that Nebraska has made headway in its efforts to comply with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) health insurance exchange requirements, but one senator questioned whether Gov. Dave Heineman can fulfill the law’s requirements without calling a special session.
Bruce Ramge, director of the Department of Insurance, told a legislative panel that Nebraska is “on par” with other states in its plans to create a state-based marketplace where users can comparison shop for health insurance. The state has contracted with a Chicago-based consulting firm to help design an exchange. Federal officials have said plans are due Nov. 16.
“Our planning and design process is on par with any other state,” Ramge said. “Every state is in a similar situation of trying to flesh this out, design and plan. From the feedback that we’ve gotten from our federal counterparts, I’m confident we’re as far along as any other state.”
State Sen. Paul Schumacher challenged the department’s claim that Heineman, a Republican who opposes the law, has the authority to move forward with an exchange by issuing an executive order. Lawmakers do not reconvene until January.
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“Where do you see that responsibility lying?” Schumacher asked. “With your office or the Legislature?”
Ramge said state insurance officials have worked diligently to fulfill the law’s requirements, and that federal officials have agreed that an executive order will suffice.
“We’ve been tasked by the governor to go forward,” he said. “This is an insurance exchange, and the thinking was that the Insurance Department was an appropriate place to do this. Had we not gone forward, obtained grants and done all this studying, we wouldn’t be at the place where we are now.”
Heineman spokeswoman Jen Rae Hein said the Nebraska constitution allows the governor to submit the blueprint without legislative approval. She cited a provision that grants Heineman “supreme executive power” to manage the state’s affairs.