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Governors urged to create state-run health exchanges

LINCOLN — With a deadline looming next week, Nebraska and Iowa groups are increasing the pressure on their governors to opt for state-run health insurance exchanges.

The Nebraska Health Care Alliance, a coalition of health care providers and insurers, is running a radio advertisement urging listeners to call Gov. Dave Heineman's office in support of a state exchange.

The alliance members include Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska, the Nebraska Medical Association and the Nebraska Hospital Association.

“Let's do this the Nebraska way, not the Washington, D.C., way,” the ad says.

The federal government will create exchanges for states that neither create their own nor partner with the federal government.

Under the federal health care overhaul, states must declare by Friday, Nov. 16, whether they will move forward with creating a state-run exchange.

But the deadline for submitting detailed plans for those exchanges has been pushed back.

U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius sent a letter to governors Friday saying the new deadline for plans will be Dec. 14. The additional time may make it possible for more states to do their own exchanges.

Many governors, such as Heineman and Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, put off making commitments on the exchanges in hopes that Republican Mitt Romney would win the presidential election.

Sebelius said states have until Feb. 15 to declare and submit plans for exchanges that would be run jointly by the state and the federal government.

Iowa State Sen. Jack Hatch, a Des Moines Democrat, said he will release a new proposal Tuesday for a state-run exchange and call for a bipartisan group of legislative leaders and state officials to draft legislation.

Meanwhile, 35 Iowa organizations, including labor unions and community groups, are pushing for input into that state's plans.

“If you're talking about setting up a health care system that so many Iowans are going to use ... it's imperative to talk to consumer groups and the people who represent them and the public in general,” said Anthony Carroll, an official of the AARP.

The Nebraska alliance plans an educational forum about exchanges Monday in Lincoln. The public forum will be at 7:30 a.m. at St. Elizabeth Regional Medical Center, 555 S. 70th St.

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