Elderly care debated; Keystone XL timetable questioned

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February 25, 2014 - 5:11pm

Nebraska lawmakers debated whether the state should make more of an effort to keep the elderly out of nursing homes. And an attorney for Keystone XL pipeline opponents said President Obama may not have known about a Nebraska court decision when he reportedly said he’d decide on the project in a couple of months.

The debate over care for the elderly involves whether the state should spend more to help people stay in their homes and avoid having to go into nursing homes. The federal government is offering states funding if the states will spend more themselves on services like case management and other programs designed to help people stay in their homes, rather than go into more expensive nursing home care. “They’re asking us to do what we’re already doing better, so that we can save our state and our federal government more in the long run,” said Lincoln Sen. Kate Bolz.

Over the next two years, the bill would require Nebraska to spend about $8 million to attract about $36 million in federal money, though those estimates could yet be revised.

Sen. Mark Christensen of Imperial questioned the effort. Christensen said his father has Alzheimer’s Disease, and is doing better in the three weeks he’s been in a nursing home than he did at home, at roughly the same cost. Sen. Dave Bloomfield of Hoskins said the proposal scares him a little bit. “I just don’t want the government telling me when I and my children have decided it’s time for me to go somewhere ‘Oh you can’t go yet. You can still stay home and take care of yourself if we come in and look at you twice a day,’” he said.

Bolz said that was not the intent of the bill. “If an individual can pay for nursing home care and wants to go to nursing home care, no one’s going to stop them,” she said. “If they’re eligible for Medicaid and they want to enter nursing home care and they are eligible for that service that’s an entitlement. So I don’t see any circumstance under which someone who proactively wants to enter an institution could not do so,” Bolz added.

The Legislature adjourned for the day without reaching a first round vote on the bill.

On the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, Gov. Dave Heineman, who has just returned from a meeting of the National Governor’s Association in Washington, repeated what he said President Barack Obama told the group at the White House on Monday. “What the president said yesterday at the very end of the meeting was that he would make a decision on Keystone within the next couple of months,” Heineman said, adding that could mean two to four months. Heineman also said Obama had told the governors, “some of you will be happy and some of you won’t.”

That timetable for a decision appears at odds with a Nebraska court decision that found the law under which the governor approved the pipeline route violates the state constitution. The court said pipeline approval authority rests with the Public Service Commission. The state is appealing the decision to the Nebraska Supreme Court, but that could take up to a year.

David Domina, lawyer for the landowners who challenged the Nebraska law, and a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, said Tuesday the president might not have known about the court decision. “My guess is that the president, when he spoke to the governors, may not have either known about, or known enough about the Nebraska court decision to be aware of how it might impact his decisional process as the chief executive of the country,” Domina said.

Domina said he doesn’t know exactly what the president said, since the only reports on it have come from the governors. The White House did not respond to a request for comment. The State Department has said it is aware of the Nebraska court decision but is proceeding with its review.

Heineman said if the president does approve, pipeline company TransCanada would have to decide how to proceed. “Depending on what the president does, that would be a decision for them. And the question would be do they want to start in the north and the south and begin to build?” Heineman said.

Domina said if the president does approve the pipeline, that would give TransCanada permission to cross into the country in Montana. “After that, where the pipeline is placed is a matter of local regulation,” he said. “So if they have authority to build in Montana, they could build to the North Dakota border. (If) they could build in North Dakota, they could build to the South Dakota border, and so on,” Domina added, concluding “Right now, they’d be stuck in Nebraska.”

TransCanada has said it thinks it still has approval for its route in Nebraska for now, since the court decision has been appealed.





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