VOTER VOICES: U.S. Senate candidates Fischer and Kerrey discuss health care

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October 18, 2012 - 6:30am

Since March, Nebraskans have recorded videos on a variety of subjects for the NET News “Voter Voices” project. They’ve recorded at libraries throughout the state, as well as during special events and roundtable discussions. They talked about a lot of issues, but none more than health care. We’re using these comments to start discussions on the issues with U.S. Senate candidates Bob Kerrey and Deb Fischer. Kerrey, a Democrat, is a former Nebraska governor and former U.S. senator who says he supports the Affordable Health Care Act. Fischer, the Republican candidate, is a state senator who says she would like to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act.

“My question to the candidates would be, are we really looking at where the expenses are coming from in health care.”  Beverly Rosenbaum, furniture store worker from Fremont (watch Rosenbaum's full "Voter Voices" video)

“Something has to be done. We’ve got a lot of people who don’t have access to health care. Let’s come up with a solution. Let’s find something that’s going to help our country move forward and take care of the health care needs of our communities and our residents.”  Mike Steckler, hospital administrator from Broken Bow (watch Steckler's full "Voter Voices" video)

Watch more of what U.S Senate candidates Deb Fischer and Bob Kerrey have to say about the issues during a NET News television special, “Campaign Connection 2012: Voter Voices,” which premieres Friday, Oct. 19 at 7 p.m. central on NET-1 and NET HD.

Visit the “Voter Voices” web site to watch the full segment of our health care discussion with Fischer and Kerrey. You will also find information and videos from the project, and learn how you can still record your thoughts on election issues that matter to you.

(Bob Kerrey, U.S. Senate candidate) To the question are we getting to the underlying costs, I would say yes and no. I mean there are incentives in there for preventative care. There are incentives creating accountable care organizations which, when they are up and running, the instances where they are up and running, they result in much lower costs, both to Medicare as well as to commercial payers, and higher quality. They’re active efforts to align the incentive of the patient with the payer and the provider. But it takes a fair amount of effort to get it done, so there are incentives in there to do it. But the most important thing it does is it recognizes in Nebraska we’ve got 100,000 men and women who are in the workforce, and you know who they are. They’re making less than 10 bucks an hour; typically, they don’t have health insurance. This is an effort to extend health insurance to those individuals. It will result, I think, in dramatically improved health care outcomes for those individuals, and I actually think it will result in lower commercial costs.

(Mike Tobias, NET News) What are some of the things you’d change?

(Kerrey) I think the employer mandate will be counterproductive. I think the fine that’s being levied on employers is so low there’s going to be incentive actually for them to dump their employees onto the public system, accelerating the decrease in employment-based health care. I think there’s a set of things that I would sort of categorize as micromanaging, regulatory micromanaging, particularly of the providers. I’d like to see the law changed so that Medicare can negotiate, particularly for a category called dual eligibles, with the pharmaceutical companies.

(Deb Fischer, U.S. Senate candidate) The first woman who spoke on there, I thought it was interesting. She’s trying to find where the expenses are. Well, we need to have tort reform. Because the unnecessary medical procedures that we have in this country, because of concern over liability, that’s a quarter of our health care costs right there. If we have tort reform, if we put on those liability caps, like we have here in the state of Nebraska, that will help bring down those health care costs. We need to look at carrying insurance across state lines. That’s also important.

(Fischer) We need to look at the affordability of health care. Make it easier for businesses and for individuals to form health care associations. That will make it more competitive so that people can afford insurance. 

(Tobias) Are there any aspects of the Affordable Care Act that you think work?

(Fischer) I think there are parts that insurance companies have said that they would carry forward, such as letting the children stay on your health insurance until age 26. We passed a law here in Nebraska, and I’m going to hold up Nebraska a lot as a good example in this interview because we do things right here. We passed a law a few years ago that would allow children to be on their parents’ health insurance until the age of 29. We did that at the state level. We don’t always need the federal government to step in. But insurance companies have said that was one thing that they would look at continuing. I don’t believe we should have this all-encompassing bill, with the taxes, with taking $700 billion from Medicare, be in place.



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