Insurance exchange deadline extended

By: Ashley Harding

When it comes to finding the right health insurance for you, some say it should be up to the state and not the federal government. The exchange program is part of the Affordable Care Act. It puts shopping for health insurance right at your fingertips. An approaching deadline to decide whether it should be state run has now been extended to December 14. If one isn't made, that decision will automatically default and the federal government will be in control of the exchange.

 Once it's put into place, the health care exchange program will seem like shopping for the right flight. If you need insurance, you'll be able to go online, shop for coverage, compare prices, and choose the option that is right for you. But now, the big question is: Should it be operated by Nebraska? Or the federal government? Dennis Butler is a health insurance broker in Lincoln. He says the answer is a no brainer. 

 “What works in New York, what works in Washington, isn't necessarily what works in Washington County, Nebraska. So I think it's important that the control of the exchange stays local,” said Butler.

Officials say those who don't qualify for coverage through their employer, but have a household income between 100 and 400 percent of the federal poverty level will qualify for a subsidy through the exchange. The Department of Insurance estimates it'll cost 17 and a half million dollars to operate the exchange each year. By 2015, it must be self–sustaining. For some health care providers, it seems like a risk.

 “I don't think there's anyone who can say honestly that there's no risk of how this is going to go. Or where the money to continue to operate is from,” said Paul Utemark.

Governor Dave Heineman now has until December 14 to submit a plan for a state–based exchange program. If he doesn't, the federal government will step in.

“People in this state can work together when we have to pull something off. I think, uniquely here, we can do that as opposed to letting the federal government come in and tell us how to do it,” said Butler.

On January 1, 2013, the governor will then have to send a final blueprint to the federal government. The exchange program officially goes into effect in 2014.