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Mike Johanns on Health Care

Secretary of Agriculture; previously Republican NE Governor


Use tobacco settlement for biomedical research

We should formulate a rational approach for utilizing the proceeds from the tobacco settlement. I propose that a major endowment be dedicated to biomedical research at these facilities while leaving the majority of the tobacco funds for significant public health needs.

We are so close to solving once and for all the riddles of many diseases with this research. These funds can offer a new day and a new life for Nebraskans and people around the world.

In addition to this research, there are many needs to be funded with the remaining portion of the tobacco settlement. You know as I do that there are many health care needs in Nebraska that are not being met. I would submit, however, that there is no, and I repeat, no greater priority for funding than in the area of mental health.

Source: State of the State Address to Nebraska Legislature Jan 11, 2001

$6M increase in funding for mental health

I propose we significantly boost funding for mental health. First, letís agree to make mental health funding the highest priority with the remaining tobacco settlement dollars. Specifically, I propose dedicating $6 million in tobacco settlement funds for mental health over the biennium.

Second, letís join together to increase general fund support for mental health. Including the tobacco settlement funds, I propose increasing mental health aid from $28.5 million in the current fiscal year to $33.6 million dollars in fiscal year 2002 and to $38.7 million dollars in fiscal year 2003. This represents a more than 35% increase over the biennium.

I recognize that even more needs to be done and so I pledge to do what I can to help Senator Jensen and the Health and Human Services Committee and Senator Wehrbein and the Appropriations Committee to identify mental health needs, prioritize them, and fund them. Maybe we can do more than what I propose today.

Source: State of the State Address to Nebraska Legislature Jan 11, 2001

No federal pre-emption of employee health plan regulation.

Johanns adopted the National Governors Association position paper:

The Issue

In 1999, 42.6 million Americans did not have health insurance. All states have been fervently working to reduce the number of uninsured Americans, to make health insurance more affordable and secure, and to provide quality health care at a reasonable cost to the uninsured. However, the federal government has also expressed an interest in this issue. Any action taken at the federal level could have serious implications for traditional state authority to regulate the health insurance industry and protect consumers.

NGAís Position

Although the Governors are extremely sensitive to the concerns of large multi-state employers, the fact remains that the complete federal preemption of state laws relating to employee health plans in the Employment Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) is the greatest single barrier to many state reform and patient protection initiatives.

The Governors support efforts designed to enable small employers to join together to participate more effectively in the health insurance market. In fact, Governors have taken the lead in facilitating the development of such partnerships and alliances. However, these partnerships must be carefully structured and regulated by state agencies in order to protect consumers and small businesses from fraud and abuse and underinsurance. NGA opposes attempts to expand federal authority under ERISA. The Governors have identified the prevention of such federal legislation in the 107th Congress as a top legislative priority.

States have the primary responsibility for health insurance regulation. Across the nation, Governors are working to protect consumers and patients and to properly regulate the complicated health insurance industry.

Source: National Governors Association "Issues / Positions" 01-NGA13 on Oct 5, 2001

More federal funding for rural health services.

Johanns signed the Western Governors' Association resolution:

  1. Western Governors want rural areas to have an adequate and able workforce to deliver needed health care services. The governors call on the federal government to provide necessary funding for programs such as the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) that have a state-based component, and the Health Professions programs that help health professionals serve in rural and frontier areas.
  2. Western Governors believe that rural health care providers should be paid fairly by Medicare in order to ensure access to health care for rural citizens. The governors encourage the federal government to take further steps to ensure equity in Medicare reimbursement for urban and rural areas.
  3. Alaska, Hawaii, America Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam face extraordinary geographic barriers in providing healthcare services and they should be designated for special consideration and adequate funding to overcome their frontier barriers.
  4. Federal programs like the Rural Health Outreach Grants and the Rural Hospital Flexibility program need to continue to provide funds to states and communities to experiment with new programs, integration of services and coalition building to develop new types of providers, facilities, and services.
  5. Western Governors believe in strengthening the existing health care system. Support for home health agencies, rural health clinics, public health nursing and critical access hospitals are partial solutions.
  6. Western Governors support the elimination of barriers to the use of telemedicine as outlined in the WGAís 1998 report. In particular, we request that the federal efforts to increase reimbursement for telemedicine consultations, to protect the privacy of patient-identifiable medical information and to support rural health provider telecommunication costs with universal service funds continue.
Source: WGA Policy Resolution 01 - 06: Rural Health Improvements 01-WGA06 on Aug 14, 2001

Protect state tobacco settlement funds from federal seizure.

Johanns adopted a letter to Congressional leaders from 53 Governors:

As you know, preserving and protecting the state tobacco settlement funds is the nationís Governorsí highest priority. We strongly urge you to reach final agreement and pass the conference report on the emergency supplemental appropriations bill soon, and to retain the Senate provision that protects our settlement funds from federal seizure.

Many of our state legislatures are currently in session, and some have already completed work on their budgets. Therefore, it is critical that conferees reach agreement quickly on this issue. Governors are unified in their commitment to ensuring that the funds remain in the states and that there be no restrictions on statesí ability to tailor spending to meet the needs of their citizens.

We offer our strongest support for conferees to recede to the Senate version of the bill containing the Hutchison/Graham bipartisan tobacco recoupment protection legislation.

Source: National Governor's Association letter to Congress 99-NGA31 on Apr 14, 1999

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Page last updated: 3/27/2008