Mike Johanns on Health Care
Secretary of Agriculture; previously Republican NE Governor
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.
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.
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.
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.
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George W. Bush