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The Associated Press October 3, 2011, 5:38PM ET

Heineman: Neb. will wait for health care ruling

Nebraska will not enact a health care exchange mandated by the federal health care overhaul until officials know for sure whether the measure is constitutional, Gov. Dave Heineman said Monday.

Heineman told reporters that the state is planning and designing a program in case the U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of President Barack Obama's health care law.

But the Republican governor said it doesn't make sense to build a formal proposal before the court decides. He said he doubted most states could meet the federal deadlines because of lingering confusion about what they will need to enact to comply with the law.

"Once they rule, then we'll know what we need to do," Heineman said in a conference call. "But don't know" right now.

A ruling could come by June 2012, in the heat of the presidential campaign. The high court began its new term Monday. The health care law, one of Obama's major domestic accomplishments, seeks to extend health insurance to more than 30 million people now without coverage.

The state exchanges are meant to offer a one-stop-shop for Americans to buy health insurance coverage. The state exchanges must be federally certified by January 2013 and operational by the start of 2014.

State officials must decide whether Nebraska will join the federal exchange, participate in a regional exchange with other states, or launch an exchange of its own to comply with federal law. State officials have said a regional exchange appears unlikely, because each state has different regulations and needs.

Heineman said state officials are applying for federal aid to help enact a program, if it survives in court. He said the law would be a "financial disaster" for Nebraska.

The health care exchanges are expected to surface as a significant issue when lawmakers convene a new session in January.

A state-commissioned study released last August determined the new federal law will increase Nebraska's Medicaid costs by $526 million to $766 million over the next decade. In May, a state-by-state report commissioned by the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured estimated a much lower cost of between $106 million and $155 million.

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