State senators in Omaha on Wednesday kicked off a planning process aimed at shaping Nebraska's health care system over the next 10 to 20 years.
About 160 senators, physicians, insurers, professors and organization representatives met at the University of Nebraska Medical Center to launch the planning called for in a legislative resolution approved early this year.
State Sens. Kathy Campbell of Lincoln and Mike Gloor of Grand Island oversaw the meeting to start examining how the state's system of health care functions and what it needs to offer years from now.
High medical costs, the federal Affordable Care Act, shortages of medical providers and advances in technology have blended to put health care in flux in Nebraska and nationwide.
That unrest, a speaker from a national health organization told the audience, makes this an ideal time to consider where Nebraska wants to go with its system of health care.
“All the forces now are lining up for major redesign,” said Alan Weil, executive director of the National Academy for State Health Policy in Washington, D.C. But a state can shape its future, he said, only if it knows what it's shooting for.
Campbell, who introduced the resolution, LR 22, that led to the planning process, said in an interview that state leaders must create a road map for health care or the state will suffer from a situation “where health care just bounces around” without direction.
Weil advised that state leaders form an institute or commission to house the vision and collect and retain the data called for by the planning process. He recommended against allowing a state government agency to manage it because such agencies are influenced by politics.
He also advised against having an existing institution, such as the UNMC College of Public Health, manage the program, because any existing entity will resist criticism.
Gloor, chairman of the Legislature's Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee, said he believed some foundation in the state would help fund the institute.
Gloor said that with term limits, which restrict Nebraska senators to two consecutive four-year terms, it's hard for any senator to gain the institutional knowledge needed to guide health care in the state. Gloor said this makes the planning process more vital.
After Weil spoke for an hour and fielded questions for 40 more minutes, the group had lunch and then broke into small groups for brainstorming.
Campbell, chairwoman of the Legislature's Health and Human Services Committee, said she envisions no legislation being written for the next session.
However, Campbell said Dr. Rowen Zetterman, director of UNMC faculty mentorship, will collect information gathered in the planning efforts and report to Gloor's and Campbell's committees on Nov. 1. Campbell said a working group from different parts of the health care system will conduct further study and a year from now produce a draft of a planning agenda to the group that met Wednesday.