Democratic Senate nominee Bob Kerrey said Thursday he and Deb Fischer, his Republican opponent, need to debate their health care reform views so Nebraska voters can be fully informed.

"It is in Nebraska's best interest to have this debate, a debate free of the Koch Brothers and Karl Rove," Kerrey said. Super PACs funded by those Republican voices have dominated the health care reform discussion in Nebraska with TV attack ads directed at Kerrey.

Kerrey said the two Senate candidates need to "sit down and talk to the people about what we would do on this important issue if elected."

Kerrey said he is disappointed that Fischer turned down a health care forum appearance with him in October proposed by Creighton University.

"You fill your schedule based on what you think is important," he said.

In a telephone interview following a news conference in Omaha at which he called on Fischer to engage in a health care reform debate, Kerrey said he is ready to propose repeal of one major provision of the law enacted by President Barack Obama and a Democratic Congress.

The requirement that employers with more than 50 employees who do not offer health care coverage be fined is "an unwise business mandate" and "a barrier to hire," Kerrey said.

That provision is not scheduled to take effect until 2014.

The relatively small fee or fine included in that provision actually may act as "an incentive to dump employees" from health care insurance, Kerrey said.

Kerrey said Republican Gov. Dave Heineman should feel "an urgency" to establish a state-based insurance exchange rather than continuing to delay taking action.

"This is a Republican market-oriented idea, not big government," Kerrey said. "It gives the state the opportunity to control its own health care destiny.

"Every day you don't do it is one day less to plan it," he said.

Reach Don Walton at 402-473-7248 or at dwalton@journalstar.com.