Don Walton: Health care issues dominate

2013-05-05T20:00:00Z 2013-05-15T19:52:16Z Don Walton: Health care issues dominateBy DON WALTON / Lincoln Journal Star

Health care, front and center.

When Bob Kerrey suddenly decided to enter the 1992 presidential race after the big names like Mario Cuomo and Al Gore said no and opened up the Democratic field, Kerrey put virtually all his marbles on one issue: health care reform.

He was a couple of decades ahead of the curve. 

The governor of Arkansas knew it wasn't the issue that would resonate in 1992.

Bill Clinton centered on jobs and family income, adhering to the counsel of campaign strategist James Carville, who kept reminding the Clinton campaign: "It's the economy, stupid."

A year after that first presidential primary election in the snows of New Hampshire, Clinton was president. Then he attempted health care reform -- and failed.

The issue still is the economy. But since the 2010 enactment of President Barack Obama's historic health care reform law, it's also health care.

What's the most contentious issue in the 2013 Legislature? 

The issue that has so divided this nonpartisan band of 49 state senators that a determined chunk of them won't even consider attempting to reach an agreement.

Medicaid expansion.

Reportedly, 17 senators, a number sufficient to ban the issue from further debate under the current rules of engagement, have signed some sort of vow to end the discussion. But they haven't all revealed themselves yet.

Unlike most major legislative issues that are open to negotiation and compromise in Nebraska's nonpartisan Legislature, this one appears to be trapped more by ideology than all the stated arguments about budget concerns. 

Some form of dramatic showdown probably lies ahead after this week's budget debate. 

Meanwhile, health care reform once again emerged as one of the national issues raised last week at a community gathering in Lincoln hosted by Sen. Mike Johanns.

Might the new health care reform law prompt some businesses to decide to employ part-time, rather than full-time, workers and/or perhaps reduce the hours of some of their current employees?

Johanns raised that possibility in answering questions about the health care reform law.

Opponents of the law have argued for some time that many small businesses with fewer than 50 employees will refuse to hire any more workers now because that would move them over the threshold that brings them under provisions of the health care reform law.

Those provisions will require employers above that threshold to either provide their full-time employees with health insurance or pay a per-employee penalty.

The 50-employee provision applies only to the number of full-time workers, who are defined in the law as those working an average of at least 30 hours a week.

And that, Johanns says, raises the possibility that some employers may decide to reduce the number of hours worked by some of their employees, hire part-time workers, or perhaps split a job between two employees in order to remain under the 50-worker threshold.

Some larger employers already are reducing the hours of some employees below 30 a week to avoid providing them with health care coverage. 

Finishing up

* In glancing at some of the online comments prompted by the White House photo of  Obama hosting 7-year-old Husker Jack, it is stunning to see how some people's hatred overrides even that touching and generous moment.

* It is always a mistake to read online comments.

* As if you didn't already know it, the news media embrace and spotlight conflict and criticism. And scandal, real and imagined. And the weather. Just saying.

* Don't know Tim Miles, but it would appear he thrives on pressure and challenge. If there weren't enough already, 15,000 season ticket holders ought to do the trick.

* Who knew the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's commencement could be so stressful? Awaiting a Perl of Knowledge.

* Let's vote Tuesday. If you've been paying attention, you know it matters. 

* Yankees remind us it doesn't matter so much who plays, but how they play.

* OK, this is really it, right? This time spring is here to stay. Right?

Reach Don Walton at 402-473-7248 or at

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