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Although the second session of the 104th Legislature adjourned sine die on April 20, my staff and I will continue to work year round on legislation, interim studies, constituent matters, and other tasks. The recent developments in the Nebraska Tourism Commission debacle may very well give rise to investigation and proposed legislation by the Legislature into how to prevent such problems in the future. I am certain that I am not alone in my disappointment with the results of the Auditor of Public Accounts findings. Not only am I concerned with certain Commission activities and practices, but many of its responses to the issues in the Auditor’s report are cause for concern as well. The fact of the matter is that the public trust was broken, and we need to find a way to improve accountability with this commission.
Senator Mello and the Appropriations Committee should be recognized for their role in the discovery of the Commission’s activities, as Senator Mello sent a February 29 letter to the Commission reporting concerns with its budget and spending growth. Addressing the serious concerns about the Commission’s activities will no doubt require ongoing investigation and correction. While some of this may entail intervention from the Legislature in the near future, the immediate actions will be undertaken by the Executive branch of the government. The information has been forwarded by the APA to the Attorney General’s office – as it always is – for further investigation about whether laws were violated. Governor Ricketts has said he will reconsider whether the Commission should remain an independent state agency. Clearly, accountability was an element lacking in the first years of operation of the Tourism Commission. I am confident the Legislature will not look at this lightly in the next legislative session.
During last session, I introduced Legislative Resolution 554, which calls for an interim study to examine information regarding air ambulance costs and the information available to consumers about such costs. According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, the average air ambulance trip is 52 miles and costs between $12,000 and $25,000 per flight. Many air and ground ambulance services refuse a preferred provider contract with payers, forcing patients to pay high, uncontrolled billed charges. There are reports of large balance bills to air ambulance patients that were unexpected and often uncovered by insurance. Air ambulance bills appear to be a nationwide issue.
To facilitate the study, I have begun compiling a list of stakeholders in order to organize a meeting later this interim in which I hope to understand not only why the costs of air ambulances are so high, but also to look into the possibility of establishing a system in which the costs are as transparent as possible. If you are a stakeholder who has an interest in attending the interim meeting, please contact my office to let us know so we can include you on our list. There are several other interim studies I will be working on this summer. Throughout the course of the interim, I will share information with you about these as well.
As always, if we can be of assistance to you in any way, please do not hesitate to contact my office. My door is open and I have made it a goal to be accessible to the constituents of our district. Please stop by any time. My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org, and the office phone number is 402-471-2756. Joe and Katie are always available to assist you with your needs. If I am not immediately available, please do not hesitate to work with them to address your concerns, thoughts, and needs. Please continue to follow me on Facebook at Kolterman for Legislature and on Twitter at @KoltermanforLegislature.