Newsroom > DHHS News Release

For Immediate Release
April 19, 2016

Contact Kathie Osterman, Communications and Legislative Services, (402) 471-9313 or kathie.osterman@nebraska.gov

DHHS Hits Eight for Eight – Ends Session on High Note

Lincoln—Courtney Phillips, CEO of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, said today the Department’s total legislative package of eight bills has been passed by the Legislature and signed by Governor Ricketts.   

 “It’s a great feeling to know there is support for the issues we believe are important,” said Phillips.  “Our focus is on making government better for our clients and the citizens of Nebraska, with an added focus this year of working with our stakeholders to find common ground when necessary.” 

DHHS worked closely with senators throughout the legislative session, and for the first time in recent years, sought input from partners and stakeholders on potential legislation before the session started.  Phillips said she believes that made a difference in the agency’s success.

"Senators were pleased to introduce bills on behalf of DHHS, which is an indication of the cooperation fostered by CEO Courtney Phillips,” said State Senator Kathy Campbell, chair of the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee.  “All of the bills passed, which is reflective of the confidence Senators have in a renewed commitment by CEO Phillips and her team to address the needs of Nebraskans."
Phillips said citizens will see a more effective DHHS, a reduction in regulations, and improved services as a result of these bills. 

“Disability Rights Nebraska appreciates a renewed spirit of cooperation and collaboration embraced by HHS leadership, marked by a commitment to work with and seek input from advocates as well as many families and individuals that they serve,” said Brad Meurrens, public policy specialist with Disability Rights Nebraska.  “We are pleased that the Department is interested in holding meaningful, interactive, continuous dialogue with these groups to achieve the common goal to improve the lives of some of Nebraska’s most vulnerable citizens.”

Meurrens said that while DRN may not see eye-to-eye with HHS on every aspect of every issue, the Department has been willing, with sincerity, to hear their side.  “Disability Rights Nebraska believes that progress can be achieved through open communication and collaboration between HHS, advocates, and other stakeholders.  We look forward to strengthening our working relationship with HHS for the betterment of Nebraskans with disabilities,” he said.

“I want to thank the state senators who spearheaded these initiatives for us and also our stakeholders for their diligent and constructive feedback,” said Phillips.  “Building these partnerships is key to our future work of helping Nebraskans live better lives.”

The bills are:
LB 816 (Senator Scheer) aligns state law with federal HIPAA requirements regarding access to records of patients in state institutions, making them available to law enforcement and county attorneys, to current treatment providers, and upon request when a patient has been deceased for 55 years or more.  This bill will provide more timely treatment for those patients.

LB 859 (Senator Campbell) moves the authority to issue cease and desist orders from the individual licensing boards to the director of the Division of Public Health, with the recommendation of such board.  This bill will prevent violations of federal antitrust law in light of a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision.

LB 869 amended into LB 698 (Senator Crawford) requires that specified high-risk Nebraska Medicaid providers and persons with a 5 percent or more ownership of that provider submit fingerprints for nationwide criminal background checks.  This bill is necessary for Nebraska Medicaid to comply with federal regulations and protects the health and safety of Medicaid clients.

LB 899 (Senator Baker) amends the definition of “lead free” in the Nebraska Safe Drinking Water Act to conform to the amended federal definition in the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.  Nebraska is required to have laws as stringent as the federal law concerning drinking water in order to maintain primacy, which allows DHHS to ensure the public’s safety.

LB 924 (Senator Kolterman) allows a noncustodial parent, who is not in arrears in court-ordered child support payments, the option to pay through an auto-withdrawal process provided the custodial parent and DHHS so agree, resulting in a more customer-focused state government.  Currently, the only allowed payment process is income withholding.

LB 963 amended into LB 698 (Senator Fox) changes the Area Agency on Aging area plan submission timeframes to mirror federal regulations and also repeals an outdated maintenance of effort funding requirement, resulting in a reduction in unnecessary government requirements.

LB 1011 (Senator Campbell) provides flexibility in contracts with Medicaid managed care organizations (MCOs) delivering behavioral health care services.  DHHS will combine physical health, behavioral health, and pharmacy benefits into a program called Heritage Health effective January 2017, and the changes in this bill will allow Heritage Health MCOs to control costs and administer the programs more efficiently.
 
LB 1039 (Senator Coash) clarifies the definition of the term intellectual disability, adding clarity and consistency with generally accepted psychological standards.
 
A more detailed description of the bills and copies of DHHS testimony are also available at http://dhhs.ne.gov/Pages/newsroom_legislation.aspx.
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