LINCOLN — Having Nebraska's top elected official criticize two of his recent health policy studies hasn't discouraged Jim Stimpson.
Instead, the University of Nebraska Medical Center associate professor said he finds it gratifying to know that Gov. Dave Heineman is reading his work on key aspects of the federal health care law.
“I was pleased that it caught his attention and that he considered it a source of information on this topic,” Stimpson said Tuesday. “In that sense, I was grateful.”
Stimpson heads the Medical Center's new Center for Health Policy, the goal of which is to aid Nebraska decision-makers through research and “objective analysis” of health policy issues.
But, in a Sept. 6 letter to University of Nebraska President J.B. Milliken, Heineman accused the center of putting out a “biased report” on Medicaid.
The report looked at the potential impacts of expanding Medicaid coverage in Nebraska, as envisioned under the federal health care overhaul.
The governor took Stimpson to task in an Aug. 13 letter, which focused on statements made in a separate report about the numbers of uninsured Nebraskans.
Heineman noted that the report on the uninsured called for Nebraska to “weigh the costs and benefits” of adding people to the state Medicaid rolls.
“My question to you is: ‘Do you support reduced funding for the University of Nebraska or our K-12 schools or increased taxes in order to expand the Medicaid program?' ” the governor said.
The Medicaid expansion was intended to provide health coverage for more low-income people. A June ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court made the expansion voluntary for states.
Heineman opposes the expansion.
In an Aug. 30 letter to Milliken, the governor charged university officials with taking an “irrational, illogical and unexplainable” position supporting Medicaid expansion. He cited the health policy center's Medicaid report as evidence of the university's support.
Milliken replied the following day, saying the university has not taken a position on the expansion.
He pointed out that the report included a disclaimer saying that all views were those of the authors and did not necessarily reflect the views of the university.
Milliken also noted that university faculty are “expected and encouraged” to participate in policy discussions in their areas of expertise.
For his part, Stimpson said the health policy center aims to “encourage constructive dialogue and informed policies.” He said it does not try to promote a particular point of view.
The two reports at issue deal with problems at the heart of the national controversy about the federal health care law.
One showed that the number of uninsured Nebraskans climbed steeply between 2000 and 2010. Among people too young for Medicare, the number without insurance jumped 67 percent.
The other concluded that expanding Medicaid could cover between 90,000 and 108,000 Nebraskans and bring in between $2.9 billion and $3.5 billion of federal Medicaid funds in seven years.
The report estimated the cost to the state would be between $140 million and $168 million during the same period.
The federal government would cover all of the costs for the first three years, then reduce its share to 90 percent by 2020. States would have to pick up the remainder of the cost.
The report also said expanding Medicaid would save Nebraska health care providers at least $163 million and possibly up to $325 million in uncompensated care during the six years.
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