Proposal to expand Nebraska Medicaid program appears dead for year -
Published Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 2:31 am
State Legislature
Proposal to expand Nebraska Medicaid program appears dead for year

LINCOLN — Barring a last-minute change of heart by opponents, a bill expanding Medicaid to more low-income Nebraskans appears dead for this year.

But backers of Legislative Bill 577 vowed not to give up the fight. They plan to continue pushing for the expansion in the next legislative session.

“We'd still like to see it happen,” said Jennifer Carter, an attorney with Nebraska Appleseed. “We're not going to stop working, our partners are not going to stop working.”

Speaker of the Legislature Greg Adams of York pulled LB 577 from the agenda last month after it stalled in the face of a filibuster.

He said it would return only if backers could show they had 33 votes to end the filibuster.

As of Monday, State Sen. Kathy Campbell of Lincoln, who introduced the bill, said supporters remain short of that goal and are unlikely to change enough minds during the last days of the legislative session.

Instead, she introduced a resolution calling for an interim study on the financial impact of and financing options for Medicaid expansion.

Options to be explored include requiring deductibles and co-payments, Medicaid payment reforms and the possibility of using Medicaid funds to buy private health insurance for low-income adults.

Stopping LB 577 represents a victory for Gov. Dave Heineman, who adamantly opposes the expansion as “unaffordable and unsustainable.”

His administration estimated the state's net cost of Medicaid expansion would be $116 million over the next seven years. Legislative fiscal staff put the cost at $75 million.

Backers of the bill, who include a long list of health care providers and advocacy groups, said they had enough votes to pass the bill but were unsure about finding 30 votes to override the governor's expected veto.

Sen. Jeremy Nordquist of Omaha said several senators wanted more time to look at the issue and explore alternatives.

Some want to see what happens when other pieces of the federal health care overhaul take effect later this year.

“I think there is concern about how our health care system is going to react to all these major changes,” he said.

The Medicaid expansion was part of the federal overhaul, but the U.S. Supreme Court made it optional for states.

LB 577 would cover low-income adults without minor children — a group that cannot qualify for Medicaid now.

It also would cover parents and disabled adults who make too much to qualify for Medicaid under current income limits.

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Contact the writer: Martha Stoddard    |   402-473-9583    |  

Martha covers the Nebraska Legislature, the governor, state agencies, and health, education and budget issues out of our Lincoln bureau.

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