LINCOLN — A White House official had sharp words Wednesday about Nebraska politicians who oppose the expansion of Medicaid in the state.
During a press call, Josh Earnest, a deputy press secretary, said those opponents are trying to score short-term political points instead of ensuring that thousands of the state’s residents can get quality, affordable health care.
“We’ve been very glad to see that some conservative Republican governors have put politics aside and decided to do the right thing for their constituents,” he said, specifically mentioning Govs. John Kasich of Ohio and Jan Brewer of Arizona.
“Unfortunately there are some governors and state legislators in other states who are still holding hostage Medicaid expansion. ... Nebraska is an excellent example of this,” Earnest said.
Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman has been adamantly opposed to expanding Medicaid to more low-income Nebraskans, as allowed under the health care law. In the past, he has called the expansion “unaffordable and unsustainable.”
Heineman’s press secretary, Jen Rae Wang, offered no comment Wednesday in response to the White House.
The Medicaid expansion is part of the federal health care law, but the U.S. Supreme Court made it optional for states. Earnest said 26 states, plus the District of Columbia, have committed to it.
The federal government would pay 100 percent of expansion costs from 2014 through 2016, then a declining share until reaching 90 percent in 2022.
About 48,000 Nebraskans would gain access to affordable health care if the state expanded Medicaid, he said.
A bill by State Sen. Kathy Campbell of Lincoln would have covered low-income adults without minor children — a group that cannot qualify for Medicaid now. It also would have covered parents and disabled adults who make too much to qualify for Medicaid under current income limits.
The bill stalled in the face of a filibuster by opponents.
Sen. Jeremy Nordquist of Omaha, a leading backer of expansion, said a strong majority of senators support the expansion and others have said they are open to considering it.
Backers would need 33 votes — more than the 25-vote majority — to end the filibuster and 30 votes to override an expected gubernatorial veto.
Campbell said she has been working on a “Nebraska plan” for Medicaid expansion.
As part of that effort, she has researched state plans that are using various combinations of managed care, wellness incentives and private insurance as part of their expansion.