Sen. Lydia Brasch

State Sen. Lydia Brasch in the State Capitol in Lincoln on Jan. 3, the opening day of this year's session of the Nebraska Legislature. 


LINCOLN — A state lawmaker and former lawmaker filed suit Tuesday seeking to keep a Medicaid expansion proposal off the November ballot.

The lawsuit was filed in Lancaster County District Court by State Sen. Lydia Brasch of Bancroft and former Sen. Mark Christensen of Imperial.

The two are being represented by J.L. Spray, a Lincoln attorney and the state Republican national committeeman. Brasch is the state Republican national committeewoman.

Last week, leaders of Insure the Good Life submitted more than 135,000 signatures on a petition seeking to expand Medicaid to about 90,000 more Nebraskans.

That amounts to a 60 percent cushion, virtually assuring that the petition will have the 84,268 valid signatures of registered voters needed to put the issue to voters this fall.

In the suit, Brasch and Christensen ask the court to keep the proposal off the ballot by declaring it “invalid and legally insufficient.”

They argue, among other things, that the expansion proposal contains more than one subject, in violation of the Nebraska Constitution, and does not properly disclose the Nebraska Appleseed Center for Law in the Public Interest as a petition sponsor.

Insure the Good Life was one of four sponsors listed on documents filed with the secretary of state. The three others are individuals. According to the suit, Insure the Good Life is a registered service mark of Appleseed, a nonprofit advocacy group.

Meg Mandy, campaign manager for Insure the Good Life, expressed confidence that the expansion proposal will appear on the ballot.

“This is clearly a desperate attempt to block the people’s ability to voice their opinion on this issue and ensure affordable health care for 90,000 Nebraskans,” she said, adding that Brasch and Christensen have failed to find solutions for working Nebraskans to access health care.

Secretary of State John Gale, who was named as a defendant along with the petition sponsors, said he could not comment until he has seen the lawsuit and consulted with Attorney General’s Office.

Brasch said she joined the lawsuit out of concern that the cost of the proposed expansion would have a “negative impact on property taxes.” The state’s share of costs for expansion would be about $110 million per year. The federal share would be about $1 billion.

While the money would come from state general funds, meaning income and sales taxes, not property taxes, Brasch said the money comes from the same taxpayers.

“I just think there’s some very important unanswered questions here,” she said.

The suit said Christensen joined out of concern that expanding Medicaid would reduce or alter the Medicaid services now provided to his disabled son.

Their arguments echo those put forth by Gov. Pete Ricketts, who has fought legislative efforts to expand the health program. Legislative proposals have failed six years in a row, in the face of stiff opposition from Ricketts and, before him, Gov. Dave Heineman.

The expansion proposal would provide health coverage to single adults and couples without minor children who cannot qualify for Medicaid now, as well as parents and disabled people, with incomes up to 138 percent of the poverty level — $16,753 for a single person or $34,638 for a family of four.

Federal law has allowed states to expand their Medicaid coverage since 2014 as part of the Affordable Care Act. The ACA requires the federal government to pay 94 percent of the cost of Medicaid expansion programs in 2018, with the federal share declining year by year until plateauing at 90 percent by 2020. The state pays the rest.

The Medicaid expansion portion of the federal law has survived attempts to repeal the broader law. So far, 32 states, including Iowa, have expanded their Medicaid programs.

Gale said his office expects to have the petitions processed and ready to send to county election officials by the end of this week or early next week. The county officials then will have 40 days to check the signatures against voter rolls.

Martha Stoddard keeps legislators honest from The World-Herald's Lincoln bureau, where she covers news from the State Capitol. Follow her on Twitter @StoddardOWH. Phone: 402-473-9583.

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(13) comments

Larry Brennan

I always find it interesting that those who are the most vocal about expanded coverage and or affordable coverage are those who don't need it.

Riley Escobar

So? People who are well-off can't be concerned for people who are not?

RODGER KNOWLTON

Why not let the people vote!!!! We have the right to have it on the ballot.

BOB JONES

Good, we cant afford this anyways. If you haven't noticed every facet of government is broke/borrowing from future generations (that is what they do is spend your money to excess because "there will be more"). How long can it go on? Just wait till public employee pensions come due then see what our bond rating does. STOP SPENDING OUR MONEY! We are more than capable of donating money to good causes (churches) who will take care of people. Oh wait, CHI just spent $23M on naming rights. Well forget that... There are other churches that know how to manage money more responsibly than the Catholic church.

Riley Escobar

Yes, we are much better off having people wait until things get really bad and then pay for their ER visit which costs so much more than preventative care.

If you truly cared about "OUR" money then you'd look for better solutions on how to save instead of whining without offering any solutions. Our previous system was untenable.

Let's not forget the ACA was the Republican plan. Our other option is universal healthcare. Would you rather have that (I mean would, but that's another story)?

DANIEL BRANDT

Let's not forget the ACA was the Republican plan.

But they didn't vote it into law. Because it obviously was not the answer.

BOB JONES

ACA was the Republican plan??? Really??? That is not accurate at all. Republicans were shut out of all meetings on the plan when Democrats held the Senate and Congress when Obama got elected (how convenient to make up your own history, Democrat playbook to a "T"). Old system was great and fair (best in the World), get a job and you have health insurance, disabled rely on charity, others live on streets. Universal healthcare is not a solution (very common leftist mistake/propaganda) on improving Americans lives, just ask Canada, have to wait months to see a specialist. When you come up with a solution that improves care, reduces cost, and is fair buy a lottery ticket.

JAMES DEMILIA

Have you ever talked to Canadians, Brits, Norwegians, French??? I have and none of them have ever expressed a desire to have a health system such as the U.S.. Most of them are bewildered that a country like the U.S. can have tens of millions without healthcare!!

JOHN KRETZSCHMAR

It comes down to what role should government play in our everyday lives? This is a nation dedicated to the proposition that we are ALL created equal and endowed with inalienable rights...only three of which are listed: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

John Adams noted in 1776 that “Government is instituted for the common good; for the protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness of the people; and not for profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men.”

Our Constitution says in the Preamble and again in Article 1 that among other things, to promote the general welfare of the nation.

Then there is the end of the Pledge where we repeat that ours is a nation with liberty and justice for ALL.

For me that means that ALL levels of government, in our democratic republic, have a moral responsibility to use our commonwealth in ways that protect and empower ALL of us EQUALLY.

IMO, that means it is certainly a good thing for Medicaid expansion to take place. It is consistent with our national ethos. Those who would resist remind me of the Tories, defending the status quo at the beginning of the nation. Fortunately the liberal forces who worked to provide a voice for the formerly voiceless won, and the conservative Tories, who worked to maintain the status quo lost before heading to part of England that we now know as Canada.

MARK SPRAY

Very well stated. However, you must keep in mind today's Republicans firmly believe they have no moral responsibility to assist those in need. Remember it was Republicans who said, "if you are poor, it is your own fault". Accordingly, life, liberty and the pursuit is only for those who need nothing from the government. And of course, one must be white and Christian. People of color or of a non-Christian faith need not apply.

BOB JONES

Fake news. Conservatives are the most charitable because they have saved there money to provide for charity that help the less fortunate. They do not setup systems that discourage unproductivity. To a certain extent it is your own fault if you are unproductive and poor (obviously not the handicapped which are and should receive public support). Government (taxpayer) has given every resource to the poor and they have not taken advantage. We can only give some much to folks that are unwilling to help themselves. No return on investment for anyone. Sounds like a racist post to me. Typical for Democrats.

JIM REGAN

Maybe we can pay for it by letting the folks who live in places Imperial and Bancroft pay for their own schools and infrastructure.

TIM FAIR

So it's OK for Mr. Christensen's family to receive Medicaid but not your family?
Again the rich old white folk don't want help going to the poor, the old, or people of color. Or anyone east of highway 81. By the way, before you comment, I'm an old white guy.

Welcome to the discussion.

Please keep it clean, turn off CAPS LOCK and don't threaten anyone. Be truthful, nice and proactive. And share with us - we love to hear eyewitness accounts.

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