LINCOLN — A proposal to expand Medicaid to more low-income Nebraskans has cleared one hurdle to appearing on the November ballot.

Secretary of State John Gale said Friday that a petition to put the proposal before voters has more than met the requirement to collect valid signatures from more than 5 percent of registered voters in 38 counties.

With signatures from 79 of the state’s 93 counties reported, the petition drive has exceeded the 5 percent mark in 42 counties, he said.

To put the measure on the ballot, the petition also must have valid signatures from at least 84,269 registered voters.

It also must survive a legal challenge filed by a state lawmaker and former lawmaker.

State Sen. Lydia Brasch of Bancroft and former Sen. Mark Christensen of Imperial filed suit in Lancaster County District Court, asking for the proposal to be declared “invalid and legally insufficient” and ordered off the ballot.

A hearing in the case is slated for Monday.

Meanwhile, election officials in the 14 remaining counties are continuing to check petition signatures. Douglas County, the state’s most populous county, is among those that have yet to finish. Gale said he expects the process to be completed next week.

Gale said election officials have certified 56,288 signatures so far.

Insure the Good Life turned in more than 135,000 signatures on the Medicaid petition in early July.

Their proposal would extend Medicaid coverage to about 90,000 low-income Nebraskans. It would cover single adults and couples without minor children, who cannot qualify for Medicaid now, and would cover parents and disabled people at higher income levels than allowed currently.

People making up to 138 percent of the poverty level — $16,753 for a single person or $34,638 for a family of four — could get coverage under the plan.

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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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