State governments have a basic obligation to set qualification requirements for public benefits. The task can be tricky. Nebraska officials have struggled to find the right threshold for Medicaid eligibility for children with disabilities, and this year concern arose when some children in that category lost coverage.
The policy debate continues, but a decision by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services provides a measure of relief. Some children who lost coverage after requirements for their Medicaid waiver can be helped through a different waiver, one designed for people with developmental disabilities.
Because funding will follow those children from one waiver to the other, they will not cut in line ahead of people currently waiting for developmental disability services. The waivers pay for health care services and long-term supports such as respite care, special formulas and home modifications that traditional Medicaid may not cover. The goal, appropriately, is to keep adults and children out of high-cost institutionalized care.
The state’s Medicaid budget isn’t unlimited, but Nebraska officials should strive to set sensible eligibility goals so that families get the help they need.