July 31, 2014

Medicaid expansion outlook hinges on viewpoint of law (AUDIO)

Whether expanding Medicaid under the federal healthcare law costs or saves the state money depends on whom you ask.

Sen. Ben Nelson, during his weekly conference call with Nebraska reporters, harshly criticized Gov. Dave Heineman for refusing to consider expansion of Medicaid. Heineman has argued that the state cannot afford it, even if the federal government eventually pays 90% of the cost. Nelson countered that Nebraskans already pay a huge tab for uncompensated health care, siting a report that estimates hospitals absorb nearly $1 billion in uncompensated care and bad debt, which is transferred to insurance premiums.

“There’s no medical bill fairy that pays these bills,” Nelson said. “You can’t simply ignore the problem and hope that it goes away.”

Yet, a senior fellow with the Washington-based conservative think tank, the CATO Institute, cautioned during a news conference at the Capitol Wednesday that expanding Medicaid would heavily burden the state budget.

Tanner said expanding Medicaid would not be a fiscally sound decision, making a reference to estimates by Kansas officials that expansion would cost that state $20 billion over the next ten years.

“If the cost of insuring these additional people adds up to $200 billion as we think it might in Kansas, and you have to pay 10% of that, that’s $20 billion that your taxpayers will have to pick up,” Tanner said.

Michael Tanner spoke at a news conference scheduled the day before the legislative Banking, Commerce and Insurance Committee is scheduled to consider establishing an insurance exchange program under federal provisions.

AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:50]

AUDIO: Sen. Ben Nelson criticizes Gov. Dave Heineman’s stance on the healthcare law. [5 min.]