September 1, 2014

Gov. Heineman remains opposed to Medicaid expansion (AUDIO)

Gov. Dave Heineman remains adamant in his rejection of any proposal to expand Medicaid under provisions of the federal health care law.

Heineman insists Medicaid expansion is too costly. He points to projections that the current Medicaid program will grow by $225 million over the next eight years. He suggests private charities and organizations can help cover the uninsured in Nebraska.

“An expanded Medicaid program is unaffordable and it’s unsustainable,” Heineman tells reporters during a news conference.

Lawmakers could begin debate on LB 577 today. The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Kathy Campbell of Lincoln, would expand the Medicaid program in Nebraska under provisions of the new federal health care law to those making up to 138% of the federal poverty level.

Under provisions of the federal health care law, the federal government will pay the full cost of expansion for the first three years. Thereafter, the law sets the level of federal subsidy at 90%.

That’s a mark the governor doesn’t trust.

Heineman has repeatedly raised doubts about whether the federal government will keep its promise. He points to the rising national debt as evidence that the federal government cannot afford to pay for expanding Medicaid in every state.

Some of the key senators pushing for Medicaid expansion have indicated that they would be willing to incorporate safeguards to insure that the program doesn’t become too costly.

Heineman is unimpressed and says their efforts only prove his point; that Medicaid costs could well rise beyond the state’s ability to pay.

Heineman also says the new federal healthcare program presents too many unknowns.

“So, we should be going slow,” Heineman says. “There’s going to be growth in the current Medicaid program that will reduce the number of uninsured. Let that go into effect. Let’s see where we are at after a couple of years.”

AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:50]