September 16, 2014

Supporters of Medicaid expansion say they’re not giving up (AUDIO)

Efforts to expand Medicaid in Nebraska have stalled in the legislature, but supporters aren’t giving up.

Debate on expanding Medicaid ended without resolution after more than 10 hours of floor debate in the Unicameral.

“Well, I think we’re in certainly a pause point, on a hold, with the bill,” Sen. Kathy Campbell tells Nebraska Radio Network.

Campbell sponsors LB 577, which would extend Medicaid to those making up to 138% of the federal poverty level, estimated to be between 50,000 and 90,000 Nebraskans. Approximately 240,000 Nebraskans are on Medicaid now.

Under provisions of the Affordable Care Act, the federal government will pay the full cost of expansion the first three years. The law provides for the federal government to pay 90% of the cost thereafter. A United States Supreme Court ruling made participation in expanded Medicaid under the federal law optional for the states.

Sen. Jeremy Nordquist of Omaha says he isn’t giving up on passing LB 577 this session.

“It’s not off the table yet. It’s something that is very much still on the table, but we have work to do yet,” Nordquist tells Nebraska Radio Network.

Time could become a factor. The legislative session is scheduled to end June 5th.

“Oh, I think time always works against you when you are on a hold or a pause,” Campbell says. “But, on the other hand, not necessarily.”

Campbell says the pause gives supporters time to address specific questions raised during floor debate. Nordquist insists there are enough senators open to expansion to push the bill through. Both indicate they are willing to consider alternatives to LB 577, perhaps even a creative approach floated by Arkansas to use federal expansion money to buy private insurance for the working poor.

Supporters also are counting votes. It takes 25 to pass legislation, but they need 33 to end the filibuster against the bill and force a vote. Ultimately, they will need 30 senators willing to vote to override an expected veto by Gov. Dave Heineman, who has steadfastly opposed expanding Medicaid.

AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:46]