July 28, 2014

Gov. Heineman rejects new approach to Medicaid expansion (AUDIO)

Gov. Dave Heineman stands firm. He opposes expanding Medicaid. Supporters in the legislature press on, though.

Heineman made it clear in his State of the State address that he remains opposed to expanding Medicaid.

“President Obama and his White House political operatives are trying to pressure Nebraska into expanding Medicaid, but Nebraska will not be intimidated by the Obama Administration,” Heineman stated in the address to the Unicameral.

Heineman added that the responsible choice is to reject expansion of Medicaid.

During a news conference after the speech, Heineman dismissed suggestions that lawmakers who support expansion promote a new approach.

Heineman said he had not had an opportunity to review the legislation filed this year.

“But, from what I’ve heard, it’s just a re-branding of Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion program,” Heineman said.

Despite the governor’s stance, Sen. Kathy Campbell of Lincoln sponsors a Medicaid expansion bill that she says differs greatly from last year’s measure, because it emphasizes wellness as it draws down federal dollars.

“And, it’s my belief that if we’re going to improve health care for everyone in the state, this is a very unique opportunity to bring some dollars to bear to help all Nebraskans,” Campbell tells Nebraska Radio Network.

Campbell sponsors LB 887, which she calls the Wellness in Nebraska Act. She says last year’s bill, LB 577, simply expanded Medicaid under provisions of the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.

Campbell says this year’s measure would emphasize wellness. It also proposes asking for a waiver to allow federal funds to be used to buy coverage in the private marketplace for eligible adults earning between 100-to-133% of the federal poverty level.

A filibuster blocked a legislative vote on LB 577 last session. Campbell acknowledges the changes made in LB 887 are designed to persuade reluctant senators to support expansion and overcome both a filibuster and an expected gubernatorial veto.

Though Heineman insists the state cannot afford to expand Medicaid, Campbell is just as insistent that the state cannot afford to pass up the federal government’s promise to pay all costs of expansion for the first three years and 90% thereafter.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:45]