State lawmakers hear plenty, mostly positive, about the possible expansion of Medicaid in Nebraska.
The Health and Human Services Committee heard more than four hours of testimony on LB 577, sponsored by Sen. Kathy Campbell of Lincoln. Then, it took testimony on LB 578, sponsored by Sen. Jeremy Nordquist of Omaha.
Perhaps, Dr. Rowen Zetterman, speaking for the Nebraska Medical Association, encapsulated the main argument of supporters by emphasizing that the federal government has promised to pay the full cost of expansion for the first three years, then 90% thereafter.
“Why would we consider turning down such an important opportunity for the health of Nebraska?”
Those speaking for the medical community claimed that by expanding Medicaid, Nebraska will take a significant step in improving the health of its residents and will address the so-called “hidden tax” that those with private insurance pay. Supporters claim that those with insurance pay a “hidden tax” because the cost of treating the uninsured is passed on to them.
The Director of the Center for Health Policy at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Jim Stimpson, estimated that by covering the uninsured a typical insurance policy holder would save $757 over the next seven years with a family saving $2,100.
An estimated 12% of Nebraskans have no health insurance.
Hanging over the public hearing was the fact that Medicaid expansion is opposed by Gov. Dave Heineman, who questions whether the federal government will fulfill its fiscal promise.
State Medicaid Director Vivianne Chaumount made the governor’s case before the committee.
Chaumount disputed the “hidden tax” argument.
“We just don’t believe that there is any documentation to show that the ‘hidden tax’ that supposedly we are all paying is going to go away,” Chaumount stated.
Despite the assurances of the federal government, Chaumount estimates expanded Medicaid will cost Nebraska $2.7 billion dollars through Fiscal Year 2020. She also complained that the federal government has been slow in giving states guidance on implementing the federal health care law.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]