State senators who support the expansion of Medicaid in Nebraska expressed hope today that they can overcome objections next year.
Supporters couldn’t overcome a filibuster and bring LB 577 to the legislature for a vote this year.
Sen. Kathy Campbell of Lincoln, sponsor LB 577, said an interim study will be undertaken, reviewing the benefits of expansion, including its economic benefits.
During a news conference in the Capitol Rotunda, Campbell said the state will forego $423 million during the next federal fiscal year by not taking the federal government up on its offer to pay the full cost of expansion the first three years. The federal health care law promises 90% funding in the following years.
Campbell stood with 21 other senators, touting the interim study as a critical step to clear obstacles to expansion in the legislature. A group of 17 senators held fast to a filibuster, blocking LB 577 from a vote. Campbell could not muster the 33 votes need to end the filibuster. She opted instead for the interim study.
Sen. Jeremy Nordquist of Omaha said he believes opposition might melt away during the interim.
“As senators start to hear about jobs being lost in their communities, I think they’re going to start to listen more to the discussion and look for possible solutions to this issue,” Nordquist stated.
Medicaid expansion would extend the federal-state health care program to 54,000 Nebraskans who currently do not have health insurance.
Gov. Dave Heineman has steadfastly opposed expansion, stating that Nebraska cannot afford it. Heineman also questions whether the federal government will fulfill its promise to pay 90% of the cost.
Expansion of Medicaid is estimated to cost $60 million over the next seven years, according to calculations released by the Appropriations Committee.
Campbell says she has been talking with senators who oppose expansion, who have told her they want more information.
“I was encouraged by that, because it seems to me that there are still senators in that body who are questioning and want some sense of answers,” Campbell stated. “They are not at the point of saying, ‘No, no, not ever, not ever’. They are still looking for answers.”
AUDIO: State senators hold a news conference on an interim study of the expansion of Medicaid in Nebraska. [10 min.]