Gov. Dave Heineman has issued a challenge to one of the key sponsors of legislation to expand Medicaid.
“I think Sen. Nordquist on the very first day of the session should call for a cloture vote on Medicaid expansion. Let’s see where the votes are,” Heineman tells reporters during a Capitol news conference. “Sen. Nordquist, the very first day when you come in, let’s have a cloture vote on Medicaid expansion.”
Heineman adds supporters of Medicaid expansion could have moved to end the filibuster against it last session, but didn’t
The governor challenges Nordquist to demonstrate leadership and call for a vote.
“What’s he waiting for?” Heineman asks.
State lawmakers who supported expanding Medicaid last session under the federal healthcare law could not overcome a filibuster sustained by 17 of their colleagues against LB 577.
The sponsor of the legislation, Sen. Kathy Campbell of Lincoln, opted instead to call for an interim study to review the benefits of expansion.
Under the federal healthcare law, the federal government will pay for expansion the first three years. The law promises to pick up 90% of the cost thereafter. Gov. Heineman has questioned whether the federal government will fulfill its promise and has argued the state cannot afford to increase its Medicaid expense.
Medicaid expansion would extend the federal-state health care program to 54,000 Nebraskans who currently do not have health insurance. Expansion is estimated to cost $60 million over the next seven years, according to calculations released by the Appropriations Committee.
Sen. Jeremy Nordquist of Omaha says he doesn’t plan any vote on the first day of the session, but expects to move on a bill early in the session.
“I think Gov. Heineman is trying to make this a political fight between me and him and maybe a partisan fight,” Nordquist tells Nebraska Radio Network. “But, clearly, if you look around the country Medicaid expansion is not a partisan issue.”
Nordquist concedes backers didn’t have enough support to cut off debate, which requires 33 votes, or even enough to override a Heineman veto, which requires 30 votes. Nordquist expects that to change once senators see the results of the interim study
As for a vote on the first day of session…
“It would be unprecedented to just step in and call for a cloture vote right away,” Nordquist says. “So, the governor knows that never happens. It’s obviously just a political talking point for him. So, we’re going to handle this issue deliberately just like we do any other issue.”
Though the governor says the state cannot afford Medicaid expansion, Nordquist insists the state will save money through expansion.
AUDIO: Gov. Dave Heineman challenges Sen. Jeremy Nordquist on Medicaid expansion. [:45]
AUDIO: Sen. Jeremy Nordquist responds. [2:30]