Medicaid expansion has returned in the legislature.
Sen. Kathy Campbell of Lincoln has filed a new Medicaid expansion bill, LB 887, after shelving one that couldn’t overcome a filibuster last session.
Campbell told reporters during a Capitol news conference the new bill is good health policy, which she hopes attracts enough votes to pass this year.
“We weren’t going to write bill just so that we could get X senator’s vote,” according to Campbell. “How confident are we? I’m confident that my colleagues will have an open mind, because I promised them we that would look at their questions and look at their concerns and we have done that.”
LB 887 is being promoted as the Wellness in Nebraska Act (WIN), which would expand Medicaid under the federal health insurance law to poor Nebraskans as well as the working poor, who make between 100% and 133% of the federal poverty level.
It would initially move all of those low-income earners into Medicaid while a legislative oversight committee works with the governor’s office to craft a specific plan and request the federal government to approve it. Under the plan, the state would use federal funding to purchase private insurance for those earning between 100-and-133% of the poverty level.
Sen. Jeremy Nordquist of Omaha said that while the proposal tracks along similar lines as those in other states, it is tailored to Nebraska.
“The split that we chose is probably similar to Iowa,” Nordquist explained. “Where Arkansas put everyone into the private marketplace, Iowa did a split at 100% of poverty. So, from 100% and above, they go into the private marketplace and get a full private plan. Those below 100% would be put into our managed care under Medicaid.”
Campbell said she and other supporters studied how a number of states handled the issue after last year’s defeat.
“We have used bits and pieces and we have changed those bits and pieces to make sure that it fits where we are in Nebraska,” Campbell said.
Whether that will be enough to win over enough senators to overcome entrenched opposition remains to be seen. Gov. Dave Heineman has not wavered in his opposition to Medicaid expansion. As many as 17 senators joined the filibuster to keep the issue from coming to a vote last session.
Campbell anticipates opposition this year as well.
“I would imagine that we will be spending quite a bit of time on this,” Campbell said to chuckles among her colleagues gathered for the news conference. “This year, I think all of us feel very strongly that no matter what course it takes, we will go to a vote on this act.”
AUDIO: Sen. Kathy Campbell hosts news conference at Capitol on LB 887, Medicaid expansion. [13 min.]