Gov. Pete Ricketts renews his opposition to expanding Medicaid as the Unicameral prepares to debate the latest proposal.
Ricketts rejects claims that expanding Medicaid would boost the state economy.
Ricketts says lawmakers should concentrate on providing job training so the working poor can upgrade to jobs with health care and on funding community health care clinics to serve those without insurance.
“And that’s key, because that’s something we can budget for versus if we expand Medicaid, we’re signing up for something we don’t know how much it’s going to cost us long-run,” Ricketts tells Nebraska Radio Network in an interview.
Supporters of Medicaid expansion assert Nebraska has passed up billions of federal dollars by stubbornly refusing to expand Medicaid under provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Medicaid expansion was an integral part of the ACA goal of providing health insurance for all Americans. The United States Supreme Court ruled the federal government could not force states to accept expansion.
In Nebraska, expansion would extend Medicaid health insurance to approximately 79,000 Nebraskans, most of whom work, but in jobs that do not provide health insurance.
Medicaid typically is one of the largest budget items, if not the largest, in a state’s budget. Ricketts estimates Medicaid expansion would add $158 million to the Nebraska Medicaid budget over the next six years.
Though the ACA promises the federal government will pay 90% of the cost of Medicaid expansion, Ricketts remains skeptical.
The governor claims the poor financial condition of the federal government will force it to renege on that promise. He says regular federal Medicaid match-rates have changed.
“Because the federal government changed our match-rate, it opened up a $75 million hole in our budget that, we again, the citizens of Nebraska had to make up,” according to Ricketts. “So, to rely on the federal government, especially considering the state of their finances, I think is foolish.”
Ricketts dismisses assurances that the program could be discontinued should the federal government contribution drop below 90%, arguing that the state legislature would be reluctant, at best, to end an entitlement.
Ricketts also points to the collapse of CoOportunity Health, which insured tens of thousands in Iowa and Nebraska. CoOportunity Health was a health insurance cooperative established under provisions of the ACA. The Iowa Insurance Commission ordered it liquidated after claims overwhelmed its finances.
The Unicameral is scheduled to begin debate of the Medicaid Redesign Act, LB 472 this afternoon. In the past, supporters have been unable to overcome filibusters.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:50]