Opponents of Medicaid expansion didn’t need to resort to a filibuster this year.
They effectively killed the measure for the session after only three hours of debate.
Sen. Kathy Campbell of Lincoln had re-fashioned her proposal to expand the state Medicaid proposal under provisions of the Affordable Care Act for the second time. The latest change was even implied in the name of LB 472: The Medicaid Redesign Act.
The bill would not only have expanded Medicaid, but proposed creation of a Medicaid Redesign task force that would study the current state Medicaid program, looking for ways to improve its quality and effectiveness.
Campbell told fellow state senators as floor debate began she made changes to tailor her bill to Nebraska.
“LB 472 pays for itself, returns our tax dollars, and saves Nebraskans money,” Campbell stated.
The fate of the bill, though, became evident after senators defeated an amendment 22-24 that made a needed change to the bill to ensure it would be constitutional.
Campbell proposed the bill to expand Medicaid to cover approximately 77,000 mostly working poor Nebraskans not now covered under Medicaid, yet unable to afford private health insurance. Campbell had failed twice before, both times unable to come up with the 33 votes needed to overcome filibusters against expansion.
This time opponents succeeded in approving a so-called bracket motion 28-16, which tabled the bill until the last day of the legislative session, effectively killing it for this year. The move, which came after three hours of debate, does keep the legislation on the shelf with the possibility of taking it down and debating it next year.
Supporters argue Nebraska has been passing up billions of federal funds offered through the Affordable Care Act by refusing to expand Medicaid. They say the state would not only extend health insurance coverage to needy Nebraskans, but would stimulate the state economy and create a more efficient health care system through expansion.
“This bill requires good things to happen that change our delivery model, that pays for performance, that encourages patients to stop using ERs for their headaches and start going to their primary care physician for those things they ought to see their primary care physician for,” Sen. Mike Gloor of Grand Island argued during floor debate.
But, Sen. Ken Schilz of Ogallala voiced the concerns of opponents by voicing concern about the federal health insurance law and expressing skepticism about its effectiveness.
“I understand that this is an important issue for folks that don’t have coverage,” Schilz stated. “The problem is that this is the wrong way to go about it.”
That was a theme Gov. Peter Ricketts struck in an interview with Nebraska Radio Network on the eve of the Medicaid expansion debate.
Ricketts said 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.