Even after defeat for three straight legislative sessions, the sponsor of the bill to expand Medicaid in Nebraska says she won’t give up.
Sen. Kathy Campbell of Lincoln says she expected the battle to be tough and knew Gov. Pete Ricketts opposed expanding Medicaid.
“I wasn’t surprised with Gov. Ricketts’ comments and his position, because he was pretty clear about that position, I think, during the campaign,” Campbell tells Nebraska Radio Network in an interview.
The Unicameral moved to table LB 472 until the end of the legislative session after only three hours of debate. Similar measures to expand Medicaid under provisions of the Affordable Care Act in the past failed to overcome filibusters mounted against them.
Campbell heard the same arguments against the measure: skepticism over whether the federal government would continue to pay 90% of the cost, worry about how the United States Supreme Court might rule on another crucial case against the Affordable Care Act, and the cost of expansion.
Campbell expresses frustration supporters couldn’t convince enough senators about the financial benefits of expansion. She cites a University of Nebraska-Kearney study that projects Medicaid expansion could bring in $2.2 billion in federal funds to the state by 2020, more than offsetting the cost of expansion.
Expansion would have extended the state Medicaid health insurance program to approximately 77,000 needy Nebraskans without health care coverage. Campbell says there really isn’t any alternative to provide them coverage. She agrees with the governor that more money needs to be given to the state’s community healthcare clinics, but is quick to add that with only one clinic in western Nebraska, they cannot meet the need.
Going into debate, the stances of veteran senators were well known. What wasn’t known was how the 18 freshmen senators would vote.
Campbell says she worried she didn’t have the votes going into the debate, especially with the uncertainty of the freshmen and the opposition of the governor. She says a few freshmen have spoken to her since the vote to ask questions about expansion.
The issue, though, is dead for this session.
“But, looking at next year, I still have to believe that if there’s interest among some of the freshmen to talk to me about this proposal, it’s worth exploring.”
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]