Supporters of getting more Nebraskans health insurance through the Affordable Care Act want to meet with the governor about another option for getting federal funding.
State Senator Campbell, who chairs the Health and Human Services Committee, says a three-year pilot program (LB1032) is a good option for those concerned about cost and effectiveness of a Medicaid expansion.
“We are not using General Fund tax revenue to support this pilot (program),” Campbell tells Nebraska Radio Network. “That, to me, gives [senators concerned with a full program] an opportunity to look at – is it working, is it not working – and then they can look at a long term financing solution.”
Campbell says short term funding would come from the Health Care Cash Fund, which includes federal tobacco settlement money.
But Jim Vokal, CEO of the Platte Institute, says switching from a full to pilot program does not change much in his mind.
Vokal says it might even cause more problems with participants suing over losing coverage.
“They counted on these services that we provide them,” Vokal tells Nebraska Radio Network, “we can’t just stop them mid-stream when other states are providing them on a continuous basis.”
The latest proposal is similar to what Arkansas did. Lawmakers there voted to continue their program.
“That this is just a three-year pilot is a smoke screen. I think that it’s not practical that we’re truly going to kick these folks off the program after three-years,” Vokal says.
However, Campbell says the pilot program will be evaluated along the way, and ending it without any legal issues is possible.
“You know, we’ve made cuts to the Nebraska budget while I have been in the legislature,” Campbell says, “and we’ve cut people from Medicaid and we have never restored those cuts.”
Campbell says she and the other senators she is working with hope to brief Governor Pete Ricketts on the latest proposal soon. The governor opposed the earlier version of the bill.
Nebraska Appleseed, which supported the original legislation, is fully behind the pilot program
“The three senators who brought the bill wanted to make sure the bill came out without a General Fund impact,” Molly McCleery, staff attorney for Nebraska Appleseed, tells Nebraska Radio Network. “It’s fully paid for. It’s an opportunity to demonstrate this program will work in Nebraska and without any General Fund impact.”
McCleery says having a consultant evaluate the pilot program and collect the data will allow for informed discussions when it comes time to renew the program or not.