A petition drive aiming to place Medicaid expansion on the November ballot has kicked off at the Capitol.
Lincoln resident Amanda Gershon says signatures will be gathered to take the issue directly to the voters, because the Unicameral has failed to act.
“For the last six years, our state legislature has failed to pass Medicaid expansion and allow more than 90,000 low-income Nebraskans to get the health care they need,” Gershon tells reporters during a news conference in the Capitol Rotunda. “I’m talking about hard working people who we all know and depend on.”
Gershon says the issue became personal to her after she became deathly ill.
“I needed health care desperately but couldn’t get it,” Gershon says. “In 2016, my body crashed. I spent a week in the hospital fighting for my life. The doctor told me I was going to die at 33-years-old and if I hadn’t been able to get the health care, I probably would have.”
Gershon says she was lucky when was approved for disability, then qualified for Medicaid.
Marea Bishop of Bellevue, who owns a photography business says she cannot afford health insurance and, in 2011, fell ill and was unable to work full-time.
“Not having health insurance turns your life into a vicious cycle,” according to Bishop. “If people can’t afford medication and treatment, they can’t get healthy, which is what they need to be able to return to work.”
Nebraska Appleseed estimates 90,000 Nebraska would received health insurance coverage if Medicaid is expanded under the rules of the federal health care law. Under the law, the federal government would cover 90% of the cost of expansion.
Volunteer and paid signature gathers will attempt to gather approximately 85,000 signatures of registered voters by July 6th to place the issue on the November ballot.
AUDIO: News conference on petition drive to place Medicaid expansion on the November ballot. [13 minutes]