Supporters of expanding Medicaid in Nebraska say they have more than enough signatures needed to place the issue before voters in November.
“Today, I’m very proud to share that we’re ready to turn in signatures from more than 133,000 Nebraska voters from every single county in our great state,” Insure the Good Life campaign manager Meg Mandy said to applause from volunteers who gathered the signatures.
Mandy stood in front of those volunteers and 138 boxes containing petition signatures to be delivered to the Secretary of State. If the signatures hold up, the campaign has more than enough to qualify for the November ballot. It would take under 85,000 valid signatures with 5% coming from at least two-fifths of the state’s counties or 38 counties to make the ballot.
Petitioners fanned out across the state beginning in early April to gather signatures, an effort to get around the brick wall erected by the legislature. Efforts have been made over the past seven years to pass Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, but have failed each year.
State Sen. Adam Morfeld of Lincoln said the timing of turning in petition signatures couldn’t be better.
“And how fitting we are here on the day after the 4th of July, because nothing says freedom like affordable health care for Nebraskans and our families,” Morfeld said.
Morfeld was the latest state legislator who tried, but failed to get Medicaid expansion through the Unicameral. He dismisses worries about the cost of expansion.
“The bottom line is we’re already paying for this and we’re paying a lot more than the amount of money that it would take to get this started and running,” according to Morfeld.
It is estimated that expanding Medicaid under the ACA would provide health insurance for 90,000 Nebraskans who do not now qualify for Medicaid, but make too little to afford private health insurance.
The issue has sparked much controversy in the legislature with opponents saying it would cost too much even with the federal guarantee to initially pay 90% of the cost of expansion. Opponents also question whether the federal government would keep its promise to pay the vast majority of the cost.
Former State Sen. Kathy Campbell of Lincoln who tried unsuccessfully for years to pass Medicaid expansion said it just makes sense.
“A ‘yes’ vote for this initiative underscores our Nebraska heritage of supporting and carrying for each other,” Campbell said. “We need to work very hard until November.”
AUDIO: Insure the Good Life news conference on effort to place Medicaid expansion on the November ballot. [20:15]