Medicaid Expansion up for debate again - News, Weather and Sports for Lincoln, NE;

Medicaid Expansion up for debate again

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By: Bill Schammert

Thousands of uninsured Nebraskan's may soon have access to affordable health care.  On Monday, LB-887 was up for debate in front of the state's Health and Human Services Committee.

"The effort to develop WIN [Wellness in Nebraska Act] isn't about numbers and dollars, it's about our neighbors, family and friends that need healthcare," Sen. Kathy Campbell of Lincoln said.

Sen. Campbell introduced the bill hoping to insure more than 50,000 Nebraskans who currently fall into the coverage gap; making too much for Medicaid, but not enough to enter the new Health Care Marketplace.

Sarah Gershon is one of those people. At 31-years-old, she's been battling chronic arthritis her entire life.

"Without Medicaid Expansion, I will whither away quickly.  Without medical help, I will end up on disability," she testified.

Last year at this time she says she was working two jobs, now she only has the energy for about three shifts a week.

"People like me who don't give up, who continue to work, who don't want a handout, who just want a little help to get a little bit further," she said.

Here are some of the highlights:

- Medicaid would be funded 100-percent by the federal government until 2016. That number would gradually decrease until 2020 when the cost would be shared, 90% federal, and 10% state funds.

- If you make between 50 and 138-percent of the Federal Poverty Level ($23,550/4-person family), you would contribute back 2% of your income, with some exceptions.

- The legislature would have a chance to revisit the bill if the federal share ever changed.

The bill drew support from several organizations and associations, including Nebraska Appleseed, Bryan Health and the Nebraska Hospital Association.

But, several also opposed the bill.

"As a result of LB-887, nearly one in five Nebraskans would be enrolled in Medicaid, shifting a huge burden onto the state budget," DHHS CEO Kerry Winterer said.

Among others, The Department of Health and Human Services and Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom spoke in opposition to the bill.

Currently, Nebraska is one of 23 states with no plan set in place to expand Medicaid coverage to low-income adults.

A similar bill died last year on the senate floor due to a filibuster



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