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Nebraska legislature examines expansion of Medicaid
To expand Medicaid or not. That's the question Nebraska lawmakers need to address as part of the Affordable HealthCare Act. Tuesday, several committees got a chance to hear what the expansion means for the state. And, what it'll cost.
The appropriations committee along with the health and human services committee held a joint hearing Tuesday to discuss how the new federal health care law will affect that state budget something senators and the governor are at odds over.
"We need, as a legislature, to get on the same page with the governor about what this costs," said Senator Jeremy Nordquist.
The cost of Medicaid expansion differs greatly between the governor and lawmakers.
"One from the university of Nebraska Medical Center that says Medicaid expansion's going to cost $140 million, and one from the governor that's going to cost $600 million. We need to come to what the actual numbers are and a common understanding so we can make policy from that point," Nordquist said.
Omaha Senator Jeremy Nordquist says there's going to be costs with the expansion that's mandatory.
"We have to get a number of what those costs are, but also what services are we already providing that we can reduce are costs on," Nordquist said.
Both committees were briefed on the Affordable Care Act by the National Conference of State Legislatures and as well as the current state of Medicaid by director Vivianne Chaumont.
"We know that the system as it is now isn't working. The idea of having such a big chunk of our population uninsured, waiting until they get sick, utilizing the emergency room - we've got to find a way to break that cycle," Nordquist said.
But whether to expand Medicaid still remains an unknown.
Governor Dave Heineman has stated several times he does not want to opt in to the expansion. He has said yes to a federal health care exchange though.
"I'm disappointed in the governor's decision to do a federal exchange because what it does is it takes power away from us and the state as policy makers to design an exchange that works for us," said Nordquist.
If the state does opt for the expansion, it won't affect the budget for several years.
"The federal government will pay 100% of that for three years and then it slowly ratchets down to 90%. That would be about 100,000 new low income working Nebraskans. A lot of them are working minimum wage jobs, don't have health coverage that would be picked up under this," said Nordquist.
Senator Nordquist or Lincoln Senator Kathy Campbell plan to introduce a bill that would allow the question of whether to expand Medicaid to go forward in hearing rooms and the legislative chamber.
The discussion on the health care law will go into the next session, which does start on January 9th in Lincoln.
Governor Dave Heineman opted not to take part in Tuesday's discussion.
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