LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman held firm Wednesday in his opposition to a proposed Medicaid expansion, saying the state shouldn't rush into the program when the potential costs are unclear.
The Republican governor said in an interview that he remains adamantly opposed to the expansion, even as a growing number of GOP governors have decided to back the proposal.
The Legislature's Health and Human Services Committee will hear testimony Thursday on the proposed expansion, which is now optional under the federal Affordable Care Act.
Heineman argued Wednesday that lawmakers should delay the proposal until they get a better sense of the costs of insuring more people. State officials are projecting that more residents who are currently eligible for Medicaid will seek coverage even without the expansion.
"You're going to have more people coming into the Medicaid system, and that's going to drive down the number of uninsured in this state," Heineman said. "We just can't afford the Medicaid expansion. It's unsustainable, unless you're prepared to acknowledge that you're going to cut education."
Sen. Jeremy Nordquist of Omaha, a supporter of the health care law, said delaying the expansion would cost Nebraska the 100 percent payment promised by the federal government for newly insured residents during the expansion's first three years. The federal government has promised to pay 100 percent of the state's costs from 2014 through 2016.
Nordquist said many of the uninsured are already receiving care, which health providers pass along through higher premiums to those who are insured.
"These people are getting care, but it's the most costly care possible, and it's the inefficient care," Nordquist said. "But they're getting care, they're in the system, and they're using our emergency rooms. The governor should acknowledge that. We know we're spending money this way, but how do we make it more efficient."
Heineman's comments came in the wake of several GOP governors have who reversed course in their opposition to the Medicaid expansion. Govs. Rick Scott of Florida and Chris Christie of New Jersey have backed the program within the last week, joining the governors of Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada.