Heineman holds firm in opposition to Medicaid

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 27, 2013 at 5:12 pm •  Published: February 27, 2013
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Some of the governors have argued that the federal government will spend the money regardless, and rejecting the expansion would effectively send their residents' tax dollars to other states.

"I really don't buy into that," Heineman said. "There are a lot of federal dollars, particularly in the Medicaid program, that are going to continue to flow into our state no matter what. (The expansion) provides additional dollars, no question about it. But what I'm worried about is whether the federal government will fulfill its promise."

The governor's Medicaid chief said Wednesday that her agency plans to oppose the bill, which would extend coverage to an estimated 54,000 new residents. Nebraska agency officials plan to argue that the proposed expansion is unaffordable and unsustainable, and the health care law will stretch the division's budget even without the expansion.

"We feel that's going to be a strain on our budget," said Vivianne Chaumont, director of the state Division of Medicaid and Long-Term Care. "And that's before we even start talking about the expansion."

Supporters argued that the measure would reduce long-term health care costs for county taxpayers and hospitals, and ease the financial pressure on the state by shifting many expenses to the federal government.

Lawmakers said the bill would extend coverage to more than 54,000 uninsured Nebraskans, and state officials predict that some insured Nebraskans would switch from their current plans. The proposal would cover 117,000 to 159,000 residents in all by fiscal year 2016, when the program is in full swing, according to a January report commissioned by the state Department of Health and Human Services.

The bill was introduced in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down part of the federal health care law, one of President Barack Obama's top domestic achievements in his first term. The court upheld most of the law, but ruled that the federal government cannot withhold funding from states that choose not to expand their Medicaid programs.

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The bill is LB577