Neb. Medicaid Backers Pack Legislative Hearing

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Lincoln, Neb.-- Supporters of a new bill to expand Medicaid in Nebraska are calling on lawmakers to act on the proposal this year.

Advocates packed a legislative hearing on Wednesday to voice support for the proposal, an optional piece of the federal health care law. A similar measure was blocked last year.

"Without Medicaid expansion I will wither away quickly. Without medical help I will end up on disability," said Sarah Gershen a supporter of LB 887.

Sen. Kathy Campbell of Lincoln says the bill would give working, low-income Nebraskans better access to quality health care. The federal government has promised to pay at least 90 percent of the costs for newly eligible residents.

Another supporter of this bill was Todd Ruhter from Grand Island. He's been living with AIDS since 1998. He falls in the gap of being uninsured and says the WIN act would help him get health insurance.

"The passage of the WIN act would guarantee me and other Nebraskans living with AIDS who are not qualified for Medicaid or other subsidies health insurance under the ACA (Affordable Care Act) access to healthcare," said Ruhter.

Others say they just want their taxes to stay here and not to other out-of-state programs.

"The taxes that we as Nebraskans pay are just getting sucked out like a vacuum. I think it's time to put the dollars back in Nebraska," said Dr. Kevin Nohner a supporter of the bill.

Department of Health and Human Services CEO Kerry Winterer says the bill would increase the cost of the state's current Medicaid program, which covers an average of 241,000 individuals a month at a yearly cost of $1.8 billion.

"Access to care issues always adds pressure to increase provider rates which would further increase the cost to the state budget particularly if the state's law would require all new enrollees to see a provider withing 60 days as proposed in LB 887," said Winterer.