Neb. Medicaid Bill Fails in Legislature

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LINCOLN, Neb.-- A proposal to extend health coverage to low-income Nebraskans failed in the Legislature on Wednesday.

The Wellness in Nebraska Act, was a new version of a Medicaid expansion bill that stalled last year. The legislation would have help cover an estimated 54,000 residents through Medicaid or subsidized, private health insurance. It would have cost an estimated $62 million between July of this year and June 2020.

Many residents who would qualify have fallen into a coverage gap, because their incomes are too high to qualify for Medicaid, but too low to receive subsidies available through the federal health insurance marketplace.

Tuesday, at beginning of the debate was dominated by senators who were in favor of this bill.

"It is about the people who are uninsured and can not get that insurance," said Senator Kathy Campbell.

"My plea isn't just access to the uncovered, it's also about the opportunity to transform healthcare," said Senator Mike Gloor.

But a few hours in, opposing senators had their say.

"By having the government, the state of Nebraska just pay for it. Who are we paying exactly?" said Senator Lydia Brasch.

"We have to account for that kind of money and we are a state that does balance the budget," said Senator Tom Carlson.

Gov. Dave Heineman has argued that Medicaid expenses would grow under the bill and pull money from other priorities, such as education.

On Wednesday during about a 2 hour debate senators were starting to show frustrations on this bill.

"People that have no insurance can't get through the door and can't get into the doctor's office. They can not get care," said Senator Steve Lathrop.

"You don't have to like this bill but we owe them a vote," said Senator Annette Dubas.

10/11 caught up with Senator Campbell on her thoughts about her priority bill failing.

"We have always struggled on this bill and in the 6 years I've seen more fluid movement on the vote on almost any other bill that I've worked with. It was like yes one day...come talk tomorrow, we'll no I don't think I am. Frankly I'm not sure what the vote will be on cloture," said Campbell.

Campbell says she'll do more research and tweak the bill over the interim.

"What we'll do now is spend some time, we'll follow the issue, I have enough of an interest and what's happening with waivers in other states," said Campbell.

Campbell stresses the biggest disappointment are those 54,000 Nebraskans who would benefit from this bill.

"The greatest disappointment I have is with those 54,000. I can't imagine what it would be like in pain or seeking relief and watching the debate on the floor of the legislature, that is just heartbreaking to me," said Campbell.


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