Medicaid expansion in Nebraska, one year later

Medicaid being expanded has provided more Nebraskans with healthcare.
Published: Oct. 6, 2022 at 8:03 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - It took battles in the legislature and ballot initiatives, but Medicaid expansion finally reached its last stages of rollout just a little over a year ago. Advocates tell us it means fewer people are having to choose between going bankrupt and getting medical care.

Amanda Gershon was working part-time due to her illness but didn’t qualify for Medicaid until she went on disability in 2016. She is a current Medicaid recipient.

“Medicaid saved my life, there is no doubt about that, if I wouldn’t have had Medicaid I wouldn’t have been able to do the follow-up care with my doctors,” Gershon said.

Amanda isn’t alone.

As of August 2022, a little over 72,000 Nebraskans were enrolled in Medicaid expansion. That allowed groups like single adults, couples with minor children, and others who fell outside of the previous income limit to qualify. The hospital association says it went into effect just in time to make a big difference with COVID.

“A big part of the period of COVID Medicaid expansion for low-income working adults was a lifeline,” Jeremy Nordquist with the Nebraska Hospital Association said. “It made sure they could get the care they needed whether it was preventative steps or in-patient care if they had a serious bout with COVID.”

There are some challenges that hospitals are still working to manage, like costs associated with Medicaid covering up to 70% of the cost of care provided, so hospitals must figure out how to cover the rest of those medical needs.

“While we’ve seen more people have access to preventative care and coverage it still isn’t necessarily a huge financial positive for hospitals,” Nordquist said. “But we think it is a positive for the health of Nebraskans.”

Gershon says it hasn’t just saved her life, but friends too - underscoring the importance of healthcare access.

“A friend of mine has such severe asthma she couldn’t do anything,” Gershon said. “And Medicaid expansion passed and she ended up getting on it and she functions normally because she was able to get something as basic as inhalers that she couldn’t afford.”

While just over 72,000 Nebraskans are signed up. We’re told 90,000 are eligible. Nebraska Appleseed encourages anyone who thinks they’re eligible to explore their options.