Lawmakers question sustainability of Medicaid expansion

Published: Feb. 10, 2016 at 6:50 PM CST
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Tens of thousands of Nebraskans are still seeking affordable health care coverage, some saying the options available now are simply too expensive.

Dozens of people met at the capitol Wednesday to convince the state to take action and pass a Medicaid expansion bill and help struggling Nebraskans.

"I am one of those people who has bills that are so great I'm probably going to have to declare bankruptcy," Sarah Parker, of Lincoln, said.

Parker said she had to start working part time a few years ago when her father developed health issues, and since then, has lost health insurance.

Others shared similar, difficult stories and expressed why LB 1032 should be passed. The bill would help people ages 19-65 get affordable health insurance if they make a certain percentage below the Federal Poverty Level (FPL).

However, opponents of the bill said it's not practical or sustainable.

"We're not helping the people that we really want to help," Jim Vokal, the CEO of the Platte Institute for Economic Research, said.

Vokal said Nebraska's bill is being modeled after a similar one that passed in Arkansas. However, some lawmakers in Arkansas are now threatening to either go back on or modify what was passed.

"The actual number of enrollees exceed projections by far," Vokal said.

"So, it costs millions and billions of dollars for each of the states."

Patricia Boozang, a senior manager director for Manatt Health, worked with Arkansas following their implementation. Lawmakers voiced concerns about Arkansas potentially getting rid of their expansion, and also wanted to know about cost sustainability.

"I really believe that the best programs are the ones that states really craft themselves," Boozang said.

"I think these demonstrations really are tailored to what the state's needs are."

She also said in Nebraska, and the country, something probably needs to be done.

"I think there are a lot of people who remain uninsured and remain without access to affordable health care," Boozang said.

"So, it really is worth the work to craft those hard solutions."

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