Nebraska Medicaid ballot org says it has met signature goal

LINCOLN, Neb. -- A group that is seeking to expand Medicaid in Nebraska says it has collected more than enough signatures to place the issue on the November general-election ballot.

Insure the Good Life announced Thursday it has gathered more than 133,000 signatures, well above the required minimum of 85,000 signatures.

The group brought all 16,000 pages of signatures in 128 boxes to Secretary of State John Gale's office Thursday morning. The signatures still need to be verified.

If approved, the measure would provide health care coverage to an estimated 90,000 people who earn too much to qualify for regular Medicaid but too little to be eligible for financial assistance available under the Affordable Care Act. A family of three would need to make more than $12,000 but less than $20,000 to fall into this "Medicaid gap."

Sen. Adam Morfeld said he has worked for years to get Medicaid expanded in Nebraska.

"This is the culmination of several years of having it fail in the legislature, and three months of campaigning to get it on the ballot," Morfeld said. "It feels great to finally have this kind of support for Medicaid expansion from the state. I hope the voters will be more reasonable than the legislators were."

Gov. Pete Ricketts has made his opposition to medicaid expansion known. In a press conference Thursday, he said it would cost the state more and force cuts in other places.

""You're taking away the focus of Medicaid which is on the people who are truly vulnerable, children, the disabled, and putting it on a group that we can address with other solutions," Ricketts said.

One volunteer said everyone knows someone who falls in the state's Medicaid gap.

"I waited tables, and so a lot of people in food service, retail, small business owners. I think if people really look at it, they will see they know somebody in the gap and they know somebody who needs that access to healthcare," said Amanda Gershon.

The Secretary of State's office has 40 days to verify the signatures, but it is likely the decision will be in the hands of voters.

Maine was the first state to expand Medicaid through a ballot measure. Idaho and Utah have similar measures pending.