A survey of 600 Nebraskans released Monday by the AARP indicates public support for exercising the state's option to expand Medicaid.
Fifty-three percent of those surveyed (317 people) supported expanding Medicaid and 28 percent (167) opposed it, the survey showed.
The margin of error was 4 percentage points, indicating support for expansion ranges from 49 percent to 57 percent.
"We really just wanted to see what the temperature of the public was on this issue," said Mark Intermill, AARP associate state director for advocacy. "We felt strongly that the Medicaid expansion is necessary."
The telephone survey of 600 Nebraskans older than 18 was conducted March 1-7 by RDD Field Services of Portland, Ore.
The Health and Human Services Committee voted 5-1-1 Thursday to advance the bill (LB577) to the full Legislature. Voting to advance were Sens. Bob Krist, Sara Howard, Sue Crawford, Tanya Cook and Kathy Campbell, the bill's sponsor. Voting no was Sen. Dan Watermeier, and present not voting was Sen. Mike Gloor.
LB577 would require Nebraska Medicaid to add the newly eligible adults, ages 19 to 65, resulting from passage of the federal Affordable Care Act.
Those covered would be uninsured childless adults and some uninsured parents who earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. That is $15,028 for a household of one or $30,843 for a household of four.
Because of a U.S. Supreme Court decision last summer, states have the option of expanding Medicaid, but expansion is not mandatory. Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman opposes expansion, saying it would cost the state too much money.
Campbell said she was confident 25 senators would vote in favor of the bill.
"We will continue our education with all senators now that LB577 is out," she said. "We've not had a lot of time to do that. We're just at the beginning of the process, and I'm very hopeful that we will reach that mark."
Thirty votes would be needed to override a likely veto by Heineman.
Omaha Sen. Jeremy Nordquist, a cosponsor of the bill, said he thought most senators recognized the value of getting primary health care to another 50,000 to 60,000 people in the state.
"It's in every community of our state. The uninsured rate in Nebraska's almost split 50-50 between urban and rural. So it hits every district," he said.
The question, he said, is how the state will pay for it.
About a year ago, Nordquist and Campbell were pushing the issue of prenatal care for undocumented pregnant women, which the governor fought, even going around the state speaking against it, Nordquist said. The Legislature overcame that veto with 30 votes.
"I feel equally as optimistic on this bill," he said.
Other survey results:
* 56 percent of respondents older than 50 support expansion, compared with 50 percent of 348 respondents younger than 50.
* 46 percent of married people support expansion; 70 percent of those divorced, widowed or single support expansion.
* Groups with the highest level of support were those who may have encountered difficulty in getting affordable health insurance.