White House hosts press call to push Medicaid expansion in Nebraska

2013-11-20T17:45:00Z 2013-11-20T22:38:05Z White House hosts press call to push Medicaid expansion in NebraskaBy JoANNE YOUNG / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com

The White House on Wednesday jumped into the push by some state senators to pass Medicaid expansion in the 2014 session of the Legislature.

It hosted a media conference call with Sens. Kathy Campbell of Lincoln and Jeremy Nordquist of Omaha to restate why it's important for Nebraska to participate in the expansion that is part of the Affordable Care Act. It apparently has done the same thing in other states that are not participating, including South Carolina, Maine, Florida and Louisiana.

Josh Earnest, White House principal deputy press secretary, emphasized that Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, recently announced his decision to expand Medicaid in his state to 270,000 uninsured residents.

Twenty-six states and the District of Columbia have committed to expand Medicaid, he said. If every state would do the same, eight in 10 uninsured Americans would have access to health care for $100 or less a month, he said.

Earnest said some Republican governors have put politics aside and decided to "do the right thing for their constituents."

"Unfortunately, there are some governors and state legislators in other states who are still holding hostage Medicaid expansion that we know would help thousands of their residents, would reduce the rate of uninsured and actually help the state save money."

Nebraska is one of those states where the governor and some state senators have declined to expand Medicaid. In Nebraska's case, for some 48,000 residents.

Medicaid offers coverage to low-income children, parents, pregnant women and seniors, as well as disabled adults. The Affordable Care Act gives states the option of expanding that to low-income childless adults, with the federal government paying 100 percent of the costs the first three years and no less than 90 percent thereafter.

Gov. Dave Heineman has been opposed to expansion, as have some state senators, including Mike Gloor of Grand Island and Beau McCoy of Omaha. Heineman and McCoy have said they don't trust that the federal government will live up to its share of the funding.

Gloor said expanding Medicaid would surrender control of those residents' health care, as well as tax dollars, into a system that doesn't operate as a normal, reasonable business would.

A hearing will be held on Medicaid expansion in December, and a new bill will be introduced in January, Campbell said.

Nordquist said Nebraskans shouldn't confuse Medicaid expansion with the short-term problems experienced with the rollout of the Affordable Care Act in the first months.

"(Medicaid) is health care for people for this year and for years and years to come, low-income working Nebraskans," he said. "This is a long-term health care investment in all of Nebraska."

Earnest said Medicaid has been efficient and successful.

"Many people have observed ... that Medicaid expansion is actually a bright spot of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act," he said.

Reach JoAnne Young at 402-473-7228 or jyoung@journalstar.com. You can follow JoAnne's tweets at twitter.com/ljslegislature.

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