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Full Medicaid benefits begin for all expansion patients in Nebraska
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Full Medicaid benefits begin for all expansion patients in Nebraska

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The Biden administration is planning to eliminate Medicaid work requirements. According to reports, it will reverse policy from the last administration that allowed states to require people to do some form of work to be eligible for Medicaid.The Trump administration said the work requirement helped people move away from reliance on the health program so they could get jobs where employers cover health care.The Supreme Court is currently looking at a case about those requirements. Last month, President Biden signed an executive order aimed at removing barriers to getting Medicaid coverage. 

Beginning today, Nebraska Medicaid provides a full range of benefits to everyone enrolled under the voter-approved expansion program.

The benefits match those covered under traditional Medicaid and fulfill the intent of the groups that backed the expansion ballot measure.

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They include physical and mental health care and prescription drugs, which have been covered previously, while adding dental, vision and over-the-counter medications, which had only been covered for some Medicaid expansion groups.

The change comes almost three years after passage of the November 2018 ballot initiative extending Medicaid eligibility to more low-income Nebraskans.

State officials have estimated that eventually 90,000 Nebraskans will sign up for the program. The state Department of Health and Human Services reported cumulative enrollment of 51,226 people through the end of August. The program was launched Oct. 1 last year.

At the time, most of the low-income, working-age adults who enrolled in the expansion program were given a limited set of benefits while Gov. Pete Ricketts’ administration sought federal approval for a two-tier system of coverage.

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The administration’s plan was to add dental, vision and over-the-counter medication coverage only after people complied with a number of wellness, personal responsibility and community engagement requirements. The latter were to include working, volunteering or doing other specified activities for 80 hours a month.

The Trump administration gave initial approval to Ricketts’ two-tier plan in October last year.

Nebraska officials stopped work on the plan in February, after President Joe Biden’s administration made clear it would not approve the community engagement requirements. That left most expansion patients with no way to get full benefits.

State officials did not take the next step until June, when they announced that Nebraska would give up on the two-tier plan and offer full benefits to all. They said it would take until Friday to complete all the administrative steps needed to provide the coverage.

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However, HHS has provided a full range of benefits to some Medicaid expansion groups. Those are pregnant women, young adults ages 19 and 20, and people who went through a special review to be classified as medically frail.

Medicaid officials said people currently enrolled in the Medicaid expansion program will get the new benefits automatically and will not need a new Medicaid card.

Expanded Medicaid offers coverage for working-age adults whose incomes fall below 138% of the federal poverty level — $17,774 for a single person or $36,570 for a family of four. Before the expansion, the only working-age adults who could qualify for Medicaid were very low-income people with minor children at home or low-income people who were officially determined to be disabled.

 

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