Nearly 300 people gathered on the west steps of the Capitol late Wednesday afternoon to try to bring about a vote on a Medicaid expansion bill.

The bill (LB577) went through more than 10 hours of debate last month on its first round of consideration, but proponents could not get the 33 votes needed to break a filibuster and bring it to a vote to advance it.

The bill would require Nebraska Medicaid to add the newly eligible adult population -- about 54,000 people -- under the Affordable Care Act to the Nebraska Medicaid state plan amendment and outlines the health coverage provided under the program.

Speakers at the rally urged those attending to call their senators and urge them to vote on the issue.

Several times the crowd broke into a chant: "Vote, vote, vote, vote."

Virginia Meyer, of Fremont, and her 2-year-old son, Forrest, came with a sign, "Put the filibuster in time out."

"I live and work in rural Nebraska and we see the impact that the Medicaid expansion could have on people who are underemployed, which is common in rural areas, and (who) don't have insurance," she said.

Lance Evans of Lincoln came because he thinks it's important to get the law passed, he said, or at least having a vote on it.

"A lot of people think it's for people that aren't working or people that are trying to freeload, and that's simply not the case," Evans said. "There's a lot of people that could have a positive impact on the community that just need this to pass."

Lincoln Sen. Kathy Campbell said she is continuing to try to gather the 33 votes needed to break a filibuster and get the bill to a vote, but only 12 working days remain in the legislative session.

"If it has to stay on (first round without a vote), it will come back next year," she said. "But at this point, the clock is against us."

An informal poll of senators on Wednesday found fewer than 33 would be willing to bring the question to a vote.

Campbell said the number shifts from day to day. She wants to know she has a solid 30 votes to advance the bill, in addition to 33 cloture votes, before asking to put it back on the agenda.

"Because that's what you need ultimately."

She said the state stands to lose $423 million in federal dollars in 2014 if the state does not expand Medicaid.

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


State government reporter

JoAnne Young covers state government, including the Legislature and state agencies, and the people they serve.

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