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Election 2018 Medicaid Expansion

A yard sign promoting Initiative 427, the Medicaid expansion initiative.

After seven years of legislative refusal to expand Medicaid in Nebraska, voters on Tuesday night extended coverage to an estimated 90,000 adult Nebraskans who are working at low-wage jobs.

That decision will bring an estimated $1.3 billion in federal funding flowing into the state during the first three years of the new program, which would provide health care coverage for Nebraskans who work at jobs like food service and retail sales that earn them less than $17,000 a year. 

Voters in Lincoln and Omaha approved the initiative in resounding fashion, but voters out west continued to chip away at that margin as the vote count mounted after midnight. The issue was failing in the vast majority of Nebraska's 93 counties. 

Supporters argued that the new program would generate substantial economic activity, create and sustain nearly 11,000 jobs and secure the future of rural hospitals and clinics throughout the state while reducing the costs of uncompensated care. 

Sen. Adam Morfeld of Lincoln, who led the most recent Medicaid expansion battle in the Legislature, said late Tuesday night that Nebraska voters decided "to get the job done."

A recent study by University of Nebraska at Kearney business and economic professors suggested that Medicaid expansion actually would generate more in combined local and state revenues than it will cost the state. 

Opponents argued the $90.8 million in estimated state matching fund costs during that initial three-year period would disrupt the state budget and could erase legislative opportunities to enact increased property tax relief.

State costs could endanger funding for local schools, the University of Nebraska and current Medicaid recipients, opponents contended.

Supporters of the measure collected more than 100,000 signatures on petitions to place the issue on the ballot.

Gov. Pete Ricketts opposed the proposal. 

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If the vote count continues to hold up during the night, the issue will move on to the 2019 Legislature for implementation and funding.

Thirty-three other states already have approved Medicaid expansion and the issue was also on the ballot Tuesday in Idaho, Montana and Utah.  

Election results

Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or dwalton@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSDon.

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Political reporter

Don Walton, a Husker and Yankee fan, is a longtime Journal Star political and government reporter.

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