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Sponsors of a Medicaid expansion initiative said Monday that they are well on track to collect enough signatures to place the issue on the November general election ballot.

"For six years, we have tried to pass a proposal in the Legislature," said Meg Mandy, campaign manager for Insure the Good Life.

Now, she said, it's time to allow the people of Nebraska to decide. 

The proposal would expand Medicaid health care coverage to about 90,000 uninsured adult Nebraskans who generally meet the definition of the working poor.

Those are Nebraskans who do not qualify for traditional Medicaid coverage and are unable to financially afford private health care insurance. 

"It's mostly parents who do not have health insurance at their work," Mandy said.

Collection of signatures began in Lincoln and Omaha and has expanded across the state to meet petition signature requirements, she said.

The effort is engaging volunteers and utilizing paid petition circulators managed by the same vendor that helped ensure a successful petition drive to place a minimum wage increase initiative on the 2014 ballot. That proposal ultimately gained strong voter approval.  

At this point, Mandy said, "we're over the halfway point and right on track" to meet the requirement for roughly 85,000 valid signatures by the July 5 deadline.

"We have a great coalition of support," Mandy said. "We're feeling good about this."

This year's latest legislative effort to expand Medicaid came in the form of a proposed constitutional amendment introduced by Sen. Adam Morfeld of Lincoln. That proposal was bottled up in a legislative committee.

The initiative has the potential to play a role in shaping the November election by impacting voter turnout and could be an issue in the gubernatorial election. It could occupy a place on center stage now that an initiative campaign for major property tax reduction has been abandoned.

One of the arguments that supporters are prepared to make to voters is that Medicaid expansion not only would provide needed health care coverage, but also boost local economies and sustain health care facilities, particularly rural hospitals.  

Opponents are expected to center on state costs required to access hundreds of millions of dollars of federal Medicaid assistance.  

Medicaid expansion ballot proposals are in play in Montana, Idaho and Utah. And the Virginia Legislature recently approved Medicaid expansion after years of opposition.

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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