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Critics Call for Expediting Medicaid Rollout

Medicaid expansion is projected to create more than 10,000 jobs and generate $1.3 billion in economic activity in Nebraska. (Pxhere)
Medicaid expansion is projected to create more than 10,000 jobs and generate $1.3 billion in economic activity in Nebraska. (Pxhere)
April 11, 2019

LINCOLN, Neb. – Health advocates are sounding the alarm over the slow pace of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services' proposal for expanding Medicaid.

Molly McCleery, the director for Nebraska Appleseed’s Health Care Program says the proposed October 1, 2020 rollout would be 23 months after voters approved expanded coverage.

Other states expanded coverage in 8 to 12 months, and McCleery says Nebraska needs to move faster to ensure health coverage for some 90,000 residents who earn too much to qualify for regular Medicaid, but not enough to purchase commercial policies.

"This would require them to wait an additional almost two years after voters passed the initiative to gain access to care,” says McCleery. “These are folks that are working every day, experiencing both the financial and the personal hardships that come with not having health insurance."

McCleery says the delay, along with a proposal to eliminate retroactive coverage, also impacts providers who frequently are not compensated for care when patients don't have insurance and can't afford to pay. McCleery says the plan to create two tiers of coverage also would impose unnecessary barriers for coverage.

State officials say the delay is necessary to beef up technical capacity for enrollment and filing claims, and amending contracts with health providers.

McCleery agrees amending contracts and bringing technology up to date are important. But she argues those challenges are not unique to Nebraska, and wants to see Governor Pete Ricketts' administration deliver in a more timely manner.

"We want to make sure, like the department does, that when this gets done, it gets done right,” says McCleery. “But we believe that this can be done more quickly, but also be done right."

McCleery notes that without coverage, many people delay care until conditions get worse, which can lead to costly emergency-room visits. She adds the delay also is hurting the state's economy, pointing to research conducted by the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

"They estimated that we could see 10,000 jobs created and that we could bring in hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funds,” says McCleery. “And all of that is waiting until we move forward with expansion."

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - NE