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Since I have been receiving a lot of questions about the ballot initiative to expand Medicaid, I believe it is appropriate to provide some background information about the program. If you recall from a column I wrote a few weeks ago, Medicaid is already one of the largest State funded programs. For this fiscal year, Nebraska is already planning to spend almost $850 million or approximately 19% of the total general fund expenditures on Medicaid. In fact, the only program that receives more funding in Nebraska is the TEEOSA State Aid for schools.
Currently, Nebraska’s Medicaid program provides assistance for individuals unable to afford necessary medical services. This includes the elderly, blind, disabled individuals and low-income pregnant women and parents with children. The program also includes the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which provides medical assistance to children 18 years old and younger.
As written, the ballot initiative would amend Nebraska’s Medicaid program to expand eligibility to cover certain adults ages 19 through 64 whose incomes are 138% of the federal poverty level or below. Expanding Medicaid would increase the income eligibility from $12,000 to $17,000 covering an estimated 90,000 additional Nebraskans who currently fall in this gap.
Supporters of expanding Medicaid overstate the economic benefits without addressing the disadvantages. According to Nebraska’s Legislative Fiscal Office and the Department of Health and Human Services, expanding Medicaid would cost State taxpayers an additional $33 million during the next fiscal year and up to $768 million over the next decade.
These additional costs would make it nearly impossible to provide meaningful property tax relief while potentially jeopardizing State aid to K-12 schools, the University of Nebraska and current Medicaid recipients – people with disabilities, the elderly, children and pregnant women – by reducing Medicaid reimbursement rates. It is important to note that in most states that have expanded Medicaid, the actual costs far exceeded the estimated costs.
The Legislature has rejected the expansion of Medicaid over the last six sessions. I have always opposed the expansion of Medicaid, not because I am opposed to helping people, but we simply cannot afford it.
As always, if we can be of assistance to you in any way, please do not hesitate to contact my office. My door is open and I have made it a goal to be accessible to the constituents of our district. Please stop by any time. My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org, and the office phone number is 402-471-2756. Todd and Katie are always available to assist you with your needs. If I am not immediately available, please do not hesitate to work with them to address any issues that you may need assistance.