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Medicaid expansion debate begins Tell North Platte what you think
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A pitched battle is expected Tuesday over Obamacare in the Nebraska Legislature, when senators take up what is commonly known as Medicaid expansion.

The measure is part of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), which gives states the option to expand Medicaid health care coverage to people with low, but not extremely low, incomes.

Conservative senators as well as Gov. Dave Heineman, stopped the measure a year ago, saying it would expand government and add to the massive debts of the federal government.

The bill, LB 887, would expand insurance options to some 54,000 Nebraskans who do not have insurance and are not eligible for Medicaid currently. The federal government will reimburse 100% of the cost for the first two years. After that, the federal reimbursement is 90%. 

The Nebraska Taxpayers for Freedom, Omaha Liberty Ladies, and Tea Party Patriots of Nebraska are among the active opponents of the bill. They call it "Obamacaid." They have offered private marketplace alternatives.

The opponents say it will cause more Nebraskans to become dependent on the government for health care, and eventually cost the state a good deal of money that is now pegged for state highways and state aid to education.

On the other hand, proponents such as Sen. Al Davis of Cherry County say many rural Nebraskans are not receiving medical services because they lack insurance, and they won't get insurance under Obamacare either.

Davis said about 1 in 3 people are uninsured in district 43, a vast area that is larger than several U.S. states.

Their incomes are too low, but they do not meet the criteria for Nebraska Medicaid because they are single or married adults with no dependents, Davis said

Davis said all five hospitals in his district support the expansion. Without passage, it's foreseeable that some of them might have to close because of lack of funds.

LB 887 has safeguards to prevent a huge unfunded liability for the state, Davis said. If the amount of federal reimbursement falls below 90%, the Legislature must decide whether or not to continue with it.

Also, Davis said LB 887 does not provide “free” care. Each participant pays a co-pay. Higher co-pays will be in place for visits to the emergency room rather than a clinic.

The bill is scheduled for debate on Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. You can watch debate by live streaming at http://www.netnebraska.org/basic-page/television/live-demand-state-government,  or television on the NET channel.

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The North Platte Bulletin - Published 3/17/2014
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