Lawmakers consider expanding Neb. Medicaid: 5 things to know

A group of Nebraska lawmakers is weighing the options for expanding Medicaid coverage that may be approved by the Legislature, according to the Associated Press.

Here are five things to know about Nebraska's potential Medicaid expansion.

1. Nebraska is one of 19 states that hasn't expanded Medicaid. The 19 other states, mostly run by conservative Republican governors, include North Carolina, Virginia and Oklahoma. Thirty states and the District of Columbia have made the change. Utah is considering a proposal.

2. Including cost savings, Nebraska would have saved $3.5 million this fiscal year by expanding Medicaid. Nebraska would also have received more funds in coming years, from $4.4 million in FY 2017 to $26.6 million by 2020. In addition, payments by the federal government would increase to almost $447 million by 2020.

3. Senator John McCollister is leading the expansion effort. The Omaha senator took office in January and is exploring types of expansion combined with other cost-lowering reforms. "I recognize that people have deep feelings about Medicaid expansion. I share some of those concerns," he said. "But when you look at the number of people who are uninsured and the number of rural hospitals that are feeling the pinch, you at least have to look at how the expansion might work." Sen. McCollister seriously considered expansion after reviewing a study by two University of Nebraska at Kearney professors that predicted Medicaid expansion could help the state gain $1 million in economic benefits.

4. The effort faces opponents. One such opponent, Governor Pete Ricketts, argued that the expansion is too expensive and will not help the economy.

5. Others are curious to learn more about Medicaid expansion. Although she doesn't support expansion, Senator Joni Craighead of Omaha wants to find out if there are other ways to provide healthcare coverage to Nebraskans. "I believe every single person deserves healthcare, but the way we deliver it is not correct," she said. "We need to keep researching this, and maybe we can come up with some good, common sense ideas."

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