17 Nebraska state senators argue for Medicaid expansion

October 18, 2018

Seventeen state senators argued Wednesday that voter approval of a Medicaid expansion initiative would bring nearly $600 million in annual federal funding flowing into the state and generate statewide economic growth while extending health care coverage to 90,000 working Nebraskans.

Their statement was issued in direct response to 11 of their legislative colleagues who earlier signed an editorial arguing that the proposal would disrupt the state budget and endanger funding for property tax relief and vital state programs.

“Multiple economists have found that expanding Medicaid easily pays for itself,” the supporting senators wrote, while creating thousands of jobs and helping keep hospitals open in both rural and urban Nebraska.

Legislative opponents are voicing “the same arguments they have used to leave $3 billion of our taxpayer dollars in Washington, D.C., over the last seven years,” the senators said. That money is being sent to 33 other states that already have expanded Medicaid, they said.

Sen. Adam Morfeld of Lincoln spearheaded the statement signed by legislative supporters.

Senators who opposed past legislative efforts to expand Medicaid have “left our friends, family and neighbors dying, suffering and going bankrupt without affordable health care, and it has hurt our economy too,” the band of 17 senators wrote.

“Studies have shown that Medicaid expansion would bring nearly $600 million of our tax dollars back to Nebraska every year, funds that would create nearly 11,000 jobs and more than $1 billion in economic activity,” they said.

“As a result of the large influx of federal funds, Medicaid expansion will pay for the state’s investment through greater tax revenues generated by economic growth, reduced bankruptcies and by eliminating entire state programs that will no longer be necessary.”

Recent estimates from the legislative fiscal office envision $1.3 billion in federal funding flowing into the state during the first three years of Medicaid expansion, with state matching funds totaling $90.8 million over that period.

Fifteen Democrats who are members of the nonpartisan Legislature signed Wednesday’s editorial response. Sens. John McCollister of Omaha and Roy Baker of Lincoln were two Republicans who signed the statement.

All 11 senators who signed the earlier editorial opposing Medicaid expansion are Republicans.

Nebraska voters will determine whether to expand Medicaid next month.

Senators who signed the editorial statement supporting Medicaid expansion were Morfeld, Anna Wishart, Patty Pansing Brooks, Matt Hansen, Kate Bolz and Roy Baker, all of Lincoln; Carol Blood and Sue Crawford, both of Bellevue; Lynne Walz of Fremont; Dan Quick of Grand Island; and McCollister, Bob Krist, Sara Howard, Tony Vargas, Mike McDonnell, Justin Wayne and Rick Kolowski, all of Omaha.

Krist is the Democratic gubernatorial nominee.