By Governor Pete Ricketts
This month marks the fifth anniversary of the enactment of President Obama’s healthcare law also known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) or Obamacare. As this controversial healthcare law has taken effect in the years following its passage, Nebraskans have witnessed its rocky rollout and have suffered from dramatic increases in insurance premiums. I have heard from Nebraskans that this law has rendered health insurance almost unaffordable for many people because of the high premiums and deductibles that have resulted from its mandates.
In spite of the ACA’s continued failures, proponents of the law have chosen to pursue its implementation at the state level here in Nebraska. This session, the Unicameral is considering LB472, also known as the Medicaid Redesign Act, which would expand Medicaid in Nebraska as proposed under Obamacare.
Proponents of Medicaid expansion tout the U.S. Federal Government’s promise to cover 90% of the cost of expansion as money that Nebraska cannot afford to leave on the table. Similar past promises from the Federal Government, however, have only proven short term. Promised federal funding for state administered programs has a history of evaporating, including federal funding for special education programming. Initially, federal funding was supposed to provide 40% of the funding for special education, but today in Nebraska it has dropped to 23%, leaving the State of Nebraska to pick up the difference.
Even at the current federal funding levels, Medicaid expansion in Nebraska would create major, new, ongoing state spending that would compete with priorities that Nebraskans care deeply about like tax relief, education, and infrastructure. A recent study showed that Medicaid expansion in Nebraska would result in spending $3.184 billion in taxpayer dollars including $158 million in state income and sales tax dollars over the first six years of the program. This would redirect money that otherwise could go towards property tax relief, additional education funding, or building better roads.
Medicaid expansion in Nebraska would also dramatically shift the focus of Nebraska’s Medicaid program which is centered on serving our state’s most vulnerable citizens. Currently, Nebraska’s Medicaid program provides coverage to young children, low-income families, persons with disabilities, and others who meet certain eligibility requirements. Expanding Medicaid beyond these individuals would shift the program’s focus away from serving Nebraska’s vulnerable citizens to providing taxpayer-funded health coverage to individuals outside these categories, which was never the original intent of Nebraska’s Medicaid program.
Expanding Medicaid as proposed under President Obama’s failed healthcare law is a dangerous financial risk to state government. Nebraska should reject the failure of Obamacare by rejecting LB472. Because of the ACA’s failures, it is critical that this Congress pursue real healthcare reform that is patient-centered and market-focused while also reversing the dramatic rise in healthcare insurance premiums and holding the line on consolidation in the health insurance market. Without real reform, it is likely the healthcare costs will continue to rise, and Nebraskans will continue to have fewer health insurance providers from which to choose.
Here in Nebraska, we should continue to seek innovative ideas on how we can make healthcare more affordable at the state level without major expansions of entitlement programs. One alternative that our Legislature should look at in the future is budgeting support for community health clinics. These clinics, such as One World Community Health Center in Omaha and Norfolk Community Health Care Clinic, provide quality healthcare to underserved populations who otherwise would have difficulty getting access to critical services. Additionally, with Nebraska’s low unemployment, there are numerous open jobs across our state with great healthcare benefits. We need to ask ourselves: How can we do a better job of helping people take advantage of these employment opportunities?
In the near future, I urge you to contact your state senator and ask them to oppose the expansion of Obamacare in Nebraska by rejecting LB472. For more information on how you can call or email your senator, please visit www.nebraskalegislature.gov.