Nebraska Supreme Court Approves Medicaid expansion proposal for ballot

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September 12, 2018 - 11:18am

The Nebraska Supreme Court ruled Wednesday a Medicaid expansion question should remain on the ballot for voters to decide. The decision is the latest turn in a long-running battle on the issue in the state.

Nebraska is one of 17 states that hasn’t expanded Medicaid as allowed under the Affordable Care Act, with expansion proposals being blocked in the Legislature for the last six years.

This year, advocates collected enough petition signatures to go around the Legislature and put expansion on the ballot.

Opponents including Sen. Lydia Brasch and former Sen. Mark Christensen sued, arguing advocates violated rules for putting questions on the ballot.

The Nebraska Supreme Court rejected those arguments Wednesday, meaning Nebraska will join Idaho and Utah in voting on expansion this year.

“We’re just glad to see that all of the work we did collecting signatures from 135,000 Nebraskans over the summer has really paid off and that people are going to get to vote on this,” said Meg Mandy, manager of the pro-expansion Insure the Good Life campaign.

Supporters say Medicaid expansion would bring health care coverage to about 90,000 low-income Nebraskans; opponents argue the state’s 10 percent share of the cost – the other 90 percent is funded by the federal government – would reduce funding available for other programs, like education.  

Even if voters approve, expansion could still face challenges – the court said it is too early to decide if the initiative violates requirements for the Legislature to approve spending measures. Mandy acknowledged that could be another fight, as it has been in Maine, where voters approved expansion last year, but it has not yet been implemented due to opposition from Gov. Paul LePage.

“Obviously our hope is that if the voters of Nebraska decide in November that this is something that they want to see, that the legislative and executive branches of our government would listen to the people and implement that,” Mandy said.

A spokeswoman for Americans for Prosperity/Nebraska, which opposes Medicaid expansion, was not immediately available for comment.



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