Strengthen the Health Care Infrastructure by Expanding Medicaid

Last April, two professors at the University of Nebraska Kearney released an extensive cost-benefit analysis of factors that should be considered in the debate on Medicaid expansion in Nebraska. We have been studying the rural impacts of their report as a series of briefs.

Our latest brief, Stronger Health Care Infrastructure & Healthier Nebraskans: Medicaid Expansion in Nebraska, is out this week. It shows that Medicaid expansion in Nebraska will make health care providers, particularly those in rural Nebraska, fiscally stronger. It will ensure access to health care for all Nebraskans, while also beginning to alleviate health care cost shifting that affects all Nebraskans and Nebraska families.

The UNK report found that Medicaid expansion will create a healthier work force in Nebraska. Evidence from states that have expanded their Medicaid programs show that access to health care by expanding Medicaid leads to better health.

For low-income workers, lack of access to health care – one issue Medicaid expansion would resolve – leads to issues that affect their ability to work, decreases their productivity, negatively affects employers and their businesses, and contributes to the cycle of poverty for individuals and families.

Expanding Medicaid will make people healthier, make them more productive workers, and enhance their workforce longevity. Employers and businesses will also benefit from a healthier and more stable labor force.

Medicaid expansion in Nebraska will also address health care cost-shifting and reduce the “hidden health tax” to individuals. This cost shift results from increased health insurance premiums and higher taxes needed to address the bad debts and charity care of health care providers associated with treated uninsured individuals. Medicaid expansion in Nebraska would directly reduce this cost shifting by $30.6 million in 2015-16 and by a total of $156.1 million by 2019-20.

Our conclusion is clear. Medicaid expansion in Nebraska is a policy and economic winner for the state and those who benefit from the additional health insurance coverage it provides. Nebraska policymakers need to act on expanding the state’s Medicaid program or face losing all the positive health care, economic and workforce benefits while continuing to foist millions of dollars of uncompensated care onto the premiums of the currently insured.