Petition drive underway to expand Medicaid

Nebraska is seeking to join 32 other states and the District of Columbia in expanding Medicaid. A petition drive is underway to pose the question to voters in the November general election.

The Midwest state is following Maine’s lead. In November 2017, Maine was the first state to expand Medicaid by ballot box, passing with 59 percent approval. The circumstances surrounding Maine’s referendum mirror concerns in Nebraska with similar rural and aging populations and ardent opposition to expansion from the executive branch.

Additionally, Idaho and Utah are in the midst of Medicaid expansion ballot initiatives.

Insure the Good Life, a collation of stakeholders, residents, and organizations, including the Center for Rural Affairs, leads the effort to gather 85,000 signatures by July 5, adding Medicaid expansion to the ballot.

Furthermore, the Center’s Board of Directors voted to back the ballot campaign at their recent quarterly meeting.

Medicaid expansion in Nebraska will extend coverage to nearly 90,000 Nebraskans who have fallen into the health insurance coverage gap.

These neighbors – seniors, parents, and hard-working residents – are employed on farms and ranches or in local businesses and nursing facilities. Yet, they earn too little to qualify for subsidies to purchase insurance from the Health Insurance Marketplace while also earning too much to qualify for Medicaid.

This increased coverage is critically important. More than a quarter of Nebraska’s uninsured residents who would qualify for the expanded health care coverage reside in rural counties.

People in rural communities are already at a disadvantage. The limited availability of health care providers and facilities, greater travel distances, and limited financial resources make access challenging.

Rural Nebraska’s economy is built on small businesses. Of businesses with 50 or fewer employees, only 18.8 percent offer insurance coverage. The majority of workers pay premiums and other out--of--pocket costs, or forego coverage altogether.

Failing to expand access to insurance forces health care providers to offer uncompensated care. Providers and insurers ultimately shift this cost to all patients and policyholders, and place the viability of rural hospitals and clinics in peril.

As provided under the Affordable Care Act, expansion of Medicaid protects health care services of all Nebraskans and benefits our state, our communities, and our residents.

Now is the time for Nebraskans, and residents of the 17 states that have not expanded Medicaid, to have a voice in deciding the future of health care. The job is not done until all 50 states have expanded Medicaid.

To learn more or to get involved in the Insure the Good Life ballot initiative, visit insurethegoodlife.com.

Feature photo: Failing to expand access to insurance forces health care providers to offer uncompensated care. Providers and insurers ultimately shift this cost to all patients and policyholders, and place the viability of rural hospitals and clinics in peril. | Photo by Rhea Landholm