Delayed timeline for Medicaid expansion undercuts rural hospitals and communities

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Johnathan Hladik, policy director,, 402.687.2100 ext. 1028; Jordan Rasmussen, policy manager,, 402.687.2100 ext. 1032; or Rhea Landholm, brand marketing and communications manager,, 402.687.2100 ext 1025

LYONS, NEBRASKA – This week, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) submitted a State Plan Amendment to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for review. The plan is a key first step to expanding the state’s Medicaid program, according to Jordan Rasmussen, policy manager with the Center for Rural Affairs. Expansion is a requirement of Initiative 427, which was approved by voters this past November.

Pending approval, the plan outlines an October 2020 timeline for enrollment. It would require participants to re-enroll every six months, rather than the 12-month requirement currently in place. Additional changes are suggested that may require legislative approval.

“As proposed, this plan creates an unacceptable delay for the thousands of working Nebraskans seeking access to health care,” Rasmussen said. “More than one-third of residents who fall into the coverage gap live in our rural counties, where access to care is already a challenge.”

Last November, voters across the state voted to extend Medicaid coverage to Nebraskans who fall in the coverage gap. Those in the coverage gap earn too little to qualify for subsidies to purchase coverage from the insurance marketplace and too much to qualify for traditional Medicaid. This population of adults, most of whom are working, are aged 19 to 64 and earn under 138 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, or an annual income of less than $17,000.

“DHHS’ plan further delays and erodes the significant economic impact expansion will have upon our rural hospitals and communities,” said Rasmussen. “Uncompensated care costs will continue to accumulate, putting many of our rural hospitals and clinics in danger of closure.”