Advocates sue in attempt to speed up Nebraska Medicaid expansion

Advocates sue in attempt to speed up Nebraska Medicaid expansion

Medicaid advocates in Nebraska have filed a lawsuit to try to force state officials to offer coverage sooner than the official 2020 rollout date.

According to the lawsuit filed Wednesday by Nebraska Appleseed, the state will miss out on approximately $149 million in federal funding by delaying implementation of Medicaid expansion until Oct. 1, 2020.

The lawsuit asks the state supreme court to rule that expansion must begin no later than Nov. 17, 2019. According to the suit, this is the latest possible date to open enrollment that would allow federal funds to pay for 93 percent of the cost of Medicaid expansion.

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Under ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion, federal reimbursement drops to 90 percent starting Jan. 1, 2020. 

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of two Nebraska residents who are currently uninsured but would be eligible for expanded Medicaid. 

Last November, voters approved a ballot measure that would expand Medicaid coverage to approximately 94,000 residents in the state who previously were not eligible. The measure garnered support from almost 54 percent of voters.

State officials have argued they need to implement expansion methodically, and the 2020 implementation date gives them time to make sure the rollout is relatively glitch-free.

Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) had long been opposed to Medicaid expansion but said he would follow the will of the voters. The ballot measure required Nebraska to submit documents for federal approval of the Medicaid expansion by April 1. 

“The plan sets a timeline that will help Nebraska avoid mistakes made by others states and will help ensure that newly covered Nebraskans are able to use their Medicaid coverage,” Ricketts said when he announced the state’s expansion plan in April. 

But critics have argued the state is dragging its feet and have pointed to other states that have implemented expansion in less time.

“Voters resoundingly decided that every Nebraskan must have affordable health care by passing Initiative 427 into law. The Department’s leaders have the duty to honor that vote and faithfully implement the initiative as written,” James Goddard, director of Nebraska Appleseed’s Economic Justice Program, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, that is not what is happening.”

The expanded Medicaid program will offer two levels of coverage: basic and prime. The prime level will include additional benefits such as dental, vision and over-the-counter medications, but beneficiaries will eventually need to meet requirements that they are working, volunteering or in school for 80 hours a month.