Mayor Chris Beutler, Lancaster County Commissioner Deb Schorr and representatives of the health and hospital community today gave their support to LB 577, the Medicaid expansion bill introduced in the Nebraska Legislature by State Senator Kathy Campbell of Lincoln. The federal Affordable Care Act gives states the options to expand Medicaid coverage. The federal government will pay 100 percent of the cost from 2014 through 2016, and the percentage gradually decreases to 90 percent in the following years.
"This is our opportunity to make a smart investment in our State's economy and workforce, to make our State's health system stronger and more cost-effective, and to ensure that hard-working Nebraskans will be healthier," said Campbell.
Mayor Beutler said the federal Medicaid dollars generated by Nebraskans should be spent on Nebraskans and not on people in other states. In Lancaster County, it's estimated that at least 18,000 more individuals would be eligible for Medicaid under the proposed expansion. Beutler said Medicaid expansion would be another step toward making sure everyone in the community has access to a medical home, an issue he has worked on since taking office.
"It's time to bind up the wounds of a long and heated national debate and move forward," Beutler said. "With federal funds available to pay for these services, we would cause a huge injustice to our citizens by not using these funds to give them the ability to have medical care. The most important reason to expand Medicaid is that it's the right thing to do for our families, friends and neighbors and for the overall health of our City and State."
The Mayor said local taxpayers would benefit from the expansion because the City pays hundreds of thousands of dollars annually for services to the uninsured. That includes emergency medical services provided by Lincoln Fire and Rescue and services provided through the Health Department's medical and dental clinics.
"Expanding Medicaid eligibility will virtually eliminate all General Assistance medical costs for Lancaster County, a potential savings of $2.8 million to our property tax payers," said Schorr.
Also expressing support for LB 577 at an early afternoon news conference were the leaders of the City's two largest hospitals.
"Bryan Health supports Medicaid expansion," said Kimberly A. Russel, President and CEO of Bryan Health. "Expanding access to coverage will enable more individuals in our State to establish a medical home and follow preventive medicine guidelines. This will lead to a reduction in using the expensive resources of our State's emergency departments for primary care."
"Catholic Health Initiatives - Nebraska provided over $40 million in charity care in our fiscal year 2012," said Kim Moore, President of St. Elizabeth Regional Medical Center. "Under LB 577, more individuals will become aligned with a primary health care provider, which will help reduce the number of emergency room visits used for primary care. The cost of caring for the uninsured must be absorbed by the hospital eventually affecting the cost of care for all."