By Deena Winter | Nebraska Watchdog
Updated Nov. 28
LINCOLN – A panel of state lawmakers was told Tuesday that expanding Medicaid as part of President Obama’s health care overhaul would cost Nebraska $123 million in the first seven years.
No representatives of Gov. Dave Heineman’s administration attended the joint hearing by the Appropriations and Health and Human Services committees on the fiscal impacts of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, but the Legislature’s fiscal office released its own cost estimates.
Tom Bergquist, deputy director of the Legislative Fiscal Office, said he did not factor in savings due to fewer cases of uncompensated care, as more Nebraskans would be insured.
“These numbers will float quite a bit,” he said, depending on the projected participation rate and cost per participant.
Indeed, a consultant hired by the state Department of Health and Human Services estimated the cost of expanding Medicaid at $465 million to $617 million during the first seven years, while the Kaiser Foundation estimated the cost at $106 million to $155 million. The Center for Health Policy at the University of Nebraska Medical Center pegged the cost at $140 million to $168 million.
Bruce Rieker, vice president of advocacy for the Nebraska Hospital Association, cited a report released Monday by the Kaiser Family Foundation estimating that expanding Medicaid would increase Nebraska’s Medicaid spending a net 1.1 percent from 2013 to 2022.
Expanding Medicaid would cost Nebraska $250 million during the first six years, but the savings in uncompensated care would be $97 million, according to the Kaiser report.
Omaha Sen. Jeremy Nordquist cited a University of Michigan study that estimated $903 million in savings over 10 years due to things such as reduced health care costs for prisoners if Medicaid is expanded. The University of Maryland estimated $670 million in savings, and Arkansas estimated $372 million in savings in the first eight years of expanded Medicaid, Nordquist said.
Heineman has steadfastly opposed expanding Medicaid, saying he doesn’t trust the federal government will deliver on promises to cover most of the costs. However, Nordquist has indicated he will introduce legislation next session to expand Medicaid.
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