Rural Health News

No Medicaid, no normalcy for the Lockwoods

​Deb and Curtis Lockwood have lived and worked in the Fremont area for most of their lives. They raised children, welcomed grandchildren, and began to plan for a comfortable retirement. As far as anyone could see, they were living the American dream.

When Medicaid expanded in late 2018, the Lockwoods did not believe they would need it. After one unexpected injury and a bureaucratic nightmare, today, they find themselves waiting for coverage they desperately need.

Delaying expansion will cost Nebraska hundreds of millions

When Nebraska voters expanded Medicaid coverage last November, they recognized not only the health benefits of expanded insurance coverage, but also the economic impact of it. Expansion is estimated to stimulate nearly $1.3 billion in economic activity in the first three years of implementation. Yet, Nebraska remains nearly a year and a half away from realizing these benefits.

Expansion efforts hit snags in states where voters expand coverage

On April 1, 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 to provide health insurance to those in the coverage gap. Pending approval, the plan outlines an October 2020 timeline for enrollment. This leaves hardworking Nebraskans in the coverage gap for nearly two years after the passage of the ballot Initiative 427.

Expedient timeline for Medicaid expansion implementation needed

The deadline is fast approaching for the Department of Health and Human Services to complete the next step of implementation of Medicaid expansion in Nebraska. A state plan amendment is due to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services by April 1, 2019, as was set forth in ballot Initiative 427, and approved by voters last November.

Navigating stumbling blocks to Medicaid expansion

Last year, Nebraska voters passed a measure to expand Medicaid, but state officials are stumbling out of the gate to implement the plan. 

The move would bridge a health-coverage gap for 94,000 Nebraskans who don't earn enough to get subsidies for market-rate insurance, but earn too much to qualify for standard Medicaid. Valerie Bower is a registered nurse at Mary Lanning Healthcare in Hastings. She said expanding Medicaid also is critical for keeping hospital doors open.

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