Nebraska advocates urge expanding health care coverage under Affordable Care Act
Today, representatives of several Nebraska organizations, including Nebraska Appleseed came together in support of the opportunity under the Affordable Care Act to increase access to health care coverage. The ACA creates a new program that will provide coverage to persons under the age of 65 who have incomes below 138% of poverty, but who don’t qualify for Medicaid. This new option provides Nebraska with a cost-effective opportunity to provide health care coverage for a segment of the population who find it very difficult to purchase coverage in the private market.
“This is an opportunity we can’t afford to pass up if we are serious about addressing the problem of the uninsured in Nebraska,” said Jennifer Carter, Director of the Health Care Access Program at Nebraska Appleseed. “A strong economy, job creation, and healthy communities in Nebraska all depend on a health care system that works for Nebraskans. Healthy Nebraskans provide the needed, skilled workforce to attract new businesses to the state and ensure the best learning environment for our children.”
Providing coverage to the working uninsured in Nebraska under this new program will be funded with 100% federal funds for the first three years, and after scaling down in years four through six, will remain at 90% federal funding after that. It is estimated that $2.7 billion would be returned to Nebraska’s economy through these federal funds. At least 50,000 to 70,000 uninsured Nebraskans would gain health coverage through the program. That would cut the number of uninsured Nebraskans making less than 133% of poverty in half.
Mark Intermill, Advocacy Director at AARP Nebraska, said older adults make up one of the largest groups of uninsured in Nebraska. The expanded coverage in the ACA would help close the gap that leave one of our most vulnerable populations without health coverage.
“AARP supports this action because our members in their early 60s who purchase coverage in the individual market pay some of the highest health insurance premiums in the state,” Intermill said. “With unemployment being persistently high for older workers, they need options for their health care coverage. This new program would provide one option if the State of Nebraska decides to pursue it.”
Jon Bailey, Director of the Rural Research and Analysis Program at the Center for Rural Affairs, pointed out the ACA expansion would be a great benefit to Nebraskans in rural areas, where a large part of the population, as well as the health care infrastructure, depends on Medicaid and other public health insurance programs.
“This is a critical opportunity for rural people in particular,” Bailey said. “With generally lower incomes, higher uninsured rates, and less access to private, employer-based health insurance, this new program under the ACA is crucial to the economic vitality of rural Nebraska.”
John Cavanaugh, Executive Director at Building Bright Futures, noted the importance of health care to children and a healthy future for the state.
“Healthy children are better able to learn and grow, and become productive members of our society,” Cavanaugh said. “Health and education go hand in hand. They both need to be priorities if we want to ensure a vibrant future for our state.”