Vote ‘Yes’ on Initiative 427

Medicaid Expansion Would Benefit Students, Education Support Staff

When the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society endorsed Initiative 427 last month, it pushed the number of regional and statewide organizations supporting Medicaid expansion in Nebraska to more than two dozen.

That indicates a growing number of Nebraskans accept the idea of Medicaid expansion. Indeed, more than 136,000 voters signed a petition to put expansion on the ballot, where only 82,000 signatures were required.

Passage of Initiative 427 on Nov. 6 would expand Medicaid health care coverage to about 90,000 Nebraskans — the working poor who can’t qualify for coverage under traditional Medicaid rules. At the same time, many of these uninsured Nebraskans don’t earn enough to afford or to qualify for the financial help that would let them buy insurance. They are stuck in a “coverage gap.”

NSEA President Jenni Benson said many of those in the coverage gap are school employees – paraeducators, bus drivers, cafeteria workers. Many children – students in every school in Nebraska – also lack coverage because their families fall into the coverage gap.

“A healthy school staff is always important,” said Benson. “Children who can focus their physical, intellectual and emotional energy on learning will always perform at higher levels than those who are under the weather.

“Teachers see how healthy students thrive in a classroom,” said Benson. “And a parent’s inability to access the health care they need can affect their ability to work, to support their families and to care for their children.”

Benson said expanding Medicaid is the best tool available to make sure all Nebraskans get the health care they need. It would also bring in federal tax dollars to support local jobs, local health care facilities and local economies.

A recent analysis by the Nebraska Legislature’s Fiscal Office found Medicaid expansion would cost Nebraska’s general fund nearly $91 million in the three years starting in fiscal year 2020. However, the state would receive $1.36 billion in federal funds during that period.

The influx of federal dollars could benefit the state. A 2017 study of Medicaid expansion in Michigan, reported in The New England Journal of Medicine, found these benefits:

  • Annual state spending on mental health and correctional health programs was reduced by $235 million in Michigan.
  • States may experience a macroeconomic benefit through increased economic activity spurred by federal dollars. That’s because Medicaid expansion does not shift spending from state to federal, but increases total spending in a state without a corresponding state tax increase.
  • Economic activity grows as low-income adults who paid directly for health care or private insurance before expansion redirect spending to personal and household needs.

“By capturing and redirecting the savings from some of these safety net programs we can pay the state’s share of this program without affecting funding for schools and other priorities,” said Benson. 

Every state has the option to expand Medicaid. To date, 32 states have done so. Nebraskans and voters in Idaho, Montana and Utah will consider Medicaid expansion on Nov. 6.

Nebraska’s Legislature turned back expansion six times in recent years. Benson urged educators to vote ‘yes’ on Initiative 427.

“Healthier children and families will mean better outcomes for all Nebraskans,” she said.