The state of Nebraska has made the wise decision to abandon its plans to divide its Medicaid expansion into two tiers.
The plan had been to only provide dental, vision and over-the-counter drug coverage to people who meet work or volunteer benchmarks or who participate in educational or job-training programs.
But now, effective on Oct. 1, everyone who qualifies for Medicaid coverage will receive the same coverage, which also includes medical and behavioral health care benefits.
People who receive Medicaid count on it to provide health care for themselves and their children. They need all kinds of care and providing them coverage for dental and vision services, as well as non-prescription drugs, could well prevent more serious — and more expensive — medical problems in the future that the state would have to cover.
It was in November 2018 that Nebraska voters approved a ballot measure that forced the state to expand its Medicaid program by accepting the federal option to provide coverage to all adults earning up to 138% of the federal poverty level — about $17,000 for a single person.
The expansion extends coverage to adults age 19-64 who earn too much to qualify for regular Medicaid, but too little to be eligible for tax credits to help them buy health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.
It took almost two years after the 2018 election for the state to actually set up the Medicaid expansion. That was the longest delay among states that have expanded their coverage. People who had been falling through the cracks began getting at least basic Medicaid coverage on Oct. 1, 2020.
Now, beginning this Oct. 1, 2021, all of them will have full coverage.
It took the citizen petition process to get the possibility of expanding the state’s Medicaid coverage on the ballot and then voters across the state choosing to vote for the ballot measure to get the state to provide this coverage. Now, the full coverage that the voters had wanted all along will be available to Nebraskans who had been unable to afford health care before the expansion.
This will mean they can get preventive health care, as well as early care for diseases that could lead to much more serious health problems if untreated.
Health insurance is essential for all Nebraskans. Healthy people are much more likely to be part of our state’s workforce, involved in community activities and raising healthy families. Anything our state can do to get its residents the health care they need is in the state’s best interests.