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Medicaid Expansion applications open in Nebraska; benefits start Oct. 1

Published: Aug. 13, 2020 at 7:10 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Medicaid Expansion is happening in Nebraska-- it’s called Heritage Health- Adults. Applications started August 1. But so far only 5,000 people have called in, and they’ve found 1,600 to be eligible by expansion.

Typically-- Medicaid benefits younger children, older adults or people with disabilities. But this expansion now includes able-bodied people between 19 and 64.

It’s been 10 years since the affordable care act let states expand Medicaid, and after multiple failed attempts in the legislature, Nebraska voters approved the expansion in November 2018.

“We’ve done a lot of things to build out expansion to do it right for Nebraska,” said Nate Watson, the Deputy Director of Policy and Regulation with DHHS. “We didn’t want a product to where people get a shiny card in the mail and no doctor to see them.”

The expansion, or HHA, means citizens making 138% of the poverty level now qualify for medicaid. For a single person-- that’s about $17,000 a year. For a family of four, that’s about $36,000.

“Benefits include a comprehensive and robust package of physical health that includes things like your doctor visits and so forth, as well as behavioral health, which is any mental health concerns any individual might have as well as pharmacy, so their prescription drugs,” said Watson.

For people ages 19-20, pregnant women and medically frail people who qualify, they also get dental and vision.

”Everyone else who is not in one of those temporary groups will be able to qualify for dental, vision over the counter medications, once we get additional federal approval,” said Watson. He estimates that will happen this spring.

Estimates show this could benefit up to 90,000 more Nebraskans. The expansion is funded by taxes; 90 percent by federal and 10 percent by state.

“It’s better for them to get that care in an ongoing way,” said Watson. “It’s also better at the end of the day for the tax payers paying for it. It’s certainly more effective to pay for their health earlier on than when it becomes a major, major problem.”

Expansion will likely push the number of Nebraskans receiving medicaid to over 300,000. Currently somewhere between 230-240,000 Nebraskans are helped by Medicaid each month.

Coverage starts October 1st and there’s no deadline to apply. To apply-- follow this link, call (855) 632-7633, or apply in person at a DHHS office located across the state.

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