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Medicaid expansion begins in Nebraska

Posted at 6:52 PM, Oct 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-01 21:44:25-04

LINCOLN, Neb. (KMTV) — Nebraska's Medicaid Expansion goes into effect October 1; thousands of additional low-income adults may now qualify for Medicaid benefits.

Traditionally, Medicaid has focused on seniors and small children.

Madeline Almond and her wife live in Lincoln where they're going to school.

Almond is working on her application for Medicaid expansion, a program that would relieve stress, especially after last winter when her wife took a spill on the ice.

“She slipped and fell, fell on her tailbone and both of her wrists,” Almond said. “One of her wrists got two fractures, one was sprained and her tailbone was sprained.”

The school's health office doesn't have an X-ray so they suggested going to the emergency room.

“We’re both uninsured here so yeah...we just can’t go to the ER right now,” Almond said. “So we waited over the weekend and it didn’t get any better. Her wrist actually got worse.”

Under the Medicaid expansion program, adults 19 to 64 years old, who make $17,609 a year and a family of four that makes $36,156 a year qualify for basic benefits including physical health, behavioral health, and prescriptions.

19-20-year-olds, pregnant women, and medically frail also qualify for dental, vision and over-the-counter medication.

“We estimate here in Nebraska there will be approximately 90,000 persons who will be eligible for our expansion,” Dannette Smith, CEO of the Department of Health and Human Services said.

So far, about 11,000 Nebraskans have been approved for the Medicaid expansion. They're getting about 250 Medicaid Expansion applications a day.

"Right now, we’ve been processing applications for expansion generally in about 7 days," Nate Watson, Deputy Director of Nebraska Medicaid said. "Federal law requires us to do it in 45 days, so we are way in advance of what we have to be and we’re proud of that because we love to provided great customer service to Nebraskans."

He said they've added more staff and hours to their call center.

Watson hopes more people will use Medicaid Expansion as a way to keep up with their preventative care.

“Otherwise what a lot of folks end up doing is they wait until the condition is really bad and then go to the emergency room,” he said. “That really is not the best care for an individual. It doesn’t lead to as good of health outcomes.”

Almond said people shouldn't have to worry about how they're going to pay for healthcare.

“We were already juggling paying for school,” Almond said. “We were worried with how much these appointments were costing, if the school could cover it...my wife suddenly wasn’t able to work for a little bit."

She's hoping they'll both get approved for Medicaid expansion so they don't have to worry about getting the care they need if any accidents happen again.

To apply, individuals can go online to ACCESSNEbraska.ne.gov or call toll free (855) 632-7633 Monday through Friday 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. Calls are also taken on Saturday 8:00 a.m. – noon. TDD is also available at (402) 471-7256.