Medicaid Debate Day 2 Recap

April 18, 2013

The morning’s debate on LB 577 started with a brief refresher by the bill’s introducer, Sen. Kathy Campbell that was followed by Sen. Beau McCoy who had introduced the motion to reconsider the vote on the previous day’s amendment.

The motion failed, but protracted debate throughout the day made clear that proponents of Medicaid expansion currently do not have the votes to invoke cloture (33 votes needed) to end debate and force a vote on LB 577.

To be certain, Nebraska taxpayers are not out of the woods yet.  Opponents of Medicaid expansion have won a parliamentary victory.  We simply have enough votes at this point in time to extend debate; there are enough senators who believe before adopting a spending bill that would grow entitlements and add an enormous new burden to our state budget that there must be ample debate.

That may not always be the case.

Should LB 577 receive an up-or-down vote it is not certain whether the bill would pass or fail.  Most observers believe advocates of Medicaid expansion have the simple majority (25) to pass the bill, but no one is certain there are the votes to override (30) a certain veto by Gov. Dave Heineman.

During today’s debate proponents, such as Sen. Bob Krist, argued that this debate has become too much like Washington, D.C., too partisan and not enough about ‘the facts’.  The fact is, as Sen. Bill Kintner explained; it is no surprise that various interest groups and special-interests support LB 577.  They want the burden of providing health care benefits to be removed from their shoulders and placed on taxpayers.

It is the Legislature’s responsibility to discern what is in the best interest of the state, and not any special interest group.  At this time Nebraska pays over 40% of its state budget to aid to individuals (i.e. Medicaid, Medicare, CHIP, etc).  Every year hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars are redistributed through social programs run by the government to low-income Nebraska families.

We do not oppose a social safety net.  But we do wonder at what point is it enough.  Or as Sen. John Murante asked the body, “If government spending was the solution, we wouldn’t have the problems we have today.”

Government at the federal level is broke, to the tune of $16 trillion and our state budget is supported by a tax burden the non-partisan Tax Foundation says is one of the highest in the nation.  Nebraska taxpayers simply do not have the capacity to continue throwing money at expanded government programs.

No one who opposed LB 577 spoke out today asserted that the status quo is perfect or not worthy of reform.  Indeed, our current health care system is broken, prices too many Americans out of coverage and is unsustainable.  Reform must happen.

Yet, expanding programs such as Medicaid that constitutes a huge chunk of a system that everyone says is broken will not solve the problem.  We need new thinking; we need better policies that do not simply regard the taxpayers as a cash cow that can be milked to fund more government services.

After nearly 630 minutes of debate, it became clear to Nebraska senators that LB 577 was not the vehicle to reform health care for Nebraska’s families.  By 4pm this afternoon the Unicameral decided to move onto the next bill.

Let’s hope they don’t look back.

To take action to ensure LB 577 does not pass this session, click here.

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