On Friday, Sept. 20, eight OTOC leaders traveled to Lincoln and participated in an action to express disapproval of the 1115 waiver filed by the Nebraska Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS). It substantially changes the law providing for Medicaid expansion in Nebraska that was passed by the voters as Initiative 427.
A press conference, organized by Nebraska Appleseed, was held before a hearing in the Rotunda of the Capitol, with over 30 supporters. Molly McCleery of Nebraska Appleseed opened the conference speaking of the vital need for health care for people to live a good life, and of the impact that expanding Medicaid could have on individuals and entire communities. She was followed by a Dr. Jane Potter of Omaha who spoke of the negative, life-long effects upon individuals caused by delaying needed medical care for a number of common, chronic conditions.
Dr. Carol LaCroix, a family physician, spoke on behalf of OTOC, citing OTOC’s concern for the common good and the faith perspective of caring of others as ones’ self that is OTOC’s foundation. She said that compassion for the sick and suffering was a major reason that she became a doctor. Compassion, she noted, is not valued by empires, because it undermines the structures that preserve the power of the empire. She questioned why the governor’s administration was erecting barriers to care and significantly delaying implementation of expansion. Senator Adam Morfeld, introducer of LR 170, a resolution for an oversight committee to monitor implementation, was the fourth speaker.
The hearing for LR 170 began at 9:00AM, in a full hearing room before members of the Appropriations and Health and Human Services Committees. All testimony was by invitation and all who testified were critical of the waiver. Sen. Morfeld opened, followed by a Legal Aid attorney from Arkansas who testified to the burden that was laid on recipients with requirements to report their work status, and the amount of time wasted on the phone by him, and other attorneys, in the course of just trying to straighten out unintentional errors in reporting.
Next came Molly McCleery – NE Appleseed. Then, Tiffany Friesen Malone with Open Sky Policy Institute, emphasized the amount of money that will be shifted to administrative costs, rather than care for people with this waiver, as well as the loss of funds to the state this year. Therapist, Claudia Davis, a LMHP who practices in the Wahoo & David City area, talked about the difficulties that low income rural people face in accessing health services on a reliable basis. She pointed out that often appointments are missed. Penalizing people because their car broke down and they miss an appointment seemed unreasonable to her.
Mary Spurgeon testified on behalf of OTOC, itemizing the harm done by failing to expand Medicaid for the seventh year. OTOC testimony pointed out that by the governor’s altering of the law, passed as Initiative 427, and not faithfully, efficiently and economically executing the law, he is failing to carry out his constitutional duties. Read OTOC’s testimony here. Jordan Rasmussen, Center for Rural Affairs, spoke about the importance of dental care to overall health and well-being over the lifetime. Ashley Frevert, Community Action Nebraska, spoke to their mission and how expansion would fit into their service plan.
Sen. Morfeld closed the hearing, reiterating many of the points of testimony. He emphasized that there were three people who fell into the Medicaid gap who would have like to come to testify, but they couldn’t, because they were WORKING. He read a letter from one, a young woman who is student teaching in Millard. Appropriations Committee chair, Sen. John Stinner, read into the record, the names of those who had sent written testimony. The DHHS did not come and testify. Sen. Stinner read into the record the letter which they sent to the committees. Read more about DHHS’s response here. The contents are what was reported in the Omaha World Herald, Sat. Sept. 21, 2019.
Following the conclusion of the hearing, after OTOC leaders held a brief evaluation, some OTOC leaders walked to the governor’s office and delivered a copy of OTOC’s testimony to his staff.
They then moved through the public areas of the building and dropped off copies of the testimony to the offices of senators One senator who had listened to the testimony even asked directly for a copy, having been impressed with OTOC’s work.
Thank you to these OTOC leaders for their work in preparing OTOC’s testimony, and for their action on this day: Carol LaCroix, Keith Nelson, Vicki Pratt, Mark Hoeger, Kathy Savory, Richard Blocker, Marjorie Shreve, Linda Ohri, and Mary Spurgeon.
What can we do?
As we wait for the outcome of the court case Appleseed filed in state district court on behalf two people, we can contact our own state senator, and the governor. We can write letters to the editor in an effort to bring pressure on the governor.
Nebraska Appleseed will soon be launching another effort to stop approval of the waiver by the federal government. OTOC will keep you informed. OTOC will also plan to testify at the next hearing, in Omaha, on Nov. 12.