- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 5, 2018

A Nebraska coalition said Thursday it submitted more than enough signatures to get Medicaid expansion on the ballot in November, making it the latest GOP-led state to seek a way around governors and legislators who oppose Obamacare.

Insure the Good Life, which led the petition drive, said it submitted 133,000 signatures from across Nebraska to the secretary of state, exceeding the 85,000 valid signatures that are required.

The state and county clerks will have 40 days to certify the signatures, though they can request extra time.

Supporters of the initiative say that grabbing federal dollars under former President Barack Obama’s vision for expanding Medicaid, the federal-state insurance program for the poor, will cover 90,000 more Nebraskans and recoup roughly $1 billion in federal tax dollars over four years.

“Let’s bring that money home — money that is already going to states like Arkansas, Iowa, and California,” said former state Sen. Kathy Campbell.

Obamacare called on all states to expand Medicaid to those making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, though the Supreme Court made it optional in 2012. While federal taxpayers pick up most of the burden, states will have to pay for 10 percent of the cost of the expansion population in 2020 and beyond.

Thirty-three states, plus D.C., have expanded, though holdout states say the rising state share would bust their budgets. Other critics point to lingering GOP efforts to replace Obamacare with a more conservative program.

Nebraska is among four states that’ve sought to place the issue directly before the voters, instead of pleading with policymakers.

Grassroots activists in Utah and Idaho appear to have gathered enough signatures for similar ballot initiatives in their states, while Maine voters approved expansion in 2017.

Maine Gov. Paul LePage has blocked the expansion from proceeding until the legislature finds a way to pay for the state share without raising taxes on families or businesses, using one-time budget “gimmicks” or raiding a budget-stabilization fund.

The governor recently appealed a court order that said his administration must submit a plan for expansion to the federal Health and Human Services Department.

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