With nearly 20 percent of Nebraska households under the age of 65 making less than $25,000 annually, the question of healthcare access for the working poor is a serious concern. For nearly 100,000 Nebraskans who would qualify, the Transitional Health Insurance Program Act, or LB 1032, would provide access to affordable health insurance that they currently don’t have.
These Nebraskans fall into the “coverage gap” between qualifying for traditional Medicaid (the very low income) and qualifying for subsidies for a private health insurance policy through the exchange (the lower middle income). Nebraska pays for its incarcerated population, who cost the state much more. It just won’t pass legislation to help low wage workers.
Spending 1/3 of one’s income on any one expense -- housing, transportation, groceries or healthcare, for instance -- makes one vulnerable to financial problems. That is what people who fall into the coverage gap are being asked to do, while more than $2 billion in federal dollars available to the state under the Affordable Care Act for the purpose of expanding coverage to this group goes untouched, or more likely to other states.
The working poor are folks who are trying to fend for themselves, often with lower paying jobs and no benefits. It is a shame they are the ones for whom Nebraska chooses to make life harder.
In order to have healthy, vital communities and a stable, committed workforce, we should be driving a measure like LB 1032 home. We should be supporting those who try, not punish them. We can ease a burden on the working poor that would be fiscally irresponsible not to ease, keep money in the pockets of people who will spend it in their communities, and insure that all Nebraskans have a chance at a healthy, productive life.
CEO, Blue Valley Community Action Partnership Fairbury, NE 68352