An Omaha doctor who works on health care reform for the Nebraska Medical Association said Thursday that he thinks Gov. Dave Heineman's opposition to expanding Medicaid coverage in Nebraska and setting up a state insurance exchange are wrong.
Dr. Harris Frankel, assistant professor of neurological sciences at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, said during a forum at the Omaha Press Club that he thinks Heineman's positions don't reflect the best choices for medical care in the state.
“It disappoints me that the governor has taken a position like this,” said Frankel, noting that he considers the governor a friend. “It's a political position. I think it's the wrong position.”
Frankel is chairman of the state medical group's committees on Medicare and electronic health information initiatives and a member of its health care reform task force.
Heineman has said he opposes the expansion of Medicaid that is part of the Affordable Health Care Act. He also has said he intends to wait until after the November election to decide whether Nebraska should set up a state health insurance exchange.
Frankel it's possible that states which expand Medicaid eligibility would be “flooded” by people moving away from states which do not expand eligibility rules. A U.S. Supreme Court decision last month allows states to choose whether to comply with that portion of the federal health care law, even though federal money would pay for nearly all the cost.
Nevertheless, he said, the state could find “innovative” ways to provide coverage for the 11 percent of Nebraskans who are not insured or covered by Medicare or Medicaid.
He also said he thinks it's wrong for physicians to close their medical practices to new patients on Medicare or Medicaid, even though the government program payments don't cover expenses. “I think we all have a responsibility to see anybody,” he said. “That's the oath we took.”