Gov. Ricketts says Medicaid expansion not feasible during pandemic

Local News

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts speaks during a news conference in Lincoln, Neb., Monday, March 16, 2020, where he outlined the latest steps taken in response to the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

LINCOLN, Neb. (KCAU) – During Governor Pete Ricketts’ daily COVID-19 update, he said Medicaid expansion isn’t feasible during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ricketts said Medicaid expansion would require a massive software overhaul as well as a need for new providers to be found and that would detract from COVID-19 control efforts.

The hurdle comes as the population that would be served with a Medicaid expansion would be drastically different than the population of mainly women and children being served now, Ricketts said. Several new people would also need to be hired to handle the influx of business.

Ricketts said Nebraska prisons have no plans of releasing inmates early due to COVID-19 as it presents a second public safety issue in addition to the virus. He said a plan is developed to control a COVID-19 outbreak in prisons if it happens.

Ricketts announced a new Directed Health Measure (DHM) will be released later Wednesday to Dodge, Saunders, and Lancaster counties effective through April 30.

A DHM is already in place for Douglas county.

Under the DHM, Lincoln restaurants will be restricted to drive-thru and takeout services only, though several have already altered their services due to recommendations.

Elective surgeries will also be suspended under the DHM to preserve personal protective equipment, ventilators, rooms and staff for fighting COVID-19.

Ricketts announced the signing of an Executive Order to suspend the evictions of people impacted by COVID-19. The order is effective from March 13 through May 31.

Ricketts said the order does not apply to criminals or vandals who pose a health and safetly risk to communities.

The American Red Cross was hosted during the conference to highlight the “urgent need to donate blood” during this pandemic. Blood drives have been deemed an essential service and are still encouraged by health officials.


The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) said over 80% of confirmed cases in the state are either travel related or close contacts of someone who recently traveled.

The DHHS released the following recommendations for travelers returning to Nebraska to limit the spread of COVID-19

  • Returning international travelers from regions with widespread sustained transmission should self-quarantine for 14 days following return.
  • Widespread local transmission is occurring in many regions of the U.S., and may be unrecognized and under-reported due to limited testing. Returning travelers from regions of the U.S. with widespread transmission should self-quarantine for 14 days following return. Examples of these areas are Santa Clara County, CA; New York City, NY; and Seattle, WA. With continued widespread transmission across the U.S., these areas of widespread transmission may change over time.
  • Any returning traveler who develops fever or respiratory illness symptoms, should immediately self-isolate, and report to a healthcare provider if symptoms are severe or medical attention is needed (calling ahead, when possible). If symptoms are mild, follow home care guidance and guidance to discontinue self-isolation.
  • Every health care worker who returns from out-of-state travel (excluding commuters who are driving across state lines for work, for example – Omaha to Council Bluffs) should consult with a trained medical professional at their facility and establish a specific infection control protocol (like, PPE while at work, self-monitoring, or self-quarantine) that mitigates patient and co-worker exposures. Special considerations should be taken for those working with high-risk patients
  • Other out-of-state travelers (excluding commuters who are driving across state lines for work) returning from any other international or domestic locations, should limit public interactions, practice strict social distancing, self-monitor for symptoms, and self-quarantine for 14 days if feasible.
  • Discontinuation from self-quarantine and self-monitoring may cease if after 14 days there has been no development of respiratory illness symptoms, which may include: fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, runny nose.
  • CDC guidance states that an individual can stop self-isolation if it has been at least seven days since symptoms first appeared, no fever has been present for at least 72 hours without fever-reducing medicine, and all other symptoms have improved.

The CDC said that most COVID-19 illnesses are mild, but about 16% of cases are serious. Older people or those with underlying health conditions are most at risk of developing a serious illness.

Symptoms for the virus include fever, cough and shortness of breath. They occur 2-14 days after exposure. Anyone that develops the symptoms and has been in contact with some who has the virus or has recently traveled from where the virus is widespread is asked to see a doctor.

To help prevent the spread, people are asked to do the following:

  • Wash their hands often
  • Avoid close contact
  • Stay home if sick
  • Cover coughs and sneezes
  • Clean and disinfect
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth

Below are various health organizations with information on COVID-19.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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