Nebraska elderly care bill approved over veto



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LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska will apply for a federal grant to spend millions more to care for the elderly in their homes, lawmakers decided Thursday as they voted to override Gov. Dave Heineman's veto.

The veto-override motion won support from 30 senators — the minimum required — for a measure that would require Nebraska to apply for a federal grant to help pay for in-home care services. Twelve senators opposed the override.

The grant would provide an estimated $36.4 million in federal aid over the next two years, while Nebraska would have to contribute $8.2 million. It also would create a state task force to look at what the state needs to do to meet the elderly's needs.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Kate Bolz of Lincoln, said it would help keep more of Nebraska's aging population out of nursing homes, which ends up being more expensive.

Nebraska's elderly population is expected to grow dramatically over the next several decades, she said, pointing to research from the University of Nebraska Omaha. Many of the residents will face dementia, dialysis treatments and other medical ailments, she said.

Nebraska had roughly 246,000 residents who were at least 65 years old in 2010, according to census data compiled by the university's Center for Public Affairs Research. By 2030, the number is expected to grow to nearly 419,000.

Bolz said the funding will help pay for respite and assisted living services, adult daycare, and emergency services.

"We simply cannot turn a blind eye to the need to plan for a growing number of senior citizens," she said.

In his veto message last week, Heineman argued that the bill would expand Medicaid with a "bait-and-switch" promise by the federal government.

Heineman said that while the bill's goal is laudable, the federal program would shift an additional $6 million in annual expenses onto the state, starting in September 2015. In addition, he said, the federal contribution to Nebraska Medicaid is expected to drop by an expected $47 million in the state's next two-year budget.

Sen. Annette Dubas of Fullerton said the bill would save the state money by reducing the need for Medicaid-funded nursing home care.

"If we want to figure out ways to control spending, especially that Medicaid part of the budget, this is the answer," Dubas said.

Opponents argued that the state is already moving forward with programs to serve the elderly, and questioned the need for a task force.

"I don't believe the people of Nebraska are waiting for us to create another task force to save them from themselves," said Sen. Dave Bloomfield, of Hoskins.

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The bill is LB690

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Grant Schulte

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