Gov. Ricketts 7/20 Press Conference
Gov. Pete Ricketts (podium) and Department of Health and Human Services CEO Dannette R. Smith (far left) at a July 20 press briefing. Photo courtesy of Ricketts' office.

More than 90,000 additional Nebraskans are now eligible to apply for Medicaid, the government’s health insurance program for low-income individuals, the governor has announced.

Nebraska residents can begin applying on Aug. 1 at and the coverage will take effect on Oct 1. The expansion was first approved in 2018 by Nebraska voters via Initiative 427. The department’s Medicaid division submitted state plan amendments to the federal government in April 2019 and made preparations such as staff hiring and information system changes in order for the expansion to go live in October.

The new Medicaid Heritage Health Adult Expansion plan consists of a two-tiered plan that is either basic or prime. Basic coverage consists of a “fairly robust package of services,” according to Jeremy Brunssen, Nebraska’s Department of Health and Human Services interim director of Medicaid and long-term care. 

Coverage under the basic plan includes:

  • Physical and behavioral health
  • Prescription drugs
  • Ambulatory care
  • Emergency situations
  • Hospitalization
  • Maternity and newborn care
  • Mental health and substance use disorder services

Those who meet the qualifications for prime coverage also receive dental, eye care and over-the-counter medication.

In anticipation of beneficiaries flooding the application, Brunssen said they hired 68 eligibility staff members and 55 call center agents to address any questions or concerns. According to Ricketts, this customer service is crucial because then the state can ensure only qualified candidates are allowed into the program, and taxpayers are not burdened. 

“What has happened in other states that rush this process is they allowed a lot of people into the program who didn’t actually qualify,” Ricketts said during a July 20 press conference. “We’re making sure we’re putting the people who are supposed to be on the program there and not people who don’t belong on the program so we can be respectful to the taxpayers.”

More information on eligibility and the application can be found on the or by calling 855-632-7633.

Madeleine Grant is a junior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln studying journalism. She enjoys reading, writing and travel. Madeleine is from Illinois and aspires to become a professional journalist or editor.