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May 27, 2015

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Bill in Legislature would penalize some Medicaid recipients with fees

Those who become eligible for Medicaid under the new federal law would be hit with a fee if they went to hospital emergency rooms with non-emergency ailments or injuries under a bill introduced in the Nevada Senate on Monday.

“It’s about trying to discourage people from using the emergency room as a primary care physician,” said Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, the primary sponsor of Senate Bill 306.

The bill applies only to those who are added to Medicaid rolls under the Affordable Care Act. It would require recipients to pay a $5 fee for going to an emergency room when emergency services are not necessary.

“If you go into an emergency and are bleeding, forget that (the fee),” Kieckhefer said.

The bill would also impose a $2 fee on a new Medicaid patient for using an intermediate care or an independent center for emergency medical care.

No fees would be assessed for recipients' visits to their primary doctors, Kieckhefer said.

In his message to the Legislature, Gov. Brian Sandoval said, “I believe we must ask certain Medicaid patients to make a modest contribution toward the cost of their own care.”

Kieckhefer said his proposal is different from the suggestion by the governor, who has not yet unveiled his idea.

“What I’m proposing is co-payment that would be collected by the providers at the point of contact. It would not offset the state’s Medicaid payment,” Kieckhefer said.

“It would not necessarily have an impact on the state either negative or positive,” he said. “It’s really intended to try to get people to think about their access to health care and their appropriate level of care.”

Emergency care is the most expensive and it drives up the cost of health care for everyone, Kieckhefer said.

The bill was referred to the Committee on Health and Human Services.

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