Las Vegas Sun

October 22, 2019

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Health care bill would bring higher state Medicaid costs

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The health bill passed by the House of Representatives Sunday would cost Nevada taxpayers an extra $613 million from 2014-2019, to provide health care to the needy.

According to early state estimates, the bill would make an additional 70,000 residents eligible for Medicaid. The state would be mandated to cover another 8,000 individuals who are now eligible but have not applied to be covered by the state health insurance program for the poor.

About 209,000 Nevadans are currently covered by Medicaid.

Including state and federal money, "the total cost of reform is $2.3 billion," said Mike Willden, director of the state Department of Health and Human Resources.

Willden went through the numbers for the Nevada Vision Stakeholder Group, formed to develop a plan for the future, looking ahead as much as 20 years.

Meanwhile, Gov. Jim Gibbons railed against the costs of the bill in a written statement Monday: “The bill disguises its true cost by shoving Medicaid expansions down to the state level and shuffling Congressional Budget Office estimates into later years so it appears to save federal tax dollars. It is an insult to those who truly care about meaningful health care reform.”

But Jon Sasser of Washoe Legal Services said during the Vision Stakeholder meeting the bill will expand the number of people eligible for Medicaid and that should put less stress on counties, which handle medically needy cases. "It means extra millions of federal dollars coming into our state," Sasser said.

Most of the health care bill doesn't kick in until 2014, Willden said. Some states are starting early, but Willden said he doesn't see Nevada doing that because of its budget shortfall.

The federal-state dollar match for Medicaid is 50-50. Federal stimulus funds pushed that to a 64 percent federal match, saving the state $40 million to $45 million a quarter. But after the stimulus money expires Nevada will be back to picking up the 50 percent share, Willden said.

Willden said only 8 percent of the population is covered compared to 14 percent in other states. The state spends $435 per capita compared to the national average of $1,021.

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