CARSON CITY – State Senate Republican leaders today commended GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval’s decision to expand the state Medicaid program as a commitment to the health of all Nevadans and a boost for a critical sector of the state’s economy.
“Ensuring that poor Nevadans have access to primary health care through Medicaid is very simply the right thing to do, both for our citizens and our economy,” said Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Henderson. “It will reduce our rate of uninsured and provide individuals with greater economic security.”
“Nevada’s health care indicators continually trail its neighboring states and regularly rank among the worst in the nation,” said Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno. “Expanding Medicaid to poor childless adults will help address this.”
“Nevada has higher-than-average rates of such things as cancer, diabetes, heart disease and asthma,” he said. “Access to primary health care is critical to both prevention and treatment of these diseases and conditions. Our citizens deserve this.”
Sen. Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City, said expanding the program will allow Nevada to improve its return on federal tax dollars and ensure that money is reinvested into Nevada’s health care economy, which is in need of a boost.
“Fully implementing health care reform is expected to boost Nevada’s economy by up to $6.2 billion over the next six years,” he said. “Medicaid expansion could also result in the creation of up to 8,600 much-needed jobs in Nevada over that time. With the low state match over this period, that’s a solid return on investment.”
All three Republican Senate leaders said they look forward to working with their colleagues during the 2013 session to approve this expansion, but also believe it’s imperative that Nevada protect its economic future and require a sunset on the expansion should federal reimbursement rates drop below 90 percent for this population.
In addition, Republican Senate leadership supports the governor’s proposal to include a cost-sharing component in Medicaid and plans to pursue that initiative during the 2013 Legislative Session.
Sandoval announced yesterday that he will include 78,000 additional people in Nevada’s Medicaid program as provided for under the federal Affordable Care Act.
“Though I have never liked the Affordable Care Act because of the individual mandate it places on citizens, the increased burden on businesses and concerns about access to health care, the law has been upheld by the Supreme Court,” he said in a statement. “As such, I am forced to accept it as today’s reality and I have decided to expand Nevada’s Medicaid coverage.
“My fiscal year 2014-2015 budget will provide 78,000 additional Nevadans with health insurance coverage through Medicaid, which is estimated to save the state general fund approximately $17 million dollars in mental health savings,” Sandoval said. “My executive budget will also help Nevada businesses cope with the burden placed on them by decreasing the modified business tax. My decision to opt-in assists the neediest Nevadans and helps some avoid paying a health-care tax penalty. As part of my proposal, I will also call upon the Legislature to pass Medicaid patient responsibility cost-sharing measures.”
Federal funding will pay for 100 percent of the Medicaid expansion for the first three calendar years beginning in 2014, with the state required to pick up a percentage of the cost beginning in 2017. The first year state cost is 5 percent, in 2018 the state cost is 6 percent, in 2019 the state cost is 7 percent, and in 2020, the state cost is 10 percent.
The expansion in Nevada would mostly cover childless adults who are not covered by the state program now. The other expansion will come from parent caretakers of children who are covered at 75 percent of poverty now, according to Mike Willden, director of the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, who spoke on the subject earlier this year.
Willden said there are also administrative costs to the state that are not fully covered by the expansion but instead are shared between the federal government and the state at a 50-50 match. They include information technology costs and the cost to hire new eligibility workers, for example, he said.