Under Obamacare, Nevada’s Medicaid Expansion Will Cost More Than Half a Billion

Published June 25, 2012

Under President Obama’s health care law, Nevada will see a significant expansion of its Medicaid program.

According to the head of Nevada’s Department of Health and Human Services, as many as 150,000 more Nevada residents will be eligible for Medicaid coverage if Obama’s health care law is found constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Bringing new residents onto the rolls is expected to cost the state an estimated $574 million between now and 2020, according to HHS Director Mike Willden.

“Our estimate in Nevada is, as I indicated, we have about 325,000 people on Medicaid or our Checkup program now, and we may see upwards of 150,000 more people eligible for Medicaid,” Willden said. “Because we pick up a group that we’ve never covered in Nevada, and that’s what we call childless adults. Nevada has never served childless adults.”

According to Willden, the estimate includes the cost to the state of serving new Medicaid eligibles, the cost of new information technology needed to implement the law, and some increased payments to primary care physicians.

New Populations Become Eligible

The new rules make every man, woman, and child living under 138 percent of the federal poverty level eligible for Medicaid, the cost of which is shared by the states and federal government. Willden notes the other part of the expansion will come as Nevadans now eligible for Medicaid but who have not enrolled in the program sign up because of the individual mandate to have health insurance.

Willden said he does not believe Nevada’s medical provider community will be able to accommodate the increased population seeking health care.

“We’re one of the worst in the nation when it comes to primary care physician ratios to population, specialists of various kinds ratios to population, and you bring in many, many more on Medicaid. I don’t think there will be what we call adequate networks to provide that, so that will be a challenge,” Willden said.

Although Nevada was one of more than two dozen states to challenge the constitutionality of the new law, Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval has moved forward with its implementation. The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the constitutionality of the health care law by the end of June.

Sean Whaley ([email protected]) writes for the Nevada News Bureau, from which this piece is reprinted with permission.

Internet Resources:

Nevada Division of Health Care Financing and Policy: Medicaid and Nevada Check Up Fact Book