Nevada’s Democratic-majority legislature has sent a bill to the governor that would make it the first state to allow anyone to buy health insurance from Medicaid, the government plan for people with low incomes.
It’s unclear whether Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) will sign the bill. The governor’s office wasn’t commenting as of Wednesday morning. But Sandoval has spoken out against the U.S. House-passed GOP health-care plan that leaves an estimated 23 million people without insurance and cuts Medicaid by $880 billion.
Nevada legislators expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, adding close to 300,000 Nevadans to the government health plan. These residents, mostly people with low incomes, stand to lose their health care under congressional Republicans’ plan.
Amid uncertainty over the fate of the ACA, Assemblymember Michael Sprinkle (D-Sparks), introduced the “Medicaid for all” bill to make health insurance a fundamental right.
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“There is no way people can be productive members of society and take care of their families if health care is a privilege and not a right,” Sprinkle told Vox. “That’s really where this bill started, thinking through, how do we make health care a right in our state.”
The health-care services offered under the plan would mirror Medicaid, except non-emergency transportation services wouldn’t be covered.
It’s unclear how much the Medicaid plan will cost Nevadans. Premium estimates weren’t included in the legislation. But the plan stands a good chance of being affordable because Medicaid wields it’s sizable enrollment of 62 million Americans to negotiate low rates with health-care providers.
In Nevada, Medicaid pays doctors and hospitals a rate that’s about 20 percent less than Medicare rates, as Vox reported. That negotiating power could be a boon for Nevadans. People who qualify for premium tax credits under the ACA will be able to use those tax credits to buy into the Medicaid plan.
“Anybody would look at this as groundbreaking and trendsetting, and that’s intriguing to a lot of people,” Sprinkle told Vox. “The governor’s office and departments have been integral partners in the working group we’ve had, so that gives me a lot of optimism he’ll sign the bill.”
Sprinkle’s legislation comes as other lawmakers push to transform health care at the state level. A Democratic-led plan in California would create a “Medicaid for all” system, with the government replacing private insurance companies, as the Los Angeles Times reported.
If Nevada’s governor signs the legislation, many details still need to be hammered out.
“Once the bill gets through the governor, we’re going to have a very active working group that will build off this framework to determine these things through regulation,” Sprinkle told Vox.
The Nevada Medicaid plan requires a waiver from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The bill sets a deadline of January 2019 for putting the Medicaid plan into place.