Medicaid caseload will expand by 150,000, cost Nevada $574 million if federal health care law is implemented

By Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau: The head of Nevada’s Department of Health and Human Services said today that as many as 150,000 more residents will be eligible for Medicaid coverage if the federal 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, said HHS Director Mike Willden in an interview on the Nevada NewsMakers television program broadcast today.

The estimate, which is about two years old, 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, he said.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on the constitutionality of the health care law by June.

U.S. Supreme Court.

Nevada was one of more than two dozen states to challenge the constitutionality of the new law. Even so, Gov. Brian Sandoval has moved forward with implementation because it is the law of the land.

Willden said the new rules say that every man, woman and child living under 138 percent of the federal poverty level will be eligible for Medicaid, the cost of which is shared by the states and federal government.

“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.”

The other part of the expansion will come as Nevadans now eligible for Medicaid but who have not enrolled in the program will participate because of the individual mandate to have health insurance, he said.

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

“As you know we’re one of the worst in the nation when it comes to primary care physicians 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,” he said.

Nevada will need to bring more physicians into the state, but will have to compete with other states to do so, Willden said. It could also lead to an examination and potential expansion of what types of medical care nurses and physician assistants are able to provide to patients, he said.

Audio clips:

DHHS Director Mike Willden says about 150,000 more Nevadans may be eligible for Medicaid:

050712Willden1 :22 served childless adults.”

Willden says Nevada’s medical community may not be able to handle the increase in the Medicaid eligible population:

050712Willden2 :23 be a challenge.”

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