While the Affordable Care Act and new assistance in the recent American Rescue Plan have helped increase coverage, Nevada remains one of the least-insured states in the nation. The lack of coverage is even more stark for Hispanic/ Latino Nevadans, over 20% of whom are uninsured. And even for those who do have coverage, too many Nevadans face rising costs and few insurance choices.
There’s hope on the horizon, though. Lawmakers just introduced a bill to create the Nevada Public Option, a plan that would create a new statewide coverage choice for Nevadans and one that would bring down costs and make quality insurance accessible for many more people. The bill does a lot to make insurance better and more affordable, including for the uninsured and the many Nevadans facing unaffordable health care. And the bill also includes important provisions to improve and build on the state’s Medicaid program, making the bill a comprehensive approach that responds to the unique needs of Nevadans.
Let’s run through a few more high points of Nevada’s public option bill and how it works.
- The Nevada Public Option leverages the state’s existing buying power to offer more affordable choices to Nevadans currently left behind. Plans will compete to offer the public option, with all Medicaid managed care plans being required to submit a bid for offering the plan. This will align purchasing incentives and provider networks currently being used by Medicaid as a way to drive down costs and improve access to quality care.
- The Nevada Public Option could reduce the burden on many small businesses who want to help pay for their employees’ health insurance, but can’t afford to.
- The Nevada Public Option will provide high-quality coverage; it will be offered as a qualified health plan (both on and off the state marketplace) so it will cover the 10 essential benefits. Those include: free preventive services, coverage for mental health and substance use disorder services, hospital, prescription drugs, and more.
- The option comes with no tax cost to Nevadans, and the plan will be paid for by the premiums people pay into it. And by utilizing a 1332 innovation waiver, the state can maximize federal funds flowing to Nevada.
- The bill also will make enhancements to Medicaid and will promote healthier pregnancies, moms, and babies by increasing Medicaid services and supports. These enhancements include raising the eligibility level for new moms up to 200% of the federal poverty level, up from the current level of 138% of the federal poverty level, and creating initiatives to reach the 37% of Nevadans who are eligible for Medicaid but have not yet enrolled.
While there’s a lot more to be hashed out in the legislative process, we at United States of Care are excited to see Nevada move forward in this direction. We know that people need dependable coverage that is with them through life changes, like losing a job or starting their own business. Public options are a key way to increase access to coverage that people can depend on and afford — all while helping to reduce disparities.