Nevada lawmaker unveils plan to offer Medicaid regardless of immigration status

senador introduce NV Hope Act
senador introduce NV Hope Act(KXNV)
Published: Mar. 17, 2023 at 5:08 PM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - Access to health care could be expanding in Nevada. State Senator Fabian Doñate has announced more details about his plan to expand Medicaid coverage to all Nevadans regardless of their immigration status.

During a press conference Thursday, Doñate outlined the goals of a far-reaching measure he called the “Nevada Health Opportunities, Planning, and Expansion or HOPE Act.” He said it would “build equity,” reduce costs and improve the state’s healthcare infrastructure by expanding access to care and investing in technology and jobs.

Doctors, pediatricians, and affected community members joined Doñate to share heir experiences and support for the bill.

Rico Ocampo, an organizer with nonprofit Make the Road Nevada, shared the story of his older brother. In 2006 he and his family arrived at a Las Vegas hospital requesting help for his brother who at the time suffered from severe abdominal pain.

”My brother was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. It was already at a very advanced stage,” said Ocampo during an interview with Telemundo Reno.

At that moment he says his world was shattered.

”He yelled out loud, I don’t want to die! I don’t want to die!” Ocampo said with tears in his eyes.

After a little more than a month, Carlitos died at the age of 17 and after his death. After his death, the bills began to arrive.

“The hospital gave us a $150,000 bill. That only included the time my brother was in the hospital, not the drugs and tests,” said Ocampo. “My dad could pnly pay $100 a month and because that wasn’t enough, the hospital took away our house. "

Because of their immigration status, the family was unable to obtain Medicaid. A story that is not uncommon in the state.

”I have family members who are undocumented. I have family members who have gone to the hospital and don’t have the services they need,” Doñate said.

“We doctors know that when we give patients insurance they tend to come and receive preventive treatments or services,” said Dr. Maria Fernandez, a family physician for the Community Health Alliance.

According to the Guinn Center 14% of Nevada’s population is uninsured (based on data from 2013-17). Data also shows that an estimated 210,000 Nevada residents were unauthorized immigrants in 2017, with roughly 94,500 without health insurance. According to Doñate, the state already pays about $700 to $800 million each year for uncompensated care.

Based on the average cost per member per month, he says, it would cost the state general fund approximately $78.5 million annually to cover about $94,500 people who qualify, but this number is not final. During the press conference, he estimated it will cost $160 million to implement the HOPE Act, which is significantly cheaper than the initial deal with Tesla, and the Raiders stadium.

“Hospitals pay $700 million, so it’s easier to pay upfront and to help our communities,” Doñate said.

The bill will be introduced in the next few days and once that happens, the community can show your support by writing to the legislature or your representative.

The Democrat senator says he’s had preliminary talks with governor Joe Lombardo about the bill.