Medicaid Buy In program still not up and running

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A year and a half after the first federal money arrived and a year after enabling legislation was passed, Nevada is still planning its Medicaid Buy-In program and has yet to serve a single person.

The Buy-In program is designed to make sure disabled people don't lose medical health benefits by returning to work. Program administrator John Alexander on Tuesday told the Legislative Committee on Health Care that loss of medical benefits is one of the biggest problems keeping the disabled from working.

He said the state received its first $625,000 grant to put together a program to continue Medicaid benefits for the working disabled in October 2000. His group has a total of four employees, has held 37 meetings around the state and put up a Web site on the subject, he said.

There is another $500,000 a year in federal funding available to Nevada to continue running the program.

But he admitted they have yet to begin providing services to anyone.

He was backed by disabled advocate Paul Gowins and John Sasser of Washoe Legal Aid who both said Alexander's group has been working hard to develop the program.

"The division has been very cooperative with me and others in the community," said Sasser pointing out that they even brought in a national expert from Massachusetts to help.

"But no, the program hasn't started yet," said Sasser. "It hasn't helped anybody yet."

Alexander told the committee they will go to lawmakers for approval once all the details of the program are worked out. The enabling legislation allows them to seek approval to establish the program from the legislative Interim Finance Committee.

Sasser pointed out the money is federal funds, not state dollars, at this point. "So in terms of bang for your buck, you haven't spent a buck."

That prompted an objection from Assemblywoman Bonnie Parnell, D-Carson City, who said state or federal, it's still public money.

"When $625,000 was granted on Oct. 1, 2000, and there is still not a single individual being assisted, I have to say I have great concern," she said.

She amplified those remarks outside the meeting.

"I find it really hard to understand why, a year and a half later after receiving $625,000, there's been no one-on-one placement," she said. "That's a long time to be planning."

The Buy-In program was established to provide Medicaid coverage for the disabled who lose other coverage when they get a job.


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