Boosting Nevada health program enrollments could reduce uninsured |

Boosting Nevada health program enrollments could reduce uninsured

Associated Press Writer

Lawmakers were told Wednesday that bringing more Nevadans into existing low-income health programs could go a long way toward shrinking the ranks of the state’s 450,000 uninsured.

Jon Sasser of Washoe Legal Services told the Assembly Health and Human Services Committee that Gov. Jim Gibbons’ budget is inadequate to fund outreach efforts, saying the state needs $500,000 each year for such programs.

If more people do sign up for Medicaid and Nevada Checkup, the governor’s budget for those programs will be inadequate because of the caseload growth, Sasser said.

“Unless there’s a further decline (in enrollment), we’ve got trouble in the budget,” Sasser said.

Nevada ranks 8th in the nation in the number of people lacking health insurance. The state’s uninsured total rose by 100,000, or 29 percent, since 2000, consistent with its population growth.

But enrollment for Medicaid and Nevada Checkup has flattened out. Only 44 percent of children who are eligible are signed up for Nevada Checkup, which provides health care to low-income, uninsured children.

Sasser suggested the state could follow Illinois and pay a “bounty” of $75 to clinics for each child signed up for Nevada Checkup.

Patricia Durbin, executive director of the Great Basin Primary Care Association, also pushed for more outreach and to revive an online application.

“An online application would tremendously decrease Nevada’s enrollment challenges,” Durbin said. “Some people just cannot navigate the system.”

Durbin also pushed for increased funding to community health centers, saying that in 2004 the cost of unnecessary emergency room visits totaled $113 million.