LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — A bill in the Nevada Legislature, SB 420, would force insurance companies participating in the state's Medicaid program to offer a public option plan designed to lower insurance premiums across the board by 15% over four years.
The public option plans would by law have premiums 5% cheaper than the second-lowest silver plan offered.
Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro, (D) District 6, has been pushing hard for the bill to become law late in the legislative session saying it would help provide reasonable coverage to the roughly 350,000 people who are uninsured in Nevada.
Statistics report 44% of the uninsured population in Nevada doesn't qualify for premium subsidies or are not eligible for coverage due to their immigration status.
Shenakwa Hawkins, owner of Care with Purpose Medical Center, said her Las Vegas facility cares for mostly low-income people or people of color, and she believes SB 420 would lower costs overall by providing care for people earlier.
"Not having health insurance means that people end up needing expensive emergency care because of conditions we could have treated proactively if they had been able to afford health insurance," she said. "I see this far too much, it is heartbreaking, and a bit frustrating."
If passed, the bill is projected to cost $73,242,169 with a $23,895,869 impact on the state's general fund.
Opponents included several groups from local chambers of commerce to doctors, hospitals, and insurance providers who argued the bill could do the opposite of what it's designed to do.
The groups said SB 420 could cause insurance providers and medical providers to avoid Medicaid programs completely, lower access to care.
And Republican Sen. Ben Kieckhefer says this could cause a shift in cost to other areas.
"Just because we say that health insurance plans need to have premiums that are 15% less, that doesn't mean we reduce costs by 15%, right?" he said. "It may actually increase costs and increase utilization and there are a lot of different factors that could happen downstream. Who's going to pick up that cost?
Opponents said the state should focus on improving the current system to entice the majority of people who are uninsured and do qualify for premium subsidies to enter the public exchanges.
If passed, the bill wouldn't take effect until 2026.
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