Wednesday, April 28, 2021 | 4:45 p.m.
CARSON CITY — With about a month left in the Legislative session, Nevada lawmakers are considering a bill that would establish a state public health insurance option.
Senate Bill 420, led by Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro, D-Las Vegas, would make the so-called Nevada Option available through the state’s insurance marketplace and state-contracted health insurers. Under the bill, coverage would begin by 2025.
“I think if there’s one thing that the pandemic has absolutely illustrated, it is the need for more affordable health care and sensible health care for Nevadans here in the state,” Cannizzaro said.
“That has absolutely become even more readily apparent as people have lost their jobs; they’ve been kicked off their health insurance; they’ve been struggling to ensure that when and if they get sick during the pandemic, that they’ll be able to have access to health care,” she said.
The bill would require companies that bid to provide Medicaid services in Nevada also offer plans under the public option. Proponents see it as a way to leverage the state’s $2 billion in Medicaid contracts to expand affordable health care.
The bill’s goal is to reduce premiums statewide by 15% in the program’s first five years.
Under the bill, premiums for the public option would be 5% lower than any ZIP code’s reference premium and rate increases would be capped.
Even with the federal Affordable Care Act, about 350,000 Nevadans remain without insurance. According to a memo by Senate Democrats, the state public option would be available to 67% of uninsured Nevadans.
In 2017, lawmakers passed a bill that would have created a Medicaid buy-in option, but then-Gov. Brian Sandoval vetoed it.
“Senate Bill 420 is the first step toward driving down the high cost of insurance and addressing Nevada’s persistently high uninsured rate, particularly in Black, brown and Native communities across Nevada. All Nevada families deserve the dignity of healthcare,” Laura Martin, executive director of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, said in a statement.
Nevada’s Health Care Future, a group with links to large medical organizations, is opposing the measure.
The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services after its introduction but has not been scheduled for a hearing.