Southern Nevada residents do not usually spend much time thinking about hospitals unless they happen to have an urgent healthcare need. At that point though, nothing is as important as the local medical center and its staff.
Fortunately, that medical center down the road is likely there today for one key reason—Nevada’s Medicaid improvements. As the nation’s leading insurer, Medicaid covers about one in five Americans and nearly 700,000 Nevadans. Nevada took the necessary steps to grow and optimize our Medicaid implementation to make it better for patients and to preserve our healthcare system.
Prior to the new Nevada Medicaid, our medical centers were in jeopardy, especially as the Great Recession caused unemployment to rise across the city and surrounding areas. The uninsured and underinsured populations increased along with joblessness. Those who did not have coverage and could not pay for treatment received care at our hospitals nonetheless but almost every medical center was operating in the red.
The changes in Medicaid helped alleviate a crisis in the provider community. By slashing the uninsured rate from nearly 20% to 11%, Nevada helped to prevent hospitals from laying off more employees, reducing service areas, or denying care to patients in need, just to keep the doors open. The continued availability of high-quality, full-service care throughout Las Vegas has a lot to do with Medicaid.
The most impressive benefits, however, go to patients. Medicaid grew to encompass more individuals who could not afford private healthcare but could contribute modest payments to belong to Medicaid. New enrollees comprise mostly working class individuals, and today nearly 80% of Medicaid beneficiaries in Nevada come from a family with at least one person active in the workforce.
As enrollment by adults increased, so did kids’ coverage. In fact, Nevada saw the nation’s largest drop in uninsured children once our state made the Medicaid program stronger.
There have been positives that have come from replacing the stop-gap fix of uncompensated emergency room care with a long-term strategy of comprehensive medical coverage. When offered access to affordable care, low-income patients are more likely to take positive, healthy actions, like getting check-ups and screenings, taking their blood pressure medication, and talking to their doctor about quitting smoking. These measures reduce the incidence of disease, as well as avoid serious complications from existing conditions. In other words, they keep people out of the hospital and lower healthcare costs over the long term.
The benefits for children are even more substantial. Not only do kids on Medicaid go to the emergency room less often, they also do better academically and are more likely to graduate from high school. They have a lower incidence of disability and chronic disease later in life. Clearly, sowing the seeds of wellness works and the healthcare system will be much better off for the progress Nevada has made in childhood coverage.
A more stable healthcare system and families enjoying the many advantages of wellness are two incredible benefits of Medicaid improvements. With further innovation, there is great promise to streamline care delivery and drive better patient outcomes with available resources. Nevada’s medical
centers are pleased that lawmakers stepped up to improve Medicaid, so our community can be partners in these advancements and in our patients’ health.