Medicaid reaches record enrollment in Nevada

don't get sick tho
Medicaid enrollment has increased nationwide since the onset of the pandemic, but Nevada’s increase has been one of the most extreme. (Nevada Current file photo)

One in four Nevadans is now enrolled in a public health insurance program.

More than 810,000 Nevadans are now enrolled in Medicaid or Nevada Check Up, the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services announced Monday. The record enrollment is an expected result of the pandemic and subsequent economic downturn.

In January 2020, 671,979 Nevadans were enrolled in Medicaid or Check Up.

One year later: 810,818 were.

Medicaid
(Chart: Nevada Department of Health and Human Services)

The current fiscal year has seen a 14.6 percent increase in the total number of Medicaid recipients, according to a public data dashboard maintained by the state. The prior fiscal year saw the number of recipients increase by only half a percentage point, and the year before the number of recipients remained essentially flat.

Medicaid enrollment has increased nationwide since the onset of the pandemic, but Nevada’s increase has been one of the most extreme. Only five states grew at a faster percentage between October 2019 and September 2020, according to a December report compiled by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Mandatory shutdowns of Nevada businesses beginning in mid-March 2020 resulted in a historic 30% unemployment rate in April 2020. Many businesses remain shuttered or are operating at reduced capacity nearly a year later.

Need health insurance?

  • To apply for Nevada Medicaid, visit accessnevada.dwss.nv.gov
  • If you fall just outside of Medicaid eligibility, you may still qualify for subsidized monthly premiums through Nevada HealthLink, the state’s health insurance exchange established as part of the Affordable Care Act. Enrollment is open until May 15. Visit NevadaHealthLink.com for more information or call 1-800-547-2927.

The most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics put Nevada’s unemployment rate at 9.2% — second only to similarly tourism-dependent Hawaii, which recorded an unemployment rate of 9.3%. Joblessness is even more pronounced by region. The Las Vegas metropolitan area most recently reported an unemployment rate of 10.4% — the highest in the nation for large metros.

In an unfortunate irony for the state, the same public health crisis causing the increased need for Medicaid has also caused revenue shortfalls. During a special session last summer, lawmakers cut $130 million from the state’s Medicaid budget. Some of those cuts were spared thanks to federal coronavirus relief dollars, and Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak’s recommended budget includes restoration of additional cuts. Still, the impact of the increased strain on the state’s Medicaid system is expected to linger.

Medicaid is a joint federal and state program that provides health insurance for low-income families and people, including adults, children, pregnant women, elderly adults and people with disabilities. Nevada Check Up is the state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program, a similar federal-state program that insures low-income children from birth to age 19 who are not covered by private insurance or Medicaid.

April Corbin Girnus
April Corbin Girnus is an award-winning journalist with a decade of media experience. She has been a beat writer at Las Vegas Sun, a staff writer at LEO Weekly, web editor of Las Vegas Weekly and a blogger documenting North American bike share systems’ efforts to increase ridership in underserved communities. An occasional adjunct journalism professor, April steadfastly rejects the notion that journalism is a worthless major. Amid the Great Recession, she earned a B.A. in journalism from the University of Nevada Las Vegas, where she served as editor-in-chief of the student newspaper. She later earned an M.A. in media studies and a graduate certificate in media management from The New School for Public Engagement. April currently serves on the board of the Society of Professional Journalists Las Vegas pro chapter. A stickler about municipal boundary lines, April enjoys teaching people about unincorporated Clark County. She grew up in Sunrise Manor and currently resides in Paradise with her husband, two children and three mutts.