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What will the state do to keep Medicaid running?

Dan Ball reporting
/ Source: KSNV

Dan Ball reporting

The state of Nevada's Medicaid health care program is running out of cash. Medicaid, which helps the disabled, the elderly and poor families, is in trouble because the state has received thousands more applications than it is budgeted for.

"Medicaid case loads are significantly higher than budgeted at this point," said Ben Kieckhefer, who works for the state of Nevada's Health and Human Resources department.

"There (are) clearly people struggling in Nevada and we're seeing (it) in our offices."

Kieckhefer says the budget that the legislature approved early this year for Medicaid is not enough to keep up with the growing demand of Nevadans who need healthcare who fall below the poverty line.

"We insure over 200,000 lives in this state and the case loads are growing - as you might expect with the economy," explains Kieckhefer.

Currently, the department has nearly 10,000 more applicants than expected as well as more and more Nevadans signing up for food stamps and the Kids Check Up program; all entitlement programs funded by Health and Human Services.

Said Kieckhefer, "Obviously these are entitlement programs and if you're eligible you get in; we don't close the door on anybody. One third of the budget is Medicaid or Health and Human Services."

Assemblyman Joe Hardy, from the 20th District in Clark County, says finding the money for Medicaid is a must. "It is a huge problem that we have to figure out how to get our arms around and get that part funded."

Hardy, who sits on the Ways and Mean Committee, says the governor needs to make some tough decisions now to make sure Medicaid gets the money it needs.

"The governor is really in charge of this at this point... because we, the legislators, do not have a constitutional ability to go into session and do anything. There's only one person who can call a special session and that's the governor."

We called the Governor's Office and got this response:

There are certain areas where the governor will not allow further reductions or deep cuts and that includes Medicaid. We are looking at every possible option to shift money from somewhere else to Medicaid.

Federal officials say this situation is going to get a lot worse when unemployment benefits run out for thousands of Nevadans, dropping them below the poverty line.