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Sisolak walks back unqualified support for universal Medicaid buy-in program 'Sprinklecare'

Riley Snyder
Riley Snyder
Health CareLegislatureState Government

Since his election, Gov. Steve Sisolak has walked back his previously unqualified support of a highly publicized proposal that would allow Nevadans of any income to buy into a state-backed Medicaid insurance plan — a measure vetoed by Gov. Brian Sandoval in 2017.

During his campaign for governor, Sisolak told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he would have no reservations about signing into law the Medicaid-for-all type bill proposed by Democratic Assemblyman Mike Sprinkle, often referred to as “Sprinklecare”.

“In the 2017 session, the Nevada legislature passed a Medicaid buy-in program, which was vetoed by the governor,” Sisolak wrote in the questionnaire. “If that bill were to make it to my desk I would sign it.”

The 2017 bill ran just four pages and only set broad contours of a plan to allow the state to contract with a private insurance company to offer a health insurance plan mirroring benefits available in the state’s Medicaid plan. Sandoval vetoed the bill at the tail end of the 2017 session, lauding the concept for its creativity but said it required further study and cautioned it “could introduce more uncertainty to an already fragile health care market.”

Although Sandoval vetoed the bill, the concept of “Sprinklecare” drew national attention and spurred similar legislation in other states, and Sprinkle has pledged to reintroduce the bill in 2019.

But Sisolak has sounded more cautious notes on the proposal since his election in November; telling the Associated Press in late November that he thought the state wouldn’t be able to afford the proposal but that he wanted to study it.

Sisolak also told Nevada Independent Editor Jon Ralston at a forum in January that he had second thoughts about supporting such a bill.

"Unfortunately, in some of these things, there’s unintended consequences and I don’t think that was thoroughly vetted. I don’t know if I’d have signed it, I’ll be honest, Jon."

Asked for clarity on his position, Sisolak said in an emailed statement he was looking forward to “working with the legislature and stakeholders to review all options on the table.”

“There’s no question that we should build off Gov. Sandoval’s expansion of Medicaid by increasing access to care, especially mental health care,” Sisolak said in an emailed statement. “Fixing our health care system is going to take bringing everyone to the table to find a common-sense solution.”

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