Patients applaud Nevada governor's plan to expand Medicaid - FOX5 Vegas - KVVU

Patients applaud Nevada governor's plan to expand Medicaid

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LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -

Gov. Brian Sandoval's plan to expand the Medicaid program in the Silver State is giving hope to some uninsured residents as he becomes the first Republican state leader to accept the Affordable Care Act.

"It's so hard to even get any kind of help out there," said Ida Kaleopaa, a Las Vegas resident.

Right now, Kaleopaa is getting by with free assistance through Volunteers in Medicine of Southern Nevada, but not being insured bothers her.

"I've tried everything and anything, but because I don't qualify - I don't make enough, it comes into an income status," she said.

Sandoval made the announcement Tuesday night that he will include 78,000 additional people in the state's Medicaid program. He said it will be added to the 2014-2015 fiscal year budget.

Yet with more than 500,000 Nevadans currently uninsured, some think the additional support is only a drop in the bucket.

"For the individual patients, absolutely - it's going to be a Godsend. But, in terms of our problem we have here in Nevada, it's a very small improvement," said Dr. Kevin Petersen, who started Helping Hands Surgical Care in Summerlin.

Petersen's charity also serves uninsured patients in need of medical care.

Some argue the expansion will do little to make a difference since many doctors don't accept Medicaid. They argue that the program doesn't pay enough for services.

Sandoval also appeared reluctant to expand the program, saying in a written statement:

"Though I have never liked the Affordable Care Act because of the individual mandate it places on citizens, the increased burden on businesses and concerns about access to healthcare, the law has been upheld by the Supreme Court. As such, I am forced to accept it as today's reality and I have decided to expand Nevada's Medicaid coverage."

Sandoval went on to add that his support is not a firm deal.

"I will commit to working with the Legislature if anything changes at the federal level. At any point during the Legislative session, if there is any sign of change at the state or federal level, it may alter my support for expansion."

At least one doctor believes it is the right move.

"When you have this many people still out of work, and this many people that don't have health insurance, expanding Medicaid is one of the very few options to get these people covered," said Dr. Daliah Wachs, a Las Vegas family physician.

The governor said the expansion will save the state general fund approximately $17 million dollars.

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