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Latino legislators in Nevada call for expanding Medicaid access regardless of immigration status

A group of eight people in business clothing standing in a line behind a podium smiling for a photo. They are standing next to a white sign that reads, “Nevada Latino Legislative Caucus” in blue letters. The room is brightly lit due to three large windows behind them.
Lucia Starbuck
KUNR Public Radio
Nevada State Sen. Edgar Flores (left), Assemblywoman Cecelia González, Assemblywoman Elaine Marzola, Sen. Fabian Doñate, Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui, Assemblywoman Bea Duran, Assemblywoman Selena Torres, Sen. Dina Neal in Carson City, Nev., on Feb. 6, 2023.

The eight state lawmakers who make up the newly named Nevada Latino Legislative Caucus outlined their legislative goals right before the official start of the Nevada Legislative Session on Monday.

Lea en español.

The caucus said one of their top priorities is expanding access to healthcare. Chair and Democratic State Senator Fabian Doñate said the group is calling for ensuring all Nevadans, regardless of immigration status, have access to healthcare through Medicaid.

“We know that the people who suffered most from COVID-19 were because of socio-economic factors, factors like access to health insurance,” Doñate said. “We want to make sure that regardless of who you are, or where you came from, you deserve to be taken care of as long as you’re in this state.”

Doñate said they haven’t spoken to Republican Governor Joe Lombardo to gauge his support. The governor’s spokesperson said the administration isn’t commenting on bills yet.

There are roughly 210,000 people living in Nevada, roughly 7.4% of the state’s population, who are uninsured due to their immigration status, according to a 2019 Guinn Center study.

The group, formerly known as the Nevada Hispanic Legislative Caucus, changed its name to be more inclusive, explained Vice Chair and Democratic Assemblywoman Elaine Marzola. She represents part of Henderson.

“Under the new name, all people from Latin America will be represented,” Marzola said. “I emigrated to the United States from Brazil as a child, and Nevada has been my home. This new name now includes people like me.”

Another issue the Nevada Latino Legislative Caucus wants to tackle is language access, Democratic State Senator Edgar Flores who represents Northeast Las Vegas said.

“We talk about COVID, we recognize the challenges that all Nevadans collectively faced. But unfortunately, every single time an emergency directive would come out, it would take a multitude of days for that to reach communities of color, namely because of language access. So while we were translating one emergency directive, we were already in number five,” Flores said.

Flores pointed to a bill passed in the last session requiring certain pharmacies to provide prescription information in languages other than English.

Other priorities include education and supporting English language learners, along with affordable rent and pathways to homeownership.

Lucia Starbuck is an award-winning political journalist and the host of KUNR’s monthly show Purple Politics Nevada. She is passionate about reporting during election season, attending community events, and talking to people about the issues that matter most to them.
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