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A proposed bill could expand health care for all in Nevada, regardless of immigration status

A man is giving a speech from behind a podium. To his left are six people waiting their turn to speak.
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Sen. Fabian Doñate (left) introduces Nevada’s HOPE Act alongside health care professionals and community advocates on Thursday, March 16, 2023, in Carson City, Nev.

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Lawmakers unveiled a proposed bill on Thursday that would expand access to health care for all in Nevada.

The Nevada Health Opportunities, Planning and Expansion Act of 2023, or the “HOPE Act,” would expand Medicaid for all Nevadans, regardless of their citizenship status.

According to the Guinn Center, based on data from 2013-17, 14 percent of Nevada’s population is uninsured. Data also shows that an estimated 210,000 Nevada residents were unauthorized immigrants in 2017, with roughly 94,500 without health insurance.

The Guinn Center’s report also explained that non-citizens confront many challenges in obtaining health insurance coverage through the Marketplace and federal programs such as Medicaid.

On Thursday, Senator Fabian Doñate was joined by health care professionals and community advocates to introduce the HOPE Act.

“We plan to expand access to care for all Nevadans. Historically, we know that our health care system has left folks behind. That is why through Nevada’s HOPE ACT, we will be introducing legislation for the full Medicaid expansion for all Nevadans regardless of who they are, where they come from, or their immigration status,” Doñate said.

Samuel Cano is an undocumented nursing student at the College of Southern Nevada, and he’s lived in Nevada since he was 4 years old. He said he is unable to obtain any kind of health insurance, which prevents him from getting the hands-on clinical experience that he needs to succeed as a nurse.

“It is heartbreaking to know that the only thing standing between me and my dream is something basic as health care. It is difficult to explain the frustration, sadness that comes with knowing that I am being denied access to something as essential as health care simply because of my immigration status,” Cano said. “Despite these challenges, I am determined to contribute to this community and to make a positive impact on the lives of those around me.”

Dr. Jose Cucalon Calderon, a pediatrician at Renown Health in Reno, works closely with Latino families. He said health professionals face problems in providing medical care to newborns because, most of the time, mothers may not have had access to prenatal care due to a lack of health insurance.

“One common trend over the last few years is that we receive babies that are born to mothers who did not have any prenatal care,” Cucalon said. “For us, to be able to make an effective plan for a newborn, we rely on the prenatal care for the baby. This is a systemic problem that is happening likely everywhere in the state.”

The HOPE Act is expected to be introduced in the Nevada Legislature in the next few days.

Maria joined KUNR Public Radio in December 2022 as a staff reporter. She is interested in stories about underserved communities, immigration, arts and culture, entertainment, education and health.
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