Nevada’s Medicaid caseload grows, hits backlog of about 50,000 applicants

CARSON CITY — Nevada’s Medicaid caseload is growing rapidly as eligible residents sign up under Obamacare, creating a backlog of about 50,000 applications awaiting processing in the system, a state panel was told Tuesday.

Mike Willden, director of the Department of Health and Human Services, told the state Board of Examiners, including Gov. Brian Sandoval, that the agency ran a backlog of about 10,000 applications before the federal health care law took effect on Jan. 1.

“We’re on track to enroll 500,000 people by the end of the year,” he said.

The Medicaid caseload as of the end of January was 377,363.

The increase in applications is due to the state decision to expand Medicaid to a new group of eligible residents under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, he said.

The new group is low-income adults ages 19 to 64 who do not qualify for either the cash grant Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program or Medicare.

The federal government is picking up the cost of the new enrollees for the first three years. The state share beginning in 2017 is 5 percent, increasing to 10 percent by 2020.

Sandoval asked if the growth in the Medicaid population will be exponential as newly eligible applicants are added to the program.

“If you are 4,000 ahead and there are 50,000 in the queue?” he asked.

Willden said the caseload will grow significantly higher in the next few months because most of the applications are from newly eligible residents under the health care law.

But there is some duplication in the 50,000 applications because some families applied for the program more than once, he said.

“It won’t be 50,000 families,” he said. “It will be something less than that.”

The program’s caseload had already ballooned through December as Nevada residents eligible for Medicaid under the pre-health care law program signed up. Residents signed up because of the individual mandate to have health insurance.

The Medicaid caseload jumped more than 10,000 from September through the end of December, hitting 341,106.

In anticipation of the increased caseload volume and workload associated with Obamacare, the Division of Welfare and Supportive Services requested and received approval from the 2013 Legislature to hire 248 additional staff by the end of February 2014, and an additional 162 by December 2014.

Contact Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley at swhaley@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3900. Follow him on Twitter @seanw801.