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Sisolak, experts meet in Las Vegas to discuss health care issues

After spending the morning encouraging uninsured Nevadans to sign up for health insurance through the state’s marketplace, Gov.-elect Steve Sisolak met with experts to get a better grasp on the state’s current health care landscape.

A group of 20 or so policy experts worked through four topics selected by Sisolak and his transition team Friday at the National Atomic Testing Museum. Bobbette Bond, the policy director for the Culinary Health Fund, jokingly referred to the meeting as “speed dating.”

The participants laid out problems related to behavioral health, Medicaid, provider shortages and patient protection/cost transparency.

“The solution is here in this room; we just need more time than one meeting,” Sisolak said after the meeting, adding that he thinks some issues brought up could be addressed relatively quickly with minimal expense.

One such area, Sisolak said, centers on the licensing and credentialing of health care providers. For a registered nurse, the licensing process can take as little as 10 to 15 days. But for other areas of licensing, such as counselors or social workers, the timeline to become licensed in Nevada is much longer.

“I’d been licensed in Massachusetts for 10 years. It was quite a process to get set up (here),” said Adele Bohenko, who works at United Citizens Foundation. The nonprofit provides mental and behavioral health services and substance abuse counseling.

Licensing is one area that Sisolak hopes some of the medical experts on his transition advisory team — Bond and University Medical Center CEO Mason Van Houweling — can work on to find some solutions quickly.

But other solutions may not come so fast, including increasing the number of providers in the state. Barbara Atkinson, dean of the still-fledgling UNLV School of Medicine, said the school hopes to grow the number of students up to 120 each year once the school has a permanent campus.

But just adding more students won’t ensure they stay in Nevada, she said. Once a student finishes medical school, that person must complete a residency before beginning to practice. And Nevada lacks some of the basic residencies for students, she said.

“A student that graduates in the state has to go out of state for their residency and then it’s hard to get them back,” Atkinson said.

She encouraged Sisolak to continue work by outgoing Gov. Brian Sandoval to invest in residencies within the state. On Thursday, Sandoval announced a $3.3 million distribution to fund four graduate medical education residency and fellowship programs across the state.

“Ensuring Nevadans have access to high-quality healthcare has been one of my top priorities in office,” Sandoval said in a statement. “Growing Nevada’s physician workforce is essential to meeting this goal and funding from this grant will help increase the number of physicians completing their graduate medical education in Nevada.”

There are 175 licensed physicians per 100,000 residents in Nevada, compared with 261.8 per 100,000 nationwide, according to figures Sandoval’s office released Thursday. The influx of funds dates back to the creation of a graduate medical education task force in 2014. In both 2015 and 2017, the Legislature approved $10 million worth of funding for the project.

Contact Meghin Delaney at 702-383-0281 or mdelaney@reviewjournal.com. Follow @MeghinDelaney on Twitter.

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