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The bill to extend Medicaid to undocumented immigrants has been scaled back; supporters push The Nevada Independent to action

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A bill initially designed to expand Medicaid to undocumented people in Nevada has been scaled back, but supporters are still asking lawmakers to move forward with the bill.

Members of immigrant advocacy group Make the Road Nevada, Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom and representatives of Cure 4 the Kids Foundation gathered Thursday at the organization’s childhood cancer treatment center in Las Vegas to share their experiences of their patients navigating the healthcare system without health insurance.

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Annette Logan-Parker, founder and CEO of Cure 4 the Kids Foundation, said that while the clinic provides treatment to undocumented and uninsured children with cancer, patients often require additional therapies and medications that the center does not provide and which they would be covered by Medicaid if their immigration status did not make them ineligible.

Based on the proposed changes provided to The Nevada Independent supplied to The Nevada Independent, the new version of SB419 would focus on providing state-funded health coverage to pregnant women and children under 17 who do not qualify for Medicaid due to their immigration status. Before being amended, the measure, also known as the Nevada Health Opportunities, Planning, and Expansion (HOPE) Act, was intended to extend Medicaid to all income-eligible Nevadans regardless of immigration status, potentially adding tens of thousands to states states Medicaid Rolls.

Childhood cancer doesn’t care about immigration status, it doesn’t select its victims based on health coverage. Nor does he back down or give up simply because a child’s family has no way to fight back, Logan-Parker said at the news conference.

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He added that the 1982 Supreme Court ruling in Plyler v. Doe prohibits states from preventing undocumented immigrant children from attending public schools, and said similar logic should be used in providing health insurance to undocumented children.

This ruling was based on the reasoning that undocumented children are illegally in the United States through no fault of their own. Shouldn’t the same reasoning be applied to children with cancer? Logan-Parker said. We provide them with an education based on this logic. It would also make sense to apply the same principle when they are diagnosed with cancer. After all, they too have cancer through no fault of their own.

The ambitious bill, which was approved by the Legislature by Sen. Fabian Donate (D-Las Vegas), was heavily criticized by Republicans for its cost and involved a new application it would submit to the state and the health care system, but however, a first vote passed in the commission. Now he awaits a hearing in a Senate budget committee.

In the past, Gov. Joe Lombardo declined to say whether he would sign or veto the proposal. His office did not immediately return a request for comment Thursday on the reduced bill.

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A medical staff member exits an exam room at Cure 4 The Kids Clinic in Summerlin on Thursday, May 18, 2023. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

The latest version of the bill proposes establishing a state-funded coverage program similar to Medicaid, which would cost $13.5 million from Nevada Medicaid and approximately $732,000 from the Division of Welfare and Supportive Services over the two-year budget cycle to cover children under 17 regardless of immigration status or citizenship.

At the press conference, Kat Salkanovic, director of patient experience for Cure 4 the Kids Foundation, shared the story of a recent patient: an 11-year-old boy who is undocumented and whose childhood was cut short by a growing mass in his leg . The mass was initially diagnosed as benign and removed during an emergency room visit, but the pain in his leg persisted, Salkanovic said.

After months of dealing with pain and going undiagnosed, another emergency pediatrician referred the family to Cure 4 the Kids, where they found aggressive bone cancer in the boy’s leg. Salkanovic said the boy’s leg needed to be amputated from the hip down.

As an undocumented boy, he already understands the impact and burden of health care disparities in our state. He knows his mother can’t afford the very expensive prescription drugs for pain management. So he’s left to suffer, said Salkanovic. He knows that without Cure 4 the Kids Foundation he won’t be getting the life-saving chemotherapy he needs to live.

Tabitha Mueller contributed to this report.

Updated May 18, 2023 at 2:00pm to include details of the press conference held.

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