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State Health Exchange Will Drive Budget Increases

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(Source: AP)

(Source: AP)

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Las Vegas CBS KXNT- State legislators are getting an overview this week of how the money is spent, with a department-by-department review of the state budget.

On Thursday, they heard about expected cost increases that will be driven by the Silver State Health Exchange under the Affordable Care Act. In particular, one federally-required feature of the state health exchange is called an “eligibility engine.”

Welfare and Supportive Services Administrator Mike McMahon gave a fictional example of how the engine is likely to cause cost increases. It runs in the background during a user’s search of the health exchange, and suggests other, non health-related programs he might qualify for.

McMahon’s character is George, who is 64 and retired. With time on his hands, George decides to get on the exchange and research his medicare supplemental car insurance options. As he answers questions, George gets a pop-up box on his screen suggesting he might be eligible for SNAP, the supplemental nutritional assistance, or food stamp program. George could then answer a few more questions and find that he qualifies.

“This is a person who never in their entire life, would have ever considered walking into a district office for welfare, and inquiring, much less securing, any type of public assistance program,” McMahon said, adding that he was using “George” to help legislators understand how programs outside of Medicaid will see caseloads increase.

The George scenario could play out thousands of times over the two-year budget cycle. McMahon projected 17,000 additional SNAP enrollees in 2014, and another 6,000 in 2015, driven in part by eligibility engine suggestions.

Four new state offices will be necessary in the 2014-15 biennium, McMahon said. Two new offices in Southern Nevada and one in the north will open to support the Affordable Care Act caseload. The fourth new office will be related to normal operations, he said.

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