7. North Las Vegas, NV
Janet L. Carter, OD, FAAO
I practiced in the city of North Las Vegas from 2008 through early 2013. Of course, that time period included the worst of the recession, and North Las Vegas was one of the hardest hit areas in the country in the mortgage crisis.
Access to care is probably the biggest concern facing residents. Yes, Nevada has expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but there is a shortage of providers who accept Medicaid in the area. Our office was one of the few that accepted Medicaid, and we were always overbooked as a result.
Some of the Medicaid HMOs that were popular in the area had no ophthalmologists on its plans, making timely referrals problematic when they were necessary. During that time period before the ACA took effect, Medicaid in Nevada did not cover routine vision care for adults.
Access to care was also limited by geographic restrictions. Even if patients found a provider willing to accept their insurance, getting to the appointment could be problematic. All of Las Vegas Valley suffers from tremendous urban sprawl, and the city of North Las Vegas is no exception.
Public transportation is abysmal; the buses from the center city to residential areas of North Las Vegas sometimes run only once or twice an hour and are subject to long delays. A patient who has an appointment a bus ride away is not likely to wait an hour in the summer heat, usually well over 100 degrees, to catch a bus.
Combine all of these access challenges with the fact that North Las Vegas is an environment in which plenty of booze is available 24/7. Plus, many residents of North Las Vegas work on The Strip; even if they do not smoke themselves, they are exposed to high amounts of second
-hand smoke within the casinos.
I am not at all surprised that North Las Vegas made the “least healthy cities” list!