Yesterday, U.S. Senator Dean Heller’s (R) reelection campaign released a TV ad featuring Governor Brian Sandoval touting Heller’s “bipartisan accomplishments”. Notably missing from the ad was any mention of Heller’s efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Today, Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Henderson) toured Touro University’s Health Center in Henderson and spoke with reporters about all things health care after the tour. Not only did Rosen push back on the new Heller-Sandoval ad, but she also went into detail in explaining how she wants to improve our health care system.
Heller dropped the new Sandoval ad, but did he also drop the ball on health care?
In the new TV ad, Governor Brian Sandoval described Heller’s record as “bipartisan” and proclaimed, “Anyone who tells you something different is wrong.” And yet, Sandoval declined to mention how he himself has been part of the bipartisan opposition to Heller’s efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare) and replace it with a system that would have jeopardized health insurance for about 243,000 Nevadans and about $639 million in federal health care funding for the State of Nevada.
Had Heller succeeded, his votes could have had a major impact on Nevada health care providers like Touro University Health Center in Henderson. Touro Health Center treats about 20,000 patients per year. 25% of their patients are on Medicare, 20% are on Medicaid, and 40% use private insurance. Had the Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson bill become law last year, the ACA’s Medicaid expansion would have been phased out as the overall program would have been converted to a pre-capped set of block grants to states. And if Heller’s ACA “repeal and replace” plan had become law, states would have been able to obtain waivers to weaken protections for patients for pre-existing conditions, essentially jeopardizing insurance coverage for such patients.
Just a day after Heller’s campaign dropped the new Sandoval ad, Rosen visited the Touro Health Center and reassured staff that she will continue to work to improve Nevadans’ health care in Congress.
“All of us are one diagnosis away from a pre-existing condition, so I am more than inclined to support legislation to prevent that from happening.”
– Rep. Jacky Rosen
Though Heller has thus far failed to pass his legislation, President Donald Trump has ordered a series of executive actions to weaken the ACA, such as the recent rule change to expand access to short-term, limited coverage insurance plans (or “junk insurance”). In addition, the White House has ordered the Justice Department not to protect the ACA against the Texas-led lawsuit that’s aiming to overturn the health care law’s consumer protections, including protections for patients with pre-existing conditions. While Heller has been pushing a bill that the state health insurance chief says won’t protect any patients with pre-existing conditions, Rosen introduced a resolution to authorize the U.S. House’s general counsel to intervene in the lawsuit to defend the ACA’s consumer protections.
And while Heller has supported Trump’s expansion of “junk insurance” access, Rosen signed onto a House Resolution to stop Trump’s new rule from going into effect and endorsed Senator Tammy Baldwin‘s (D-Wisconsin) bill to reverse Trump’s “junk insurance” rule. “Those short-term plans are a farce [and] a charade being played on regular Americans. Those short-term plans are junk plans,” Rosen told us.
As Rosen described the new rule, “You can go to the doctor, but you can’t get your treatment, your life-saving medication.” She continued, “People are telling me they’re scared to death for their kids, especially if they have congenital disease or chronic disease. […] All of us are one diagnosis away from a pre-existing condition, so I am more than inclined to support legislation to prevent that from happening.”
“Patients lives are on the line. We need to move carefully and methodically to ensure no one falls through the cracks. If that is someone you love, that is too many.”
– Rep. Jacky Rosen
So what can be done to not just undo Trump’s actions to weaken the ACA, but also to improve upon what’s now in the ACA? Rosen touted her two bills to protect patients’ right to know more about the cost of their prescription drugs, endorsed efforts to restore the cost-sharing reduction subsidies that Trump has gutted, and vowed to push legislation to encourage more students to train to become medical professionals.
According to Rosen, it’s all about protecting Nevadans’ health care in all ways possible: “Patients lives are on the line. We need to move carefully and methodically to ensure no one falls through the cracks. If that is someone you love, that is too many.”
Over the past year, Rosen has also expressed support for a public option to be added into the exchanges alongside private insurance plans. Today, Rosen got more specific and endorsed the Medicaid-style public option that Assembly Member Mike Sprinkle (D-Sparks) has advocated in the Nevada Legislature. Rosen pointed to a bill Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-New Mexico) has introduced in Congress, then explained why Medicaid, a program that already covers children and younger adults, would be easier to expand to more patients than the age-restricted Medicare.
As Rosen put it, “The platforms are there. The structure is there. […] It covers you womb to tomb, and then your premium would pay for your care.” After noting the wide range of health care providers and professionals who already accept Medicaid, Rosen added, “It would be a much easier public option for us to move to as a country.”
“I think it was pretty telling, because Dean Heller is guilty of breaking his promise, not just to Governor Sandoval, but to hundreds of thousands of Nevadans.”
– Rep. Jacky Rosen
Though we talked a lot of policy after the Touro tour, we also talked politics. On the Heller-Sandoval ad, Rosen noted Sandoval excluding health care from his list of Heller’s “bipartisan accomplishments”. For Rosen, “I think it was pretty telling, because Dean Heller is guilty of breaking his promise, not just to Governor Sandoval, but to hundreds of thousands of Nevadans [not to jeopardize their health care coverage].”
Rosen then evoked that other Republican who rode Air Force One into Las Vegas last month to campaign for Heller: “Like everything else, he says one thing in the State of Nevada, thinks we’re not paying attention, then goes back to Washington, D.C., and according to President [Donald Trump], ‘Dean, he’ll do whatever we want.’ It’s not what Nevadans want. It’s not what Governor Sandoval wanted.”
According to a new CNN poll, health care is the top issue on Nevadans’ minds. And according to that CNN poll, Rosen has pulled slightly ahead of Heller (47-43%) in the Senate race, a result that’s in line with other recent polls showing a close race with a slight edge for Rosen. There’s a reason why health care has become such a big issue in this campaign… And it may be the same reason why Heller tends not to want to talk about it.