The morning after President Donald Trump held his rally at Las Vegas Convention Center with U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R) and Gubernatorial candidate Adam Laxalt (R), Gubernatorial hopeful Steve Sisolak (D) joined Rep. Dina Titus (D-Las Vegas) to speak with local experts about Former Vice President Joe Biden’s “Moonshot Initiative” to invest more in cancer research, treatment, and prevention. They also made a few comments about health care in general, just hours after Trump boasted about his efforts to undo the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare).
We then spoke with Sisolak about Laxalt’s embrace of Trump (and his health care agenda), how to improve health care in Nevada, and why all the news here may not be as bad as Trump and his allies make it out to be.
Just how exactly would Trump and Laxalt “protect patients with pre-existing conditions”?
At last night’s rally Donald Trump exclaimed, “Republicans will protect patients with pre-existing conditions.” He also repeatedly mocked the ACA as “failing”, despite the fact that the law includes protections for patients with pre-existing conditions that did not exist nationally before its passage in 2010. Trump also praised his 2017 tax law for its repeal of the ACA’s individual mandate to have health insurance, yet he failed to mention that he’s also directed the Justice Department not to defend the law in court against a Texas lawsuit claiming the repeal of the individual mandate requires the rest of the law be struck down as well, including protections for patients with pre-existing conditions.
Though Adam Laxalt didn’t address health care during his time on the stage last night, the Attorney General has also extensively opposed the ACA and supported his fellow Republicans’ efforts to repeal it. He has opposed the ACA’s Medicaid expansion in the past, and he has yet to promise to protect it as Governor. He’s declined to challenge Trump’s efforts to sabotage the health care law, despite Governor Brian Sandoval (R) and other state officials making clear their discontent with Trump. And despite Trump’s promise to “protect patients with pre-existing conditions” last night, he, Laxalt, and U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R) have yet to come up with a “repeal and replace” proposal that actually includes the same level of protection for patients that they have under the ACA.
“For those reasons, [the Affordable Care Act] really needs to be protected.”
– Rep. Dina Titus
At today’s roundtable discussion at the Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation, Rep. Dina Titus and Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak spoke with doctors and non-profit leaders about the Biden Moonshot Initiative, the state of cancer treatment in Nevada, and how to better serve local patients. The discussion also occasionally shifted to health care in general, and how the ACA fits into it.
— Andrew Davey (@atdleft) September 21, 2018
As Titus explained, “Two parts of the ACA I really support […]: One is the notion of pre-existing conditions, which is related to every aspect of cancer. The other is the emphasis on preventive care: detection, and screening, and finding things before they become a serious problem. For those reasons, [the health care law] really needs to be protected.”
It’s definitely an issue Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Henderson) continues to pound Heller on in the Senate race, as Heller has continually voted to undo programs like Medicaid expansion, pre-existing condition protections, and state insurance exchanges that were established by the ACA. However this may also be a critical issue in the Gubernatorial race, as Sandoval was a rare Republican Governor who fully embraced the ACA, and Laxalt has thus far been clinging to Trump while rebuking Sandoval.
“I don’t understand why Adam Laxalt continues to criticize the work the Governor has done.”
– Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak
This strange divide continued to play out last night, when some of Trump’s “warm-up acts” attacked not just Rosen and Sisolak, but also implicitly attacked Sandoval and his record. After the roundtable discussion, we asked Sisolak about that.
His response? “I think Brian Sandoval showed a tremendous amount of courage with the expansion of Medicaid. He’s the first Republican Governor to do it, and the only Republican Governor to go this far. I think he needs to be commended for it, not criticized.”
Sisolak then returned the favor Sandoval recently provided and said, “I don’t understand why Adam Laxalt continues to criticize the work the Governor has done.”
“Health care is only quality health care if it’s affordable and accessible. If you take away the accessibility and the affordability from patients, you’re taking [their health care] away.”
– Steve Sisolak
So if repealing Obamacare isn’t a real health care solution, what is? For one, Sisolak said he’s open to the Medicaid-style public option that Assembly Member Mike Sprinkle (D-Sparks) proposed in 2017 (and Sandoval vetoed after the close of the legislative session). He also expressed a strong desire to invest more in mental health care and turn the page on the kinds of problems that were exposed by the Rawson-Neal scandal half a decade ago.
According to Sisolak, “I think we have to look into anything and everything that has the potential to improve health care in the State of Nevada. We have patients who need health care. As I’ve argued all along, health care is only quality health care if it’s affordable and accessible. If you take away the accessibility and the affordability from patients, you’re taking [their health care] away.”
Sisolak then pointed to UMC’s financial turnaround as an example of the ACA improving the state of health care in Nevada, and why this state can’t afford to go back to life before Obamacare: “With the money we’re getting, we’re investing it into things like [new] surgery devices, and a new tower for pediatrics. We have a lot of things on the drawing board that allows us to [reinvest reimbursement funds] into health care.”
Funny enough, neither Trump nor Laxalt mentioned Medicaid last night. I wonder why that was, or maybe I shouldn’t. Just ask Dean Heller.