Law Makers Eye Health Care

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Nevada legislators will deal with more
than 70 bills relating to health care during the 2007 session -
including top-priority measures to lower Nevada's high numbers of
methamphetamine users and people lacking any health insurance.

Also on the table are bills dealing with non-embryonic stem cell
research, requiring insurance carriers provide a new cervical
cancer vaccine, and encouraging alternative health care such as
aromatherapy and homeopathy.

Another plan calls for an "I'm sorry law" that would prevent
an apology by a doctor for a medical mistake from being used
against that doctor in any future litigation.

When the Assembly Health and Human Services Committee, chaired
by Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, holds its first meeting on Feb. 7,
the focus will be on methamphetamine - the subject of a recent
documentary featuring Carson City's sheriff speaking about his own
daughter's substance abuse problems.

"We can't enforce our way out of this," said Leslie, whose
profession involves coordinating the adult drug and mental health
courts in Washoe County. "It's got to be more treatment,
prevention and education."

Leslie added that the state has one of the nation's highest per
capita rates of methamphetamine use - and also is near the top in
the rate of medically uninsured people.

In trying to help the state's roughly 400,000 uninsured, Leslie
said sweeping reforms may not occur but lawmakers may seek more
insurance and health care opportunities for target populations such
as pregnant women, poor children or those who work for small

Lawmakers also would like to ramp up education about existing
low-cost health services that are underutilized. Enrollment in
Nevada Checkup, a state and federal program to help children who do
not qualify for Medicaid, is "abysmally low," said Sen. Joe Heck,

Many of the bills are the result of 18 months of scrutiny of
Nevada's health care issues by an interim study committee, said
Heck, a medical doctor.

"The sheer number of (bill drafts) related to the topic shows
the interest and necessity in trying to address the overall lack of
health care infrastructure in Nevada," Heck said.

Heck is sponsoring a bill that would create a Nevada Academy of
Health to keep tabs on the state's health care issues and supply a
list of priorities to the governor and legislature before each

"Then, when all these requests for funding come in, there will
be some non-biased group that has looked at these
recommendations," he said.

Sen. Mike Schneider, D-Las Vegas, is proposing legislation to
allow research on non-embryonic stem cells, which are available
through amniotic fluid, umbilical cord blood, adult bone marrow and

Schneider also is behind a bill to require practitioners of
certain unlicensed, alternative treatments, such as aromatherapy,
to disclose their unlicensed status - but which also would ensure
they're not prosecuted for practicing medicine without a license.

"If they were to be investigated, the question would not be
whether you are practicing medicine without a license, it would be
did you do a prohibited act and did you not give out a
disclosure," said Diane Miller, legal director of National Health
Freedom Action, which is pushing the bill.

Other health-related proposals include:
- CANCER: Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, is
sponsoring a bill that would require insurers to cover the new
cervical cancer vaccine. Currently, Nevada insurers are required to
cover birth control pills and mammograms.
- PROSTATE: Sen. Bob Coffin, D-Las Vegas, is sponsoring a bill
that requires insurers to provide coverage for certain prostate
cancer screening procedures.
- APOLOGIES: Sen. Heck, is sponsoring a bill that would shield
doctors from having their apologies to patients used in later
litigation against them. "I'm sorry laws" passed in other states
have been shown to decrease the number of medical malpractice cases
that go to trial, Heck said.
- VIRUS TESTS: Sen. Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, is sponsoring
a bill that would require hospitals and clinics to offer pregnant
women rapid testing for the human immunodeficiency virus.
- PHARMACY BOARD: Sen. Schneider says he wants to "send a
message" and abolish the state Board of Pharmacy for not cracking
down on pharmacists who refuse to fill prescriptions for birth
control or morning-after pills.
"When the doctor prescribes something for the health of the
patient, they (pharmacists) have to do it. If they don't want to do
that, they can go sell shoes," Schneider said.