Senate Committee hears “Public Option” bill

Published: May. 4, 2021 at 8:28 PM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - The Senate Health and Human Services Committee took most of the day examining Senate Bill 420. A Bill which would offer a “public option” for Nevadans looking for health insurance within the Nevada Health Insurance Exchange.

Major sponsor of the bill, Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro walked the committee through the bill and provided experts on the benefits of its passage.

The bill calls for a state sponsored “public option” on the insurance exchange which would be the least expensive offered to Nevadans.

Senator Cannizzaro says such an option would allow for the more than 300,000 uninsured Nevadans to finally afford health insurance.

But not everyone is in favor of the senate bill. Major hospitals in Nevada as well as physicians’ groups oppose the bill. There was a question of compensation for their services under the “public option.”

There were also questions about cost shifting, and who would ultimately pick up actual health care costs offered at a discount to those on the “public option.”

Those opposed to the bill say the “American Rescue Plan” currently makes subsidies available to virtually all Nevadans who want health insurance. They say creating a new health insurance option at the state’s expense throws the baby out with the bath water.

“I think the governor could send a powerful message to Nevadans to ask people in a public forum, to see if there is a product you qualify for,” says Dr. Bret Frey, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians in Northern Nevada. “It helps stabilize the market. It pushes people towards wellness when they are suffering from chronic diseases which could be managed,” he says of the recent subsidies.

“What we are trying to do is help close the gaps in health care where we can provide affordable and accessible health care to Nevadans,” says Senator Cannizzaro.

Senator Cannizzaro was dismayed at the call for a study to see why Nevadans who qualify for Medicaid and or subsidies on the healthcare exchange don’t do so.

In legislative research under SCR 10, actuarial analysis showed no significant expansion in Nevadans covered by conceptual plan similar to what is proposed in SB 420. Such a concept the research showed would cover an additional 6,000 uninsured Nevadans.

Senator Cannizzaro told the committee the time to act is now.

Not contained on the bill: A fiscal note. There is no exact dollar amount as to how much the program will cost the state.

And there is no exact dollar amount as to just how much doctors and hospitals will be compensated. Under the bill, doctors and hospitals who take Medicaid patients, must also take those on the “public option” plan.

National health care expert Katie Keith testified on behalf of the bill this afternoon. Keith said Nevada ranked 48th in access to clinical care.

Many who testified in favor of Senate Bill 420 said it would put health insurance in reach of those Nevadans who cannot afford it-- making it possible to get the medical care they need.

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee took no action on Senate Bill 420 Tuesday May 4, 2021.

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