With just two weeks left in the legislative session, health-care advocates are pressing for action on a bill to create a public option for health insurance.
Under Senate Bill 420, the state would fund and manage a health plan intended to compete with private insurance and drive down premiums and co-pays. So far it has received a hearing.
Beverly Schreiber, a volunteer with Battle Born Progress, who battles an autoimmune disease that requires an $8,000 treatment every six weeks, was among the many patients who testified.
“In order to afford that, I pay for a private insurance with premiums that continue to go up every year and out-of-pocket costs continue to go up every year,” Schreiber explained. “And it’s a lot of money that I don’t have for a treatment that really helps me stay healthy.”
The bill is opposed by a coalition of providers, hospitals and insurance companies called “Nevada’s Health Care Future,” which claimed government-run health care would be too expensive and could exacerbate the doctor shortage.
Federal statistics show 358,000 Nevadans lack health insurance, which is about 14% of the population under age 65.
Evan Louie, executive advisor to Kamu Ultra Karaoke, said his pregnant wife was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer 13 years ago. He supports a public option because bitter experience taught him how quickly a sudden health care crisis can wipe out a family’s well-being and finances.
“I mean, I had to give up my career,” Louie stated. “I lived in hospitals taking care of my late wife and newborn premature daughter. And we could barely keep up with paying COBRA premiums and health-care costs.”
The new public-option plan would not target people who get insurance through their job, but would seek to enroll those who currently buy individual plans and small businesses that want low-cost plans for their employees. This year, Washington became the first state in the nation to offer a public option.