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Nevada Center Stage in Nation’s Healthcare Debate

June 29, 2009

LAS VEGAS – Congress has been focused on cost as the debate continues over creating a national health care plan. Hundreds of advocates from around the nation who favor a public health option converged on Nevada over the weekend. They assembled in Las Vegas to send a message both to insurance companies and Congress. Their message comes down to one basic point, says Michael Ginsburg with the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada: No matter which bill Congress approves, it must include a public health option.

"Anything short of that would not be true reform. It would just be putting another Band-Aid on an already desperate situation. Premiums would double, just like they did over the last several years."

Ginsburg says some Nevadans insured by WellPoint, the nation's largest insurer, saw their rates spike by more than 30 percent in the last year. WellPoint has said it wants to see changes too, but prefers an approach that gives tax breaks for consumers who purchase private insurance. The Senate Finance Committee has been working to get the price tag for the bill down to $1 trillion over 10 years.

Protesters picketed outside of WellPoint's Las Vegas offices on Saturday. Ginsburg says the insurance giant's position on health care may work for Nevadans who are well off and need a tax break, but it fails many others.

"The problem is the average plan costs $12,000 - it doesn't address the poor, it doesn't address people that are unemployed, it doesn't address any of these factors."

Nevada was the right place for advocates to be sending a message, Ginsburg says, because the state has one of the worst rates in the nation of health coverage for young people, children and working families.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NV