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Reid Crucial Gatekeeper In Public Option Debate

October 1, 2009

LAS VEGAS - It has been a big week for opponents of government insurance plans. Earlier this week, the Senate Finance Committee rejected two government insurance plans. But supporters of the public option say negotiations continue over health care reform, and they expect Nevada Sen. Harry Reid to play a crucial role.

Theresa Navarro, state director of Health Care for America Now, is not throwing in the towel. The public option still is included in bills before other committees in both the House and Senate, and she says Reid is pivotal in negotiations between members of both parities.

"He's got to work with both--he's got to work with both the Democrats and the Republicans. He's the gatekeeper, he needs to keep the public option going--and he is keeping it going. He's doing everything he can, but it is also up to us."

President Obama has said the nation needs the public option as a way of keeping insurance companies honest. Opponents claim the option could lead to government control of the entire health care system.

As the debate heats up in Congress, a new report from Families USA, "Health Coverage in Nevada," finds that fewer than half of small companies in Nevada were able to provide insurance to their workers in 2008. Only 44 percent of companies with fewer than 10 employees provided coverage.

Provisions in the House health care bill would help Nevada business owners, Navarro contends.

"The bill will allow them to have an Insurance Exchange where they will have options to get insurance that is affordable. Small businesses will receive tax credits to help with the cost of providing coverage for their workers."

Nevada's Senate delegation is split on the issue, with Sen. Ensign opposed to the public option and Reid supporting it. Navarro says a major focus now is Democrats who voted against the measure, to see what could be changed in the bill to win their support. The House is expected to vote soon on its version of the plan, HR 3200.

"Health Coverage in Nevada" is available online at www.familiesusa.org.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NV