OPINION: Nevadans need the public option for health care. And a change to the status quo: The Nevada Independent

As a professional dedicated to providing quality health care to my patients, I have seen firsthand how Nevadans are struggling with the skyrocketing cost of care and insurmountable medical debt. The prospect of quality health insurance coverage that people can afford and depend on is critical to helping people. Despite efforts to derail it, relief is on the horizon as Nevada’s public option nears full implementation.

Let’s take a moment to recognize the truth: Nevada’s current health care system is not working for people. Despite being very profitable for hospitals and insurers, Nevada regularly posts some of the worst health care numbers in the country. Nevada ranks 45th among states in health care access and affordability, and last in prevention and treatment. Nevadans know this all too well, 66 percent of Nevada adults reported experiencing health care affordability burdens by 2022.

Nevadans are priced out of the health care they need, many of my uninsured patients do not have access to a health insurance option they can afford. This is precisely why the reliable and affordable coverage offered by the new public option is important.

We’ve seen how successful other states are with their public options. By implementing a public option for Nevada and giving Nevadans access to affordable insurance, we can help transform Nevada from a state with lagging health outcomes and sky-high prices to a leader in care health care where everyone, including many of my patients, can afford coverage.

Critics, including insurers and hospitals that benefit from sky-high profits, will try to claim that a Nevada public option will send our health care system into a death spiral. Others, including out-of-state special interest groups, are throwing their weight behind a meritless lawsuit that is heavy on rhetoric but without a basis in law or fact.

A recent article attempted to lay out the lawsuit’s constitutional complaints, but instead demonstrated a lack of understanding or indifference to the Nevada Constitution.

In that article, industry opponents have wrongly claimed that the public option violates Nevada’s requirement that the Legislature pass any tax-raising bill by a two-thirds vote. But the public option does not raise taxes. In fact, the new revenue generated by the public option comes in the form of federal dollars transferred to the state.

Under federal law, if a state health care program like the public option saves the federal government money, the federal government will share that money with Nevada. Nevadans will reap the benefits of hundreds of millions of dollars in investment in our health care infrastructure without having to pay a cent in new taxes.

Many critical state agencies, such as the Nevada State Police, Department of Education and Medicaid, accept federal funding. No one has ever seriously argued that accepting these funds requires a two-thirds vote of the Legislature because it is the federal government, not a taxpayer, that is transferring funds to the state. Following the industry’s logical arguments, the American Rescue Plan funds, the Violence Against Women Act funds, and Medicaid itself would be unconstitutional—an absurd reading of the Nevada Constitution, which is only posited as a last-ditch effort to defend the outrageous corporate profits of giant insurance companies.

The other legal claims of industry opponents are equally dubious. Ultimately, they intend to completely change the Legislature’s ability to perform its basic function of setting the state budget because they are outraged that ordinary Nevadans may have the opportunity to pay less for health care. The entire lawsuit is nothing more than an attempt to use our state court system to allow unchecked corporate greed at a time when Nevadans already pay some of the highest health care costs in the country.

This lawsuit should be seen for exactly what it is as a political attempt to maintain the status quo of increasing profits from large corporate hospitals and out-of-state insurance companies, and skyrocketing health care costs for everyday Nevadans.

Nevada’s public option isn’t just a political proposition; it is a moral imperative. We know that our states’ health outcomes lag behind our peers, and that affordability and cost are at the root of the problem. I see it every day in the struggles my patients go through to get the care they need. Implementing the public option for Nevadans is necessary to give them the reprieve they desperately need. While opponents committed to keeping hospital and insurer profits high will throw everything they can to stop a change in the broken status quo, Nevada’s leaders should focus on what matters most: people.

Dr. Harpreet Tsui, is an internist from Las Vegas and the leader of Nevada Health Care Protection Committee.

The Nevada Independent welcome informed and cogent rebuttals to opinion pieces like this one. Send them to [email protected].

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