As the Senate prepares to pass the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Nevada and the nation are closer to historic health insurance reform than ever before. This bill will save lives, save money and save Medicare.
Right now our state has the second highest rate of uninsured in the country, according to the Associated Press. Not only is this morally wrong, but it drives up the cost of premiums for those of us who do have insurance.
Under the Senate bill, 518,000 uninsured Nevadans would get access to affordable coverage; 328,000 seniors would receive free preventive services; and 24,000 small businesses would be helped by a small business tax credit to make premiums more affordable. In fact, 93 percent of people will see lower premiums under this bill. In Nevada, people who already have insurance could save as much as $1,600 a year on their premiums.
This reform bill also ends the unfair practices that insurance companies have used to make money on the backs of hard-working Nevadans. Gone will be the days when an insurance company can discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions, and they will no longer be able to drop people who get sick when they need coverage the most. The bill provides protection from unfair out-of-pocket costs, and restricts arbitrary limits on the amount of coverage you can receive.
We end discrimination based on gender and limit insurers' ability to charge more based on age. We also will allow young adults to stay on their parents' insurance. The bill also eliminates co-pays and deductibles for preventive services, putting an emphasis on wellness and prevention.
It also strengthens Medicare, just as Democrats have been fighting to do since the program was created. Seniors can rest assured that they will not see any kind of reduction in the services they have come to rely on.
Throughout this debate, we have kept our promise to make this process as transparent as possible. Just as the committee hearings were open to the public and televised, so has the debate been on the final bill. Debate on the Senate floor has been televised on C-SPAN and also streamed on the Internet. The bill also has been posted on Web sites for all to read, including my own: http://reid.senate.gov.
Years of inaction and of bowing to the demands of big insurance companies led to our broken system. Doing nothing is no longer an option. When a cancer patient is denied care because they can't afford their care, it's time to reform the system. When a child born with a heart defect can't find insurance because of a pre-existing condition, it's time to reform the system. And when a family has to choose between health care and sending their kids to college, it's time to reform the system.
Let there be no doubt that Nevada needs this bill more than most states. The benefits I discussed are just a few of the many ways that Nevada's health insurance system will improve tremendously, and over the past few days we have seen organizations such as The American Heart Association, The American Diabetes Association, The American Hospital Association, the Federation of American Hospitals, the American Medical Association, the AARP, and the American Cancer Society all announce their support of this reform bill. They know how much of a difference health insurance reform will make in this country, and I know how much this bill is going to improve health care in our state.
Nevada demands and deserves affordable, quality health insurance, and when we pass this bill, I'm confident that our state is going to be far better off than before.
• Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., can be reached through his Web site at reid.senate.gov.