Health-care assistance office may close |

Health-care assistance office may close

Associated Press

Gov. Jim Gibbons’ plan to save about $1 million by closing the state Consumer Health Assistance Office faced more criticism Wednesday from lawmakers who said it has saved Nevadans million of dollars in health-care expenses.

The office helps people find low-cost health care and prescription drugs, assists those who lose their health insurance and can’t afford COBRA insurance, and helps others work through disputes with their insurers and Medicaid.

“I do think this office is crucial. I think that there’s a public out there that needs some help,” Senate Finance Chairwoman Bernice Mathews, D-Reno, said during a committee hearing on the Republican governor’s proposal.

“We need to have someone to answer the phone and give some answers to the person who has some concerns ” and based on your figures there’s quite a few out there who have some serious needs,” Mathews told Valerie Rosalin, who heads the office.

“There would be a lot of confusion and loss if we weren’t there,” Rosalin said.

Sen. Bob Coffin, D-Las Vegas, also backed the office, saying the plan to close it “is another one of those things that don’t make sense” given the services it provides. Since opening in 2000, the office has saved consumers about $30 million.

State Budget Director Andrew Clinger said the cut was one of many proposed by Gibbons in efforts to cope with a $2.4 billion revenue shortfall.

“There will be lost services and we recognize that,” Clinger said. “You don’t balance a $2.4 billion shortfall without having some impact on people. Our goal was to keep that impact to a minimum.”