Heller Undecided On Health Care Bill - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

Heller Undecided On Health Care Bill

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Senator Dean Heller says he opposes the American Health Care Act, as written and passed in the House of Representatives.  The Senate is writing its own draft of the bill, and Heller says his vote depends on what the changes are.

"I'm trying to take a look at what the Senate side is going to do and try to make it more palatable for the state of Nevada," Heller, R-Nevada said.

Nevada is a Medicaid Expansion state, which provides health coverage to about 200,000 residents of the Silver State.  He has worked with Governor Brian Sandoval's office to find out which plan works best for Nevada, and says his biggest concerns are possible changes to Medicaid, and whether providers will continue to accept it.

"I want to be very careful," Heller said. "We have a couple hundred thousand Nevadans who now have insurance that otherwise would not have had insurance, and it's important to me to make sure that those who have it, keep it."

A group of about 40 protestors gathered outside of Heller's Reno office, asking Congress not to pass the AHCA.  Some want lawmakers to fix the problems with the Affordable Care Act, while others would like to see a single-payer system or Medicare for all.

"A lot of people here believe that health care is a human right," Gale Audia, Director of the Reno Chapter of Progressive Democrats of America said. "We feel that everybody should be able to be covered and not just access, be able to afford the health care."

Most of the protestors say their biggest concern with the Republican plan is that Nevadans and Americans will lose coverage.

"We do not want to throw people off of medicaid," Sarah Mahler, Chair of the Washoe County Democratic Party said. "We do not want to give a tax break to millionaires, to endanger people's lives and cause suffering."

Audia thinks the only way everyone can afford health care is through a single-payer system, which would require a funding mechanism.

"People would pay higher taxes but what we have to understand is that right now, people are paying outrageous fees on their deductibles and on their insurance premiums," Audia said. "I hope he (Heller) votes against it and I would encourage him to vote for either Medicare for all or a single-payer."

Heller opposes a single-payer method, saying states should decide their own health care needs.  He says since nearly 60 percent of Nevadans already have health insurance through their employers, it could strip them of their policies.

"Most of them are satisfied with the health care that they have," Heller said. "We just need to make sure that there's coverage for everybody else."

Heller says he does not know what changes will be in the new draft, but expects to see it within a few days. Senate democrats have accused republicans of drafting the bill behind closed doors, but Heller says he has attended dozens of meetings about what should go into the bill, and that bipartisanship is welcome.

"It's hard to do something in secret when the other side says they don't want to work with you," Heller said. "Democrats are more than welcome to attend this, but they have been given marching orders that they're not allowed to negotiate with republicans in order to find a health care fix."

Heller says he could decide which way he will vote, sometime next week.  He says he takes a couple thousand phone calls, each week, and that about half are opposed to replacing Obamacare, while half are for it.  Nevada's senior senator is up for re-election in 2018, and some wonder how his vote on the AHCA could affect his campaign.

"If it's good legislation, I'll vote for it," Heller said. "Good legislation make for good politics. So, it's my opinion that I keep my head down and work hard, do what's best for the state of Nevada, and at the end of the day, voters will reward you for doing so."

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