Tag Archives: rural Nevada health

The Moderate Heller Myth: Health Insurance Edition

Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) has cultivated his “moderate” image to the point that this adjective is attached to him with remarkable consistency — when if a person does even a perfunctory piece of research on his actual voting record what emerges is the model of a hard line conservative.  There is a pattern.  The Senator expresses “concerns” with a bill; then announces with ranging degrees of fanfare his opposition to a bill “in its current form,” then when the rubber grinds on the road surface the Senator votes along with the Republican leadership.

Why would anyone seriously believe he would support fixing the Affordable Care Act’s problems and not ultimately support what is now being called the “skinny repeal” version in the Senate based on the following voting record:

In 2007 then Representative Heller voted against the Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act (HR 4).  Then on August 1, 2007 he voted against HR 3162, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program reauthorization.  The next day he voted against HR 734, the Prescription Drug Imports bill.  On March 5, 2008 he voted against HR 1424, the Mental Health Coverage bill.  Further into 2008 he voted “no” on HR 5501, the bill to fund programs fighting AIDS, Malaria, and Tuberculosis, and “no” again on the concurrence version of the bill in July.   If he had a ‘flash’ of moderation during this period it happened in the summer of 2008 when he voted in favor of HR 5613 (Medicaid extensions and changes), HR 6631 (Medicare), the latter including a vote to override the President’s veto.  By November 2009 he was back in full Conservative mode.

He voted against HR 3962 (Health Care and Insurance Law amendments) on November 8, 2009, and HR 3961 (Revising Medicare Physician Fee Schedules and re-establishing PAYGO) on November 19, 2009.

In March 2010 Heller voted against HR 4872 (Health Care Reconciliation Act), and HR 3590 (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act).  He also voted against the concurrence bills.

January 19, 2011 he voted in favor of the Repealing the Health Care bill (HR 2).  He also signaled his stance on Planned Parenthood when he voted in favor of H.Amdt. 95 (Prohibiting the use of Federal funds for Planned Parenthood) on February 18, 2011.    He was in favor of repealing the individual mandate (HR 4), of repealing the Prevention and Public Health Fund (HR 1217).  May 4, 2011 he voted to repeal funding of the construction of school based health centers (HR 1214).

There was another “soft” period in some of his initial Senate votes in 2011, especially concerning the importation of medication from Canada (interesting since many prescription drugs are manufactured in other overseas sites).  See S. Amdt 769, S. Amdt 2111, and S. Amdt 2107 in May 2012.  On March 31, 2014 he voted in favor of HR 4302 (Protecting Access to Medicare).

He was back riding the Republican rails in September 2015, supporting an amendment to defund Planned Parenthood, (S. Amdt 2669) which failed a cloture vote.   Then on December 3, 2015 he voted in favor of another ACA repeal bill (HR 3762).    If we’re looking for patterns in this record they aren’t too difficult to discern. (1) Senator Heller can be relied upon to vote in favor of any legislation which deprives Planned Parenthood of funding for health care services, (2) Senator Heller can be relied upon to vote in favor of repealing the Affordable Care Act, and (3) Senator Heller’s voting record, if it illustrates any ‘moderation’ at all, comes in the form of dealing with prescription drug prices, but even that is a mixed bag of votes.

Thus, when he makes comments like the following:

“Obamacare isn’t the answer, but doing nothing to try to solve the problems it has created isn’t the answer either,” the statement read. “That is why I will vote to move forward and give us a chance to address the unworkable aspects of the law that have left many Nevadans — particularly those living in rural areas — with dwindling or no choices.

“Whether it’s my ideas to protect Nevadans who depend on Medicaid or the Graham-Cassidy proposal that empowers states and repeals the individual and employer mandates, there are commonsense solutions that could improve our health care system and today’s vote gives us the opportunity to fight for them. If the final product isn’t improved for the state of Nevada, then I will not vote for it; if it is improved, I will support it.”

We should examine them with some caution.   If he is referring to rural Nevada voters as ‘victims’ of the Affordable Care Act he might want to note that before the ACA there was one insurer in the northern Nevada rural market and if there is only one now that’s really not much of a change, much less a “nightmare.”  Nor is he mentioning that the proposed cuts to Medicaid will have a profoundly negative effect on rural Nevada hospitals. [DB previous]

That Graham-Cassidy proposal isn’t exactly a winner either:

“The new plan released Thursday morning and written by Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (La.) would block grant about $500 billion of federal spending to the states over 10 years to either repeal, repair or keep their ObamaCare programs.”

We have no idea if the number is an accurate estimate of what would keep the health care systems of all 50 states afloat — no one seems to want to ‘score’ anything these days.  Additionally, Americans should be aware by now that when Republicans chant “Block Grant” they mean “dump it on the states, wash our hands, and walk away” while the states struggle to keep up with demands to meet needs and provide services, operating on budgets which cannot function on deficits.

Then, there’s that perfectly typical Hellerian comment: “If it is improved, I will support it,” leaving the issue entirely up to Senator Heller’s subjective assessment if “it” has improved his re-election chances enough to go along with it while not upsetting his very conservative base.  Meanwhile, the media persists in repeating the “Moderate Heller” mythology, and we haven’t even begun to speak of his actions to thwart and later repeal any common sense regulations on the financial sector.

 

Comments Off on The Moderate Heller Myth: Health Insurance Edition

Filed under conservatism, Health Care, health insurance, Heller, Medicaid, Medicare, Nevada Test Site, Politics, public health, Republicans, Rural Nevada, SCHIP

Caring for Grandma on the I-80 Corridor

Republican “reforms” of Medicaid, which seem to be composed of stalling funding until the program can be gutted in 2025, could easily have a negative impact on those families trying to find skilled nursing care for elderly relatives along the I-80 corridor in northern Nevada.  As noted in the previous post, health care facilities in northern Nevada have service areas of miles and miles of miles and miles.  The euphemistic term “remote rural” is especially pertinent in this instance.  These may be the “cow counties” but they do include a significant number of individuals over the age of 65.

By The Numbers 

Pershing County (Lovelock) has a total population of 6,560 of which 14.8% are over 65, and 11.1% of those are disabled individuals under the age of 65.  Humboldt County (Winnemucca) population of 16,842 includes 11.9% over 65 and 8.3% under 65 disabled. Lander County (Battle Mountain) has 5,702 people, of whom 13% are over 65 and 6.5% are disabled.  Eureka County (Eureka) is a small entity with 1,917 people of whom 12.9% are over 65, and 6.6% are disabled.  More populous Elko County (Elko) with 52,168 people has an over 65 population of 10.0% and 8.4% disabled individuals.  Churchill County (Fallon) has a population of 24,198 of whom 18.7% are over 65 and 6.5% are disabled.

For the sake of this analysis, let’s assume that the families would like to find skilled nursing facilities for their elderly relatives closer to home than securing similar residences in the Reno/Sparks/Carson City area.  That means finding skilled nursing facilities in the towns listed above.  Elko County has such a unit with room for 110 residents, Fallon has a facility with a capacity for 74 residents.  Lander and Eureka counties are served by a facility in Battle Mountain with a capacity of 18.  Pershing county has one facility with a capacity of 25 residents, and Winnemucca has a skilled nursing facility for up to 26 residents. [Links]  We’re speaking in numbers at present, but it’s important to remember that those numbers are specifically associated with real people, and very real families who are seeking affordable quality care for those individuals.

The cost of skilled nursing care will vary with the level and type of medical or rehabilitative services required, however we can generally assume that the monthly price tag for SNF care in Nevada is about $8,213.  Drilling down a bit deeper, the reported minimum cost per month for Skilled Nursing Care in a semi-private room is about $3,346; the median is $7,128; the maximum is $8,425.  Private rooms come at a minimum of $4,106, a median cost of $8,213, and a maximum cost of $15,452.  [SNF]  At this point another reminder is appropriate — these aren’t price tags, the numbers represent what a family might have to pay for care specific to the needs of their elderly relatives.

And now we return to the numbers.  In the State of Nevada 1 out of every 7 persons over the age of 65 is covered by Medicaid. Medicaid covers 3 out of every 5 nursing home residents. [KFF]  Consider for just a moment what would happen to the fiscal solvency of the residential facilities listed above in the rural counties if Medicaid is cut, then “reformed” into block grants (which can be further cut by Congressional action) and finally all but reformed out of existence by Republican representatives.

Mythology

Let’s work on some of the elements of Republican mythology commonly associated with their efforts to slash the Medicaid program.

(1) It was only originally intended to cover the “really poor.” Republicans have an interesting way of defining “poverty.”  Several reports of recent memory decry the fact that people on various welfare programs have CARS (to get to work) and REFRIGERATORS (which come with most furnished apartments.)  Left to their own devices it’s easy to imagine that unless a person is naked, living rough in the bush, and starved into semi-consciousness the individual wouldn’t qualify as “poor” by some Republican standards.  That said, Medicaid isn’t really a welfare program — it’s essentially a health insurance program.  One way to extend this health insurance coverage was to apply income eligibility standards for publicly subsidized health insurance — for the low income families, for the aged and for the disabled.

(2) The states can do better because they are closer to the problems.   There’s a reason we have a federal system — there are some tasks which the states are not capable of adequately addressing.  Providing health insurance coverage for millions of Americans working at low wage jobs, who have disabled family members, who have aging family members, and have children in need of health care services is one of those objectives best addressed by federal resources.  Imagine if someone said the states can best determine what security is best for them?  Should we block grant the Defense Department budget, send it to the states and let them decide how to fund the elements of their National Guard?  This sounds ridiculous, and doesn’t the Constitution require government prioritization of our mutual defense? Yes, and it also provides that our government provide for our “general welfare.”

(3) We’re really not cutting anything.  No? When the inflation rate for the medical sector exceeds that of the other sectors of the economy, and budgeting or funding proposals don’t meet or exceed that inflation rate the end result is a cut.  It’s not mathematics, it’s just old fashioned arithmetic.  There’s also something disingenuous about continually clamoring for tax cuts (especially at the state level) and then offering that the states should pick up more of “their share” of program expenses.  Finally, it’s always easier to cut funds from “block grants” than it is from specific program budgets.  Yes, the Republicans intend to cut Medicaid; if it’s done slowly or quickly is beside the point — at some date the result will be the same.   Program cuts will affect those real people in those real skilled nursing facilities, both the staff providing the services and the residents who depend on them.

Senator Dean Heller should be aware of these issues, and if he isn’t perhaps he should receive some phone calls this week.  702-388-6605;  775-686-5770; 202-224-6244.

*And we still haven’t discussed the benefits of Medicaid supported home health care programs!

Comments Off on Caring for Grandma on the I-80 Corridor

Filed under Health Care, health insurance, Heller, Medicaid, nevada health, Nevada politics, Politics

What Would The Romney-Ryan Medicare Plan Mean For Nevada’s 2nd Congressional District?

This analysis shows the immediate and long-term impacts of these changes in the 2nd Congressional District in Nevada.

The Republican proposal would have adverse impacts on seniors and disabled individuals in the district who are currently enrolled in Medicare. It would:

• Increase prescription drug costs for 8,600 Medicare beneficiaries in the district who enter the Part D donut hole, forcing them to pay an extra $85 million for drugs over the next decade.

• Eliminate new preventive care benefits for 123,000 Medicare beneficiaries in the district.

The Republican proposal would have even greater impacts on individuals in the district age 54 and younger who are not currently enrolled in Medicare. It would:

• Deny 610,000 individuals age 54 and younger in the district access to Medicare’s guaranteed benefits.

• Increase the out-of-pocket costs of health coverage by over $6,000 per year in 2022 and by almost $12,000 per year in 2032 for the 130,000 individuals in the district who are between the ages of 44 and 54.

• Require the 130,000 individuals in the district between the ages of 44 and 54 to save an additional $30.4 billion for their retirement – an average of $182,000 to $287,000 per individual – to pay for the increased cost of health coverage over their lifetimes. Younger residents of the district will have to save even higher amounts to cover their additional medical costs.

• Raise the Medicare eligibility age by at least one year to age 66 or more for 69,000 individuals in the district who are age 44 to 49 and by two years to age 67 for 480,000 individuals in the district who are age 43 or younger.

[Energy/Commerce House]

Perhaps Congressman Amodei would like to address these figures at some point before the election in November?

Comments Off on What Would The Romney-Ryan Medicare Plan Mean For Nevada’s 2nd Congressional District?

Filed under 2012 election, Amodei, Medicare, nevada health, Nevada politics, Republicans, Rural Nevada