Public option critical to legacy of ACA
People often ask me – what was my proudest achievement during my congressional service? The answer will always be working to get the Affordable Care Act into law.
The issue of health care is personal to me, as it is for Nevada families. As a boy in Searchlight, I witnessed many health crises that brought my family to its knees. I remember my brother not getting medical care for a broken leg. I can still see him lying on the bed, writhing in pain. Health care was simply unaffordable and inaccessible to my family, as it was to many families. This is just one of the many reasons the Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare, was crucial to me. So crucial, in fact, that I had my colleagues vote on Christmas Eve of 2009 — the first time the Senate had met on Christmas Eve since 1895. The passage of the Nevada Public Option by Gov. Steve Sisolak and the Nevada Legislature built upon the progress of ObamaCare and is a critical step to improving health care access and affordability for Nevadans.
After the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy, (D-Mass.) Republicans blocked his proposal for a public option. Instead of joining us on the right side of history, Republicans joined industry opponents to oppose the Affordable Care Act. Republicans’ actions were unacceptable and harmful to families in Nevada and around the country.
Thanks to the leadership of Gov. Sisolak, state Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro, and Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson, the public option is now part of health care in Nevada, increasing health care access and affordability in our state. The Nevada Public Option will allow small businesses to buy affordable health plans for their employees, which will reduce costs for small businesses by allowing them to compete against large corporations. The law will assure each Nevada community has at least one public option available.
We have seen bipartisan leadership in helping Nevadans with their health care: first, Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval; and now, Democrat Gov. Sisolak. Gov. Sandoval bucked national Republicans when he made Nevadans’ access to health care a priority. He worked to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, which saved lives and saved the state of Nevada money. Now, Gov. Sisolak continues to put Nevadans first by signing Nevada’s Public Option. We have learned one lesson, however, from our fight for the Affordable Care Act — the fight doesn’t stop because a bill has become law. The fight must continue.
Just as with the Affordable Care Act, powerful forces intent on increasing their profit margins over patient coverage are still at work to weaken the public option. Last month, the Supreme Court of the United States, for the third time, upheld the Affordable Care Act in its entirety. Republicans and their industry allies are still trying to dismantle and repeal this law. Republicans are still fighting to damage Medicare and Medicaid, which passed in 1965, as they continue to try to weaken the Affordable Care Act, which passed in 2010. Access to health care, at its core, is about delivering a better quality of life for all Americans. Health care is a right and should not be hindered by cost.
Thanks to Gov. Sisolak and the Nevada Legislature, the Nevada Public Option builds on the progress gained during the Obama administration and the Affordable Care Act. Gov. Sisolak has been a strong advocate for Nevada during one of the most difficult health crises faced by our nation. He has exhibited great leadership and resolve for the people of Nevada. The Nevada Public Option will be part of Gov. Sisolak’s legacy.
Harry Reid served in the U.S. Senate from 1987-2017. He was Senate majority leader from 2007-2015.
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