Yesterday, the Clark County Commission met to decide on a number of critical issues, including health care in Nevada. Nevada’s largest municipal governmental body may soon go on record against any sort of Trumpcare bill that repeals major chunks of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare). Here’s how they got there.

The story behind UMC

University Medical Center (UMC) is Clark County’s publicly owned and operated hospital. Before the ACA became law, UMC was in critical condition. But since 2015, UMC has turned a profit.  At yesterday’s Clark County Commission meeting, UMC CEO Mason VanHouweling credited the ACA for their success. “We’ve had a positive outcome at UMC thanks to the Affordable Care Act.”
VanHouweling then described what would happen to the entire state, including UMC, if the ACA were to be repealed. “If the Better Care Reconciliation Act [Senate Trumpcare bill] had proceeded, about 56,000 more Nevadans would have been uninsured in 2018.” Officials from the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) then backed up UMC’s numbers during their presentation.

“Nevada has lowered its uninsured rate by 42%. […] That’s thanks to the ACA expansion of Medicaid.”
– Mason VanHouweling, UMC CEO

During public comment, several Nevadans reinforced the statistics presented earlier. One of them was Culinary Union Secretary-Treasurer Geoconda Arguello Kline, who used her time to explain what’s at stake for Nevada. Arguello Kline thanked Governor Brian Sandoval (R) and Clark County Commissioners for sounding the alarms on Trumpcare, then asked U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R) to keep his promise on health care. “We will hold Senator Heller to his word. […] Nevadans need health care.”

Photo by Andrew Davey

After the meeting, Arguello Kline spoke with us about why she and other Culinary members feel compelled to fight for their fellow Nevadans’ health care. Even though union members have health insurance, thousands more Nevada workers rely upon Medicaid for their health care needs.

“Nearly 300,000 Nevadans are covered by the Medicaid expansion. These people form the backbone of the State of Nevada.”
– Geoconda Arguello Kline, Culinary Union

Following public comment, County Commissioners (who also serve as UMC’s Board of Trustees) expressed outrage over the possibility of Nevadans losing health care access. Clark County Commission Chair Steve Sisolak (D) had particularly choice words about Congress’ debate over Trumpcare. “We need to, as a Commission, and as decent human beings, make sure health care is maintained. This isn’t dollars. This is lives.”

Photo by Andrew Davey

Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani (D) proposed not only a resolution to oppose any ACA repeal bill, but also a letter to Nevada’s Congressional delegation that details all that Nevada would lose under Trumpcare. “It’s not about the money. It’s about the quality of care in the long run.”
All other Commissioners present agreed. Commissioner Marilyn Kirkpatrick (D) added that she’d like the letter to address mental health care, which could particularly be decimated in Nevada if Trumpcare were to become law.

“We shouldn’t have to choose. We should provide enough [health care] to all who need it, so they can live a productive life.”
– Clark County Commissioner Marilyn Kirkpatrick

Though the Clark County Commission took no formal action, all the Commissioners present endorsed Giunchigliani’s plan to draft a formal resolution and a letter to Nevada’s Members of Congress opposing ACA repeal. (Commissioner Susan Brager [D] was absent.) As the Commission was meeting, Senate Republicans’ Trumpcare bill was falling apart. Donald Trump has threatened to “let Obamacare fail” rather than accept a bipartisan ACA fix. As of the time of publication, Senator Heller has yet to endorse a path forward on health care.