Confronting the Health Care Challenges of COVID-19 in Nevada

September 10, 2020

In Nevada, two leading lawmakers – Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV) and Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV) – each took time recently to sit down for virtual conversations moderated by AHIP with representatives of Hometown Health, Renown Health, and the Las Vegas Latin Chamber of Commerce to assess the progress that has been made in addressing the COVID-19 crisis and discuss the work that still needs to be done.

Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV) and Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV)

Both lawmakers shared their top priority amid the crisis is maintaining access to services and care. Rep. Horsford viewed the resulting economic hardship as evidence that there needs to be changes in federal policy to make sure people are covered in tough times. Rep. Lee stressed the importance of people having access to COVID-19 testing and pointed out that a bright spot in ensuring patients can receive the care they need is the new prevalence of telehealth services that allow people to talk to doctors virtually from the comfort and safety of their homes.

Rep. Horsford explained, “I’m sponsoring the Worker Health Coverage Protection Act, which would guarantee benefits for anyone who has lost their health care [coverage] as a result of COVID-19 and to make sure that 100% of that COBRA payment of the employee and the employer match are paid.” Rep. Horsford went on to say, “This is especially important in Nevada because of the high rate of unemployment. The last thing we need is for people to lose their employer-sponsored health insurance… I am hopeful that this will be included in some kind of package going forward.”

Said Rep. Lee: “This is a situation where a crisis necessitates a response… I believe [telehealth] is the silver lining when used appropriately to allow access to individuals who didn’t have access before, especially so many people in our country who are at risk, seniors who are shut in, veterans, rural populations, etc.” While an important tool in maintaining care through the COVID-19 crisis, going forward telehealth can also present a viable solution for people who have had trouble accessing care in the past.

Peter Guzman, President & CEO of the Las Vegas Latin Chamber of Commerce, enthusiastically endorsed Rep. Lee’s support for telehealth. He noted the devasting public health and economic impacts COVID-19 has brought to the Latino community in Nevada and praised the expansion of telehealth and the opportunity it brings to underserved and marginalized communities. He said, “Telemedicine has become very big for the Latino community. Telemedicine is something I want to start pushing to save our Hispanic elders. Getting into these homes can make a real difference.”

David Hansen, Hometown Health’s CEO, laid out his company’s commitment to protecting the health of Nevadans. Through eliminating telehealth co-pays, expanding telehealth access for mental health services and extending access to COBRA, Hometown Health is working to keep their members covered.

Ty Windfeldt, Renown Health’s Chief Operating Officer, detailed the decisive actions undertaken by the health insurance provider. Renown created a response center to help Nevadans locate testing sites and provide necessary resources for those concerned about COVID-19, and even opened the first drive-through testing site in the state of Nevada.

Looking forward, Rep. Horsford highlighted the need for equitable access to any vaccine that might be approved. “The insurers have a very important role to play in helping our economy right now and to provide beneficiaries with access to free diagnostic testing. Hopefully one day soon, they’ll also have access to coverage for a vaccine,” he said.

Overall, both Rep. Lee and Rep. Horsford were grateful for the work by health care stakeholders and community leaders during the COVID-19 crisis and remain focused on what needs to be done at the federal level to address the challenges that remain for Nevadans and Americans in general.

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