By Senator Catherine Cortez Masto
Every Nevadan deserves access to quality, affordable health care, no matter if they live in Washoe, Humboldt, Lincoln, or Elko Counties. For many Nevadans living in rural counties, that care comes from a community health center or a Critical Access Hospital. These vital health care providers serve seniors and hardworking families that can’t drive to Reno or Las Vegas to seek out care from a medical center. For underserved rural areas that are facing a shortage in both health insurance providers, as well as in trained medical professionals, these health centers are lifelines that must be protected. Yet, this past year, community health centers around the country spent months waiting in limbo for funding.
Community Health Centers should be a bipartisan priority. In September of last year, I joined a group of Republicans and Democrats to fight for funding and support. While I was pleased that the bipartisan spending deal passed in February ensured community health centers and hospitals in rural areas receive short-term funding, I will continue to fight for long-term funding that will give them the certainty necessary to serve more rural communities.
In the last year and a half, I have visited many community health centers throughout Nevada. I’ve seen firsthand the outstanding work they are doing. They are making a difference in people’s lives. I have talked to the health care administrators and providers, and one thing I consistently hear is how critical federal funding and the Affordable Care Act are to keeping their doors open.
While imperfect, the ACA greatly increased access to health care for low-income seniors and families in rural Nevada. However, the recent effort by some of my Republican colleagues to roll back the ACA’s advances has stymied any effort to fix the law, stabilize out-of-pocket premiums and reform the Affordable Care Act in how it supports rural health care.
I have seen firsthand the support that the ACA has provided for rural hospitals right here in Nevada. Under Medicaid expansion, rural hospitals have received millions of dollars for providing health care to patients that would previously have only obtained care through emergency rooms visits. This funding has allowed rural hospitals and community health centers to bolster programs to treat opioid and substance abuse addiction, better treat our veterans, and provide longer-term care for seniors and people with disabilities. Repealing the Affordable Care Act or rolling back its expansion of Medicaid would steal precious resources from critical health providers, force health centers to close their doors or cut back their services, and deny residents in rural areas access to health coverage.
I’m fighting in the United States Senate for better access to health care for every child, senior, and hardworking Nevada family. I fought to reauthorize the National Health Service Corps, which brings medical, dental, and behavioral health professionals to underserved areas. And, I am still fighting to protect and stabilize the Affordable Care Act. We’ve seen the results in Nevada: the ACA cut the rate of uninsured Nevadans in half – from 20 percent to nine percent. The uninsured rate for children in small town and rural Nevada saw the biggest decrease in the country. Community Health Centers, now fully funded for two years, are pursuing innovative partnerships to improve the number of doctors serving rural areas and working with hospitals like Renown Medical Center in Reno to provide cutting-edge telemedicine and care for residents who can’t drive hundreds of miles for every check-up.
I am committed to using my voice in Washington to find bipartisan solutions that lower premiums, hold drug manufacturers accountable for hiking up the cost of prescription drug prices, fix problems with rural health care coverage and delivery in the Affordable Care Act, and protect Medicare and Medicaid to keep all Nevadans – seniors, kids, and hardworking rural families – healthy.