As a Nevada business owner and leader who works to promote the growth and prosperity of small businesses every day, I am very focused on our state’s ability to overcome the vast economic challenges ahead of us.
Putting Nevada on the path to recovery after a painful year will require all of us to work together, and our business community understands the important role we must play to get our economy moving and put Nevadans back to work. As we move forward with a sense of hope for the future, it is essential that our state’s lawmakers work hand in hand with us to advance solutions that help spur economic growth and job creation. At the same time, our elected leaders must avoid policies that, even if well intended, could hurt our recovery.
This is why I’m increasingly concerned about the consideration of a new state government-controlled health insurance system in Nevada, also known as the “state government option.” Research by economists and other experts, as well as evidence from other states’ attempts to create similar systems, indicate that the state government option could increase costs and put both our economy and health care system at risk.
For example, politicians in Washington state recently created a state government option, promising it would reduce costs for consumers. Instead, the new system is resulting in higher premiums, costing as much as 29 percent more than traditional plans – the exact opposite of what its supporters promised.
The projected unaffordable costs for consumers and taxpayers under a new government-run health insurance system have prevented other states from enacting similar proposals. Is there any reason to believe Nevada would have better luck?
Especially at a time when so many are out of work and families are struggling to make ends meet, our elected officials should not take the chance of leaving hardworking Nevadans to foot the bill for the likely high premiums and potential cost overruns of a new state government health insurance system. This is a time to be lessening the burden on working people and job creators – not creating new costs that hold our economy back.
In addition to the danger of unaffordable new costs, creating a state government option backed by taxpayers could also drive private plans to exit the marketplace, limiting Nevadans’ access to affordable health coverage choices, even if they currently have a plan that they are satisfied with.
And because state government option systems are typically designed to pay hospitals and other health care providers at a lower rate than private plans, such a proposal could also have the unintended consequence of causing hospitals to limit the care they provide, or even to close. The evidence suggests this is a risk that would fall disproportionately on underserved communities.
Recent research evaluating a similar proposed state government option in Colorado, for instance, found that hospitals which disproportionately serve members of racial and ethnic minority communities would be at greater risk of closure. Putting access to health care and services at risk is totally unacceptable, especially for Nevadans who already face significant disparities in access to care and health outcomes, including the Hispanic and African American communities and residents of rural areas.
For our Hispanic community, of which I am proud to be a leader through my role as president of Nevada’s Latin Chamber of Commerce, the past year has been especially challenging. Latinos represent about 40 percent of COVID-19 cases in Nevada, despite comprising less than one-third of our state’s population, and the rate of hospitalizations for Latinos is consistently higher than among demographic groups. The disproportionately large role Latinos play in front-line industries means that the heightened potential for COVID exposure will continue, even as the vaccine rollout is underway.
Nevada will bounce back stronger than ever if we support the resilience of our diverse communities. Instead of burdening families with new costs and calling Nevadans’ access to quality health coverage and care into question by creating an untested new state government insurance system, our state’s lawmakers should work together with the private sector to grow our economy, help people get back to work, and strengthen our existing health care infrastructure so we can help more Nevadans, especially those at greater risk, get covered and get healthy.
Peter Guzman is the president of the Latin Chamber of Commerce.