Like public education and other vital services, Nevada ranks near the bottom of states in investment in healthcare. In addition to underinvestment, health disparities continue to run deep in our healthcare system. Nevada’s low-income communities face fewer options and higher prices, and there is a significant health disparity in Nevada’s communities of color.
In Nevada’s rural communities, there are even fewer health insurance options and higher prices. Outside of Clark and Washoe there is typically just one plan on the health exchange, or none at all. This has left rural Nevadans not only with less choice, but they are also paying significantly more. In order to access basic healthcare in rural areas, many Nevadans have to travel hours. In some emergency situations, air transportation is required at a very high cost.
Due to WEP/GPO, many retired Nevada teachers may not qualify for Medicare and rely on private insurance plans. Many insurance carriers have been known to push older people into sub-standard insurance programs, with a high deductible and high co-pay programs.
This new healthcare option will ensure that Nevadans always have equal access to affordable, quality coverage -- especially if they lose their job and insurance or do not have Medicare eligibility. Moreover, it will cut health care costs for everyone in the state by driving competition into the market and forcing insurance companies to compete with the new option for Nevadans’ business.
Member Testimony: Tom Wellman, NSEA-Retired President
Good afternoon, Chairman Ratti and members of the committee, for the record my name is Tom Wellman and I am a resident of Assembly/Senate District 1.
I have successfully retired from the Clark County School District and am currently serving as President of the NSEA-Retired program. I am submitting these remarks in support of SB420. One of the major expenses that all senior citizens and our members face is retirement is the continuing and escalating cost of health care. Retirees that live in rural Nevada also face the additional burden of accessibility to quality affordable health care that does not require them to drive over two hours or more to see a doctor or go to a hospital. Any measure that can be put in place to help curb this runaway train is greatly appreciated, SB420 is that measure. NSEA-R is asking that along with everything else that you are faced with, you make access to retiree health care a priority and also address the escalating cost of prescription medication. However, please keep in mind that Nevada is a WEP/GPO state and many of our retired members this assistance may not qualify for access to either social security or Medicare.
Please consider as you move forward that active educators will also need to have access to quality affordable health care when they retire. Working together we can help to solve this problem for the employees that continue to handle these life changing assignments on a daily basis. We support SB 420.
Member Testimony in Support: Susan Kaiser, WREA President
My name is Susan Kaiser and I am writing to ask your support for SB420 to provide a Nevada Public Option for healthcare.
During my tenure as a classroom teacher, I have seen first-hand how the absence of health care options has severely impacted student’s ability to learn. In one instance an 8th grader was suffering with pain because he had a tooth ache and was waiting to see a dentist at a local clinic. It was heart-wrenching to watch him struggle through his discomfort just to attend to the lesson. Finally, after a week he was able to get into the clinic and receive treatment for an abscess but at great cost to his learning and more importantly enduring this physical pain.
This issue also hits close to home for educators. It may come as a surprise, but an educator may begin their profession as a college graduate at 25 years of age and may retire after 30 years as is required to avoid retirement benefit penalties. This means they retire at age 55 but remain ten years away from qualifying for Medicare. In Washoe County an employee may continue with the district’s health insurance if they pay the entire monthly premium of $800. Currently, that is the equivalent of 22% of their monthly pension payment. With other living expenses and the rising cost of healthcare with increasing age, educators are stuck taking a gamble their health needs will not outpace reaching age 65.
Now more than ever, in the waning shadow of the coronavirus pandemic every Nevadan needs an affordable health care option. I urge you to support SB420.
Member Testimony: Steve Horner, Incoming NSEA-Retired President.
Good Afternoon Madam Chair and members of the committee, for the record my name is Steven Horner, I live in AD35 and SD 9. I am currently the Vice president of Nevada State Education Association-Retired and Clark Retired Education Association, a proud retired teacher and Army veteran. I am in support of SB420.
Prior to the Pandemic shutdown I was part of group of retired educators traveling the school districts throughout our wonderful state. We heard many stories of people that have spent many years teaching, driving bus, being a school administrative assistant, or one of the many jobs people do for public education, however one recurring need we heard was the need for affordable post-employment healthcare. Many of you have already heard my story of breaking my oxygen concentrator while visiting White Pine County making it necessary for someone to drive from Las Vegas to Ely so I could have oxygen because I was not insured in Nevada, just Clark County and did not yet qualify for Medicare. Because we are a WEP/GPO state we have many public employees that will never qualify for Medicare. SB420 can address the needs of these people. So many people have worked their careers in public service and should be able have affordable healthcare. A strong public option gives them that opportunity.
Thank you for your attention to this extremely important issue and please support SB420.
Member Testimony: Sherry Grund
Senate Health and Human Services,
My name is Sherry Grund. I am a retired Nevada teacher with 29 years of teaching in Washoe, Lyon, and Churchill counties I am a member of the rural branch of the Nevada State Education Association, Retired. I am speaking in favor of SB 420.
I live in Fernley. Because of Social Security regulations (Government Pension Offset and the Windfall Elimination Provision) I did not qualify for Social Security. I was lucky enough to qualify for Portion A of Medicare though. The problem lies in the years between my retirement and reaching Medicare age. It was 13 years. I retired in time to qualify for PEBP, making my life affordable.
Retired educators in rural counties of Nevada have fewer health care options than many other Nevadans. Typically, educators have the choice of staying with the plan of the district they retired from or trying to find an affordable plan on their own. Both options are extremely expensive. So much so, that I have two friends that have gone without any health insurance because they could not afford the premiums and pay their bills. If they choose to go to the health exchange, there is usually only one option available. Other difficulties that our rural retirees have are having to travel long distance to find providers. As well as having to find providers that are on whatever plan they end up with.
I believe that if there was an affordable public option for people it would allow our educators to have options that make sense and are economically viable for many more people. One serious illness or horrendous accident can bankrupt a family. Please provide that option for our rural educators.
Thank you for your time and consideration.