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Clinging to the ledge and paying for our sins
by Andrew Barbano
Jan 23, 2013 | 1861 views | 0 0 comments | 1 1 recommendations | email to a friend | print
It’s time to pay for our sins in that biennial confessional called the Nevada Legislature.

First up to do penance, our fearless leader hisself.

GOV. SUNNY’S DARK SIDE. Liberals have made much of Gov. Brian Sandoval’s seemingly un-Republican decisions to cooperate with President Obama. Treading where other Republicans have feared to schlepp, the guv signed a 2011 bill to establish a health insurance exchange website where consumers can shop prices and packages.

At least it will create some Nevada jobs. Last Tuesday, Sandoval, Attorney General Catherine Cortez-Masto and Secretary of State Ross Miller (both Democrats), signed off on a $6 million contract with Reno-based KPS 3 Inc. to “brand” (ouch!) and market the exchange. Another $72 million in federal money will pay for setting up the web site which will charge fees to purchasers.

“Sandoval opposed (Obamacare), arguing that the mandate was unconstitutional. But he signed legislation in 2011 creating Nevada’s insurance exchange. He said the state should have control over the program instead of ceding that power to the federal government,” the Las Vegas Sun reported.

That ain’t the whole story. Insiders have told the Barbwire that Sandoval was ordered to do so by a major campaign contributor, United Healthcare, the predators who enjoy monopolistic control over the Nevada health insurance business.

Consumer advocates howled when United was able to take over Sierra Health in 2008 and thus acquire monopolistic control.

Isn’t that supposed to be illegal? Yep, unless you run a major league baseball team or an insurance company. The latter is Nevada’s fault.

Sen. Patrick McCarran, D-Nev., co-authored the 1945 McCarran-Ferguson Act which to this day exempts insurance companies from pesky little things like monopoly dominance and conspiracy to fix prices. Repeal was surgically removed from the original Obamacare legislation.

So what does United hope to score if they already have most of the marbles? The exchange will help them cut-throat compete against the only major segments they do not now control: union and large-corporation “self-funded” health care plans.

Once the big fish has gobbled up the remaining small fry, United can charge whatever it damn well pleases. Mean old John D. Rockefeller would be proud.

As for Sandoval’s Medicaid expansion to cover low-income people, it will bring a huge amount of federal money into the state for the first three years but all will not be rosy.

The Medicaid rates Nevada pays to providers have been frozen since 2007 and Sandoval won’t raise them. Advocates fear that many providers will turn away the expected influx of about 150,000 new insureds.

Sandoval thus shoos away not only doctors but also patients with his cruel demand that the poor foot part of the bill in the form of co-pays for health services.

But the campaign contributions have been paid in full.

Stay tuned for unhealthy budgetary shell games down at the ledge.

Be well. Raise hell.

Andrew Barbano is a 44-year Nevadan and editor of E-mail Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988.
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