Published Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2009 | 3:40 p.m.
Updated Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2009 | 8:09 p.m.
U.S. Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.) was in Southern Nevada on Wednesday talking health care.
Her first stop was the Boulder City Rotary Club, where she explained why she opposed the first version of a health care bill in the House, answered questions and listened to comments.
Titus said she was speaking to community groups across her District 3 during the congressional summer break — “anywhere that will invite us.” She also addressed health care later in the day during a tour of a community health center in Las Vegas.
“I want to hear opinions,” she told the Boulder City Rotarians, who were meeting at St. Jude’s Ranch for Children. “That’s what we are doing this month, listening before we go back to vote.”
In opening remarks, Titus said that among her concerns about the original health care bill was the double taxation it would end up imposing on small businesses — requiring them to provide insurance they may not be providing and taxing the owners of the businesses as part of a tax increase on those with higher incomes.
She also was concerned that the pharmaceutical companies were not being asked to pay enough, she said.
She explained how the plan in front of Congress would create an exchange that private insurers could join to provide coverage to those who are otherwise uninsured. The public plan would be part of the exchange as well, subject to the same rules, she said.
The concerns she heard at the Boulder City luncheon during a question-and-answer period were similar to what she has been hearing elsewhere from her constituents, she said.
“People who don’t have insurance tell their stories, and then people who like what they have say they don’t want to change,” she said. “They are not new themes, but it helps to hear people’s stories.”
Some of the Rotarians said they learned details about the health plan they didn’t know about before.
“She gave me a good appreciation for how complex health care is,” Boulder City Councilman Duncan McCoy said.
Dr. Larry Smith, who identified himself as a lifelong Republican, said Titus, a Democrat, impressed him.
“What I like is that she operates a little out of the party line to get what’s best for Nevada,” he said. “She thinks outside the entitlement mentality of Washington. She’s earned my respect.”
After leaving Boulder City, Titus toured the Eastern Family Medical & Dental Center, 2212 S. Eastern Ave., marking the celebration of National Health Center Week, which begins Sunday.
The week recognizes the National Association of Community Health Centers' mission to extend care to some of the country's most needy.
Titus was greeted by employees of the health center, including Thomas Chase, CEO of Nevada Health Centers Inc.
The congresswoman met with staffers along the tour, shaking hands and posing for pictures. An employee explained the different rooms and equipment available.
Titus said she came to visit the center because it serves many people who are from her district and complimented its smooth operation.
"And so I just wanted to see for myself what all is being offered," she said.
She said she was impressed the center offered so many services, from prenatal to dental care.
Chase said the center tends to serve people who do not have access to proper health care or the ability to pay for it.
He said the United States has a population of more than 300 million, and about 60 million are uninsured. That means 1 out of every 5 Americans doesn’t have health care, he said.
"Could (health care) be done differently? Absolutely," Chase said. "We just have to recognize as a country that we're already paying for it in terms of insurance premiums, subsidies the state and federal government make from Medicare and Medicaid and in terms of organizations like us who are willing to take care of those people who don't have insurance."
He added: "So what's the right solution? The right solution is to figure out a better way."
In the meantime, Titus said she would continue to work to fight for a better system.
"I'm taking the month of August to learn as much as I can about the issue from all sides, from different kinds of providers and users," Titus said. "And it puts an exclamation point on the end of the sentence that we need health care reform."