Saturday, Oct. 2, 2010 | 1:10 p.m.
Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle has for months campaigned proudly on a bill she claims to have sponsored as an assemblywoman that would have eliminated Nevada’s insurance coverage mandates. The requirements drive up the cost of health insurance for everyone, she says.
In a candidate debate, before a newspaper editorial board and on her website, Angle has touted the bill to repeal mandates.
“If you go to my website, you’ll see my record,” Angle said at a Republican primary debate. “I introduced three bills. One would have taken off all of the mandates on insurance. That’s one of the solutions. We have to have a senator who will go and introduce something like that that says we don’t have mandated coverages on insurance.”
Angle’s position casts her not merely as a conservative, but one with a free-market alternative to the Democrats’ health care reform bill, which her opponent, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, played a key role in passing this year.
However, there is a wide disparity between Angle’s rhetoric and her record.
An exhaustive search of Angle’s record as a four-term state legislator turns up no legislation to repeal the dozens of state mandates requiring insurers to cover such things as mammograms, osteoporosis and autism and several experimental cancer treatments.
Yet during her time in the Legislature, Angle proposed no fewer than five laws that would have required insurance companies to cover specific conditions, undermining her persona as an ideologically pure conservative who relentlessly pursues limited government policies.
She co-sponsored a bill to require insurance companies cover mammograms and another bill, which she later voted against, to cover osteoporosis treatment. She co-sponsored legislation that would have required an insurance company to continue covering the treatment of a patient if the company’s contract with the provider was canceled before the treatment was completed.
She was primary sponsor of legislation that would have required insurance companies to cover not only the adult children of policyholders, but their parents too if their incomes were below the federal poverty limit.
Angle’s campaign largely ignored multiple requests for comment on her contradictory positions on insurance mandates. The campaign’s only response was to point the finger at Reid, who has used Angle’s erroneous claims in an attack ad.
“Reid’s campaign made a false ad, they have no evidence of the bill they reference,” spokesman Jarrod Agen said in an e-mail. “Obviously, they are lying again.”
Indeed, Angle’s record does undermine Reid’s latest television ad, which accuses her of “trying to repeal the law that requires insurance companies to cover mammograms.” Reid’s campaign based the ad on Angle’s repeated public comments about sponsoring legislation to repeal mandates.
When asked by the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s editorial board about her rational for voting against mandates for mammograms and colonoscopies, Angle again touted her phantom legislation.
“Remember that one of the things that we’ve always said would be a good health care cost reform is to eliminate mandated coverages,” Angle said. “That was one of the things that I even had a bill to remove those mandates here in the state.”
According to her actual record, Angle co-sponsored and voted for Assembly Bill 163 in the 1999 legislative session that imposed the mandate. That same session, she co-sponsored but voted against Assembly Bill 162, which mandated coverage of osteoporosis.
Angle’s campaign has engaged Reid on health care, viewing the recently passed federal legislation as a weakness for the incumbent. Polls show voters are strongly opposed to the Democrats’ health care law, which Reid authored and maneuvered through the Senate.
Angle has criticized the legislation, which she and other conservatives refer to derisively as “Obamacare,” as an example of government overstepping its bounds.
Yet Angle’s 2001 effort to provide health insurance to low-income people would have gone a step further than the Democrats’ new health care law by requiring the coverage of adult children up to the age of 30. That bill, which also would have allowed chambers of commerce to provide health insurance, never received a hearing.
In 2003, she co-sponsored a bill that would have prohibited insurance companies from refusing to pay for treatment that it already authorized, also a key part of the Democrats’ health care legislation.
“When you look at Sharron Angle’s actions they’re not only very different from what she said she sponsored, but are very much in line with key parts of Obamacare,” said Eric Herzik, a political scientist at UNR.