Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010 | 1:50 a.m.
U.S. Reps. Dina Titus and Shelley Berkley met with a crowd of about 100 friendly supporters Monday to discuss benefits of the recently passed health care bill alongside U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius.
Although the event was billed as a chance to clarify elements of the health care bill, it also served as a campaign stop. Both Berkley and Titus are seeking re-election in November, and both supported the bill, which passed in March.
Sebelius said she had been touring the country to educate the public about the bill. At least 30 million people could gain coverage in 2019 when the law is fully phased in. More than 20 million others would remain uninsured.
“Health care is very personal,” Sebelius said. “What people want to know is ‘what happens to me and my family?’”
Sebelius said many provisions of the law went into effect Sept. 23, including one preventing “recisions,” or the practice of companies taking away benefits after someone gets sick.
Recisions often happen when an insurance company begins to look for errors made in the application process to avoid having to provide coverage to sick people, Sebelius said. The law will also prevent companies from placing lifetime caps on certain procedures, she said.
“While that only affects a really small number of people … if you are in that situation, it’s often a situation of life and death, or bankruptcy or not bankruptcy,” she said.
Another provision requires insurance companies to cover children.
For years, she said, insurance companies had been providing health care “to children who promise not to get sick.” Now, she said, they’ll have to cover all of them.
Berkley said she was horrified when she learned that 600,000 Southern Nevadans don’t have health insurance. When her husband, a doctor and kidney specialist, said he thought the bill was important, she said she supported it because he told her it helped both patients and doctors.
Sebelius said one myth of the health reform package is that it only benefits those without health insurance. But she said those with health insurance will see benefits, such as the removal of caps on coverage and removal of co-pays from preventative care services, such as mammograms or immunizations.
Las Vegas resident Jeff Walters said during the event that he supported the federal health care overhaul. He said his son, 4-year-old Preston, was diagnosed with neuroblastoma and was treated at a Tucson hospital, where he received a stem cell transplant.
Because his insurance only covered $100,000 of the transplant costs, he said his family had to come up with $20,000. The $100,000 cap is a lifetime cap, Walters said, which means any other transplant would be paid out-of-pocket.
“There’s a high chance of relapse,” said Paula Walters, while holding her son.
Kelly Kosters said her sister, Christy Annett, died in 2009 because she couldn’t get treatment for leukemia. Annett, a UNLV graduate and former kindergarten teacher, was diagnosed with leukemia in 1995 at age 17.
Once when she signed up for insurance, she was asked if she had been treated for cancer within the past 10 years, Kosters said. At the time, it had been 11 years since her leukemia treatment.
But when she relapsed, Kosters said the company refused to cover her, saying she had lied on her application. She continued to struggle with health treatment in the final years of her life, her sister said.
Republicans were critical of Sebelius’ visit and the health reform package.
The event took place at the Henderson Multigenerational Center, 250 S. Green Valley Parkway, within Titus’ district. A spokeswoman for Titus’ opponent, Joe Heck, said the event was part of a “re-education” agenda.
“Despite the fact that Democrats across the country are running from their health care vote, Dina Titus chooses to instead mischaracterize what the bill really does,” Heck spokeswoman Mari Nakashima said in a statement.
Nakashima said the bill would raise premiums and destroy Medicare.
Before the event, about 10 Sharron Angle supporters picketed along Paseo Verde Drive, holding signs that read “No Obamacare.” Angle's opponent, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, has supported the legislation.
By the time the event ended, the picketers were gone.
Jerry Stacy, a spokesman for Angle, responded to Sebelius' visit by calling "ObamaCare" a "monstrosity."