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November 20, 2017

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Nevada must demand health care reform

Yet another study is out on a key indicator of the quality of life and, once again, Nevada ranks near the bottom of U.S. states.

The United Health Foundation ranked states on a number of health indicators, including insurance coverage, graduation rates, air pollution levels, infectious disease rates, immunization rates and crime levels.

The result: Nevada dropped three spots to No. 42 overall in the 2008 America's Health Rankings.

One of the more discouraging aspects of the study linked Nevada's comparatively unhealthy population with the state's low high school graduation rate.

Education is a vital contributor to health because consumers must be able to learn about, create and maintain healthy lifestyles and understand and participate in their options for care. Additionally, the less schooling people have, the higher their levels of risky health behaviors such as smoking, being overweight or having a low level of physical activity. The more schooling people have, the more money they earn, enabling them to purchase medical care and health insurance.

Nevada's poor ranking in the national health study is yet another indication that our state's failure to properly fund our public schools — and the resulting poor graduation rate — has profound consequences on the quality of life here.

The ranking is further proof that now, even during a recession, additional revenue streams must be tapped in order to avoid further cuts in already meager education budgets.

The study also sheds light on a national tragedy: the failure of our health care system to adequately care for all Americans.

America spends a staggering $2.1 trillion on health care annually — more than any other developed nation. Yet, somehow 46 million Americans remain uninsured.

Health care reform is long overdue, and look for action on this, finally, in 2009 by the new president and Congress.

Barack Obama has proposed building on the existing employer-based health insurance system and making affordable coverage available to all Americans. It's not nationalized health care, but with various reforms proposed by Obama, it's an improvement over the current system.

But there may be voices in the Obama administration pushing for a more dramatic overhaul of health care in America and the creation of actual universal health care financed by the government.

Obama's chief of staff, former Illinois Congressman Rahm Emanuel, has a brother who is well known in the health care world. Insiders say Ezekiel Emanuel, director of the Clinical Bioethics Department at the U.S. National Institutes of Health, will join the administration as a senior counselor at the White House Office of Management and Budget on health policy.

This is exciting because "Zeke" Emanuel co-wrote a book, "Health Care Guaranteed," advocating health care vouchers.

Americans would receive vouchers to guarantee and pay for basic health services from qualified insurance companies or health plans, while employment-based insurance would be eliminated.

Taxes would have to be raised or created to pay for this plan, but consider the benefits. Companies with no business making health care decisions would be free of that responsibility. Instead, freed of the burden of paying health care costs, they could increase wages and lower the prices of their goods.

As Congress debates health care reform this year, Nevadans and Nevada businesses will have a huge stake in the outcome. All Nevadans should urge the state's congressional delegation to push for deep, meaningful reform that achieves the goal of providing affordable health care to all Americans.

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