Ruth Quigley supports health care reform that will keep people from having to choose between cancer treatments and going broke.
It's a choice she watched her brother-in-law make before he died of cancer that spread between his back and internal organs.
"He made a choice to keep his home, as opposed to spending everything he had for health care," said Quigley, 59.
Without insurance, Quigley's brother-in-law, a longtime Las Vegas musician, was forced to seek costly care in emergency rooms.
"They treat symptoms," she said of emergency care. "They treated his pain and sent him home."
Quigley was one of about 30 to 40 people, based on an 11:15 a.m. count, who demonstrated Tuesday in favor of health care reform outside the Las Vegas headquarters for UnitedHealth Group.
Organizers from the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada coordinated the demonstration as part of Health Care for America Now, a national campaign in favor of reform.
"There are a lot of people who do have health insurance and wind up going bankrupt. They wind up dying because their coverage was denied," event organizer Michael Ginsburg said.
The national organization supporting actions such as the one Tuesday on Tenaya Way supports health care reform proposals that include a government-run option for insurance, standard health benefits that cover preventive care and treatment for chronic conditions, and premiums based on people's ability to pay.
Part of the demonstration in Las Vegas included demands for UnitedHealth, a private insurance provider, to not use its funds to oppose reform or to enlist employees in opposition efforts.
A flier distributed to demonstrators said UnitedHealth has spent $7.33 million on federal lobbying efforts since January 2008.
Other demands for UnitedHealth included not dropping coverage for pre-existing medical conditions or offering financial or other incentives to employees for denying insurance claims.
A spokesman for UnitedHealth said the company doesn't offer such incentives, nor does it force employees to oppose health care reform efforts in Congress.
"Those accusations were absolutely false," UnitedHealth spokesman Peter O'Neill said.
In a written statement, the company said: "We support, along with our industry partners, reform proposals that would do away with pre-existing condition limitations and bring everyone into the system."
Quigley, a retired teacher, says she doubts reform will be effective if it doesn't include a government-run option to compete with the private sector.
"I'm a real free-market person, but maybe health care shouldn't be a free market, because they are not doing a good job," she said. "Our firemen are not free market. Our policemen are not free market. And those are good things."
Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at email@example.com or 702-477-3861.