CARSON CITY -- Saying they refuse to leave patients without adequate medical care or beds in nursing homes, angry Democratic legislators repeatedly rejected Gov. Brian Sandoval's proposed health care cuts.
At one point in a bitter hearing on Saturday, state Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, teared up as he described growing up with a grandmother who spent 25 years in nursing homes after suffering a stroke.
"There is a reason these rates have to be maintained," Horsford said. "Once they drop, the adequacy of care gets compromised. These are our grandmothers. These are our grandfathers. These are our parents.
"Nevada has a high percentage of seniors, many without family members. For some people, this is how they live."
Horsford pleaded with members of a joint Assembly Ways and Means-Senate Finance committees hearing to reject the governor's spending cut proposals.
The Republican minority silently voted against Democrats' moves to restore health care cuts.
Democrats won votes to block a $15-a-day proposed cut in nursing home care, end a 5 percent reduction in reimbursing hospitals for treating indigent people and restore a 15 percent cut in home-based care for the elderly and a host of those health care spending reductions.
The Democratic majority also voted to keep providing dental care and eyeglasses to the poor.
While they won the vote Saturday, Democrats lack the two-thirds vote needed to override a veto by Sandoval on their $7 billion spending plan or to pass a $1.2 billion tax increase. Their budget plan is more than $900 million more than the governor's current proposal.
Assemblyman Randy Kirner, R-Reno, said the Democrats' actions were "just adding to the deficit at a time we have no money to support it."
No one interrupted Horsford as he talked about visiting his paralyzed grandmother in a variety of nursing homes, some with good care and some where patients had bedsores because there was insufficient staff to move them as often as they should.
During a previous state budget-cutting period, Horsford said they even had to drive to St. George, Utah, to visit his grandmother.
The state through the Medicaid program now spends $180 million a year to provide care for 3,100 patients in nursing homes. Slightly more than half of the Medicaid funds come from the federal government.
Sandoval originally proposed a $20-a-day cut, but restored $5 a day after securing additional federal funds. The state savings through the reductions would be less than $10 million
Later during the long hearing, Horsford called the governor's 5 percent reduction in state support for indigent hospital care "a tax on health care."
"I don't know why the other side doesn't see it that way," Horsford added.
Assembly Majority Leader Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas, agreed, noting hospitals are unable to write off uncompensated health care.
"It is a rate increase on everyone else who can afford health care or who has insurance," he said.
State Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, led the move to reject Sandoval's cut in funds to provide eyeglasses to the poor.
"We cannot rely on the Lions Club to provide glasses," she said.
Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at email@example.com or 775-687-3901.