Titus tackles questions

Hundreds of residents turned out to ask Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., questions about proposed health insurance changes and to give their two cents on how Congress should handle the issue.

The audience was standing room only for the event at Temple Ner Tamid, on Green Valley Parkway near Windmill Parkway, which has a posted capacity of 358 people.

Those in attendance hooted, hollered and cheered, depending on their point of view and the questions.

"I don't mind being booed occasionally," Titus said. "At least we are having a dialogue."

Audience members wrote their questions on cards that were chosen at random, and Titus responded.

Linda Turner, 67, of Las Vegas, asked how a government-run plan for the uninsured, referred to as a public option, might keep costs down and "keep insurance companies honest."

Titus compared insurance to education, saying a public option was comparable to the choice someone might make to go to a public college such as University of Nevada, Las Vegas if they could not afford tuition at a private university like Harvard.

"UNLV has not put Harvard out of business," Titus said. "The public option will not put (private health insurance companies) out of business."

Turner said she was satisfied with the response.

"I think she has done a wonderful job," Turner said.

Andy Andress, 52, of Henderson asked Titus why the government should change health insurance policy that affects everyone in the United States if the goal is to extend coverage to a small percentage of people who cannot afford it.

"We are not revamping the whole system, we are adding one option for the uninsured," she said, to groans and shouts from the crowd.

Andress wasn't satisfied. When asked whether Titus answered his question he said, "No, not at all."

Realtor Rochelle Hecker of Las Vegas asked about costs.

"What will happen to my current health care?" said moderator Mitch Fox, reading from her card. "Will the cost go up?"

Titus responded, "It should go down. The intent of the reform is to bring insurance costs down."

When asked whether Titus answered her question, Hecker said yes. "I hope she is right."

Titus is walking a fine line on the controversial topic as the representative of the congressional district most closely divided between Democrats and Republicans.

Many of her fellow Democrats in the House of Representatives are pushing for a robust government-run health plan, or public option, as an alternative to private insurance.

Support for such a plan among voters varies depending on how the issue is framed.

A survey of Nevadans by Mason-Dixon & Research earlier this month showed 43 percent of respondents supported the health insurance changes envisioned by President Barack Obama, 49 percent were opposed, and 8 percent were undecided.

Several versions of health care overhaul are circulating in both the House and the Senate.

Titus said she will use input from constituents to make decisions about what she supports.

Contact Benjamin Spillman at bspillman @reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3861.