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Bill on lower-cost health plans passes Assembly, returns to Senate to concur

Updated May 30, 2021 - 10:47 pm

CARSON CITY — Lawmakers completed votes Sunday establishing publicly managed private health insurance options for lower-income individuals and helping laid-off gaming and travel workers get pre-pandemic jobs back as the session’s signature effort, a mining tax increase to fund education, got an easy ride through committee on the second-to-last day of the session.

The health plan bill, Senate Bill 420, passed the Assembly on a party line vote, 26-15, and heads back to the Senate for concurrence on an amendment. The bill makes Nevada the second state, after Washington, to set up a coverage plan for lower-income individuals at rates below other plans offered on its health exchange.

It would create lower-cost, middle-tier health plans provided by insurers that bid on the state’s Medicaid managed-care contracts, offering them both on and off the state’s health insurance exchange and to the small employer market. Those plans would become available in 2026, costing initially five percent less than comparable plans and eventually 15 percent less. The bill is aimed at helping the roughly 350,000 Nevadans who still lack health coverage. Coverage would start in 2026.

Senate Bill 386, the so-called right-to-return bill for pandemic-affected workers, passed on a party-line vote in the Assembly, as it did in the Senate on Wednesday. It would require employers in the gaming, hospitality and travel sectors to re-hire workers who lost jobs in the pandemic to their former positions, with certain conditions. The bill returns to the Senate on the issue of whether to concur with an amendment that exempts small employers, such as standalone businesses operating within casinos and resorts.

“This bill protects the people that build the state. They’re the economic engine of Las Vegas,” said Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas, the chair of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee who is concluding her 24-year legislative tenure.

“The day that they were all told to stay home from work was probably one of the worst days in the history of Clark County,” Carlton said. “We saw grass growing up in the cracks going down the Las Vegas Strip because no one was driving down it. Two days later, all of them were at food pantries and looking for rental assistance because we literally shut down this state’s industry.”

The business closings “protected a lot of people” and were “the right thing to do,” Carlton added. “Those employees that were good employees the day they were told to stay home are the same employees that get to get their job back if they want it back.”

Also passing the Assembly, Senate Bill 236 would create a system to screen police officers for early signs of bias or other problem behaviors and intervene. It also passed on a party-line vote and heads to the governor.

On the eve of the last day of the session, both houses worked in fits and starts around remaining committee business to approve bills or concur or not concur with amendments made in the opposing house. Reconvening after 9 p.m., the Senate moved much of its calendar to Monday.

Gov. Steve Sisolak has signed nearly 190 bills into law, including 14 more on Sunday. Roughly the same name number await his signature. The latest batch of signed bills includes Senate Bill 364, which requires hospitals and emergency care centers to provide training to employees who care for sexual assault victims, inform victims of their right to receive emergency contraception and provide it to them on request.

Contact Capital Bureau reporter Bill Dentzer at bdentzer@reviewjournal.com. Follow @DentzerNews on Twitter.

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