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Nevada lawmakers urge feds to remember clinics

Updated April 7, 2020 - 4:20 pm

WASHINGTON — Nevada officials are concerned that money in the $2.2 trillion relief bill being distributed under the discretion of the Trump administration could leave out Las Vegas employer- and union-sponsored clinics where 150,000 Las Vegas workers and families get their health care.

To make matters worse, the officials cite the state’s health care workforce shortage — which ranks 47th for all states for physicians per 100,000 residents — as the need to funnel funds and assistance to Nevada clinics.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced this week that his department was distributing $186 million to state and local jurisdictions for testing, screening and treatment as part of the federal response to the coronavirus outbreak.

So far, the department has distributed $6.5 million to Nevada in grants and contracts. It has also distributed more than $37 million to California, the state that accounts for the largest number of weekend tourists to Nevada on a weekly basis.

Azar said “this new funding will expand our ability to track and prevent the virus’s spread across our country.”

“State and local public health departments are on the front lines of our fight against the pandemic, and these new resources will help them build the testing and surveillance capabilities needed to beat the new threat we face,” Azar said.

Still, with limited funds and discretion, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and Rep. Steven Horsford, both Democrats, said employer- and union-funded clinics are seeking federal assistance in their effort to test and treat workers exposed to COVID-19.

But those funds were delivered to states, not specific facilities, like clinics.

Cortez Masto said “more than 150,000 workers and their families rely on six of these employer-funded clinics for primary care services across Las Vegas alone.”

“It is essential that they be able to continue this important role in alleviating stress on community health centers and urgent care centers whose capacities have been stretched by the pandemic,” she said.

Cortez Masto and Horsford urged Azar in a letter to ensure his department distributes funds to the employer-funded clinics, which are often primary care providers responding to the coronavirus crisis.

Horsford said the Culinary Union provides health insurance through its Culinary Health Fund for more than 130,000 Nevadans, including union members and their dependents.

Employer-funded clinics in Southern Nevada have provided critical screening services that have helped manage outbreaks in Las Vegas, the lawmakers said.

The lawmakers encouraged Azar “to ensure that employer-based providers caring for their workers have the support they need to continue doing so.”

Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the funds distributed now will go to areas with emerging disease clusters “that currently have limited person-to-person spread of the virus.”

The money will go to lab equipment, supplies, staffing, shipping, monitoring individuals and data management, he said.

Contact Gary Martin at gmartin@reviewjournal.com or 202-662-7390. Follow @garymartindc on Twitter.

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