CARSON CITY — Gov. Jim Gibbons’ proposal to save $1 million by closing the state Consumer Health Assistance Office was challenged Monday by lawmakers who noted the office has saved Nevadans $30 million in health care expenses since it opened in 2000.
The office, which fielded nearly 1,000 calls in January alone, helps people find low-cost health care and prescription drugs, assists those who lose their health insurance and can’t afford COBRA insurance, and helps others work through disputes with their insurers and Medicaid.
"This is an invaluable contribution," Assemblyman Joe Hogan, D-Las Vegas, said. "We’re cutting in the wrong place, and we’re eliminating an extraordinarily effective agency."
The office, headed by Valerie Rosalin, was proposed by Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, in 1999. Before the office was opened, Buckley said she "spent every lunch hour getting operations approved" for constituents. Buckley said she decided there should be a dedicated office to fill that role.
Rosalin said she didn’t know that her office funding was to be eliminated until the governor’s State of the State address in mid-January. She added that she knows of no other agency that will take up the office’s responsibilities.
State Budget Director Andrew Clinger said the governor had to make difficult decisions and decided to focus on saving core services.