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Cortez Masto talks health care, Kavanaugh in sitdown with reporters

Updated August 10, 2018 - 5:08 pm

Nevada U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto on Friday said she supports a “public option” to provide Americans with affordable health care coverage, though she isn’t convinced the country is quite ready for Medicare-for-All.

The Democrat, who was elected in 2016 and became Nevada’s first female senator and the first Latina to serve in the U.S. Senate, fielded questions on health care, immigration and border security during an hour-long discussion with reporters in Las Vegas.

Cortez Masto said the number one issue for Nevadans is health care. She said the Affordable Care Act isn’t “perfect,” but opposes Republican efforts to repeal the Obama-era law that expanded health care coverage to hundreds of thousands of Nevadans, including those with preexisting conditions.

“We are one of the wealthiest countries in the world,” she said. “Nobody should die in this country because they cannot afford health care.”

The senator said it’s critical to stabilize the market to prevent spikes in health care premiums and costs. She supports offering subsidies to help people and small businesses and offering a public option to compete with private health care plans.

“I think by having that public option as a component, it also addresses the potential costs and helps stabilize the market,” Cortez Masto said. “That’s why I’m supporting and co-sponsoring legislation (for a public option), whether it looks like a buy-in for Medicare or Medicaid.”

But America might not yet be ready for Medicare-for-All, she added, especially since 60 percent of Americans have their own insurance plans. It’s just “not plausible” to unroll universal health care overnight, she said.

Cortez Masto said she will continue fighting for immigration reform and creating a path for legalization for Dreamers — people who were brought into this country illegally as children that were shielded from deportation under an Obama administration policy.

The senator tore into President Donald Trump’s policy to separate kids from their parents at the Southern border and lock them in detention camps. Cortez Masto was turned away when she tried to visit a Texas detention center for kids in June.

“It’s outrageous and inhumane. These are asylum seekers — these are families who made the decision to leave their own countries because their lives and their children’s lives were being threatened,” Cortez Masto said, adding that she worked on legislation to reunite families.

Cortez Masto doesn’t support abolishing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement because there are other agencies under ICE that fight against international crime, including human trafficking. But she believes ICE funding should be directed to crime-fighting agencies instead of deportation activities.

The senator plans to meet with Trump’s Supreme Court Nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, most likely in September. Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch refused to meet with her, she said.

Cortez Masto said she is studying Kavanaugh’s writings and opinions and has some concerns with the judge’s positions on women’s health care, net neutrality, worker’s rights and LGBTQ rights.

“I want to balance the Supreme Court,” Cortez Masto said. “There’s an inherent bias I’m concerned about.”

Contact Ramona Giwargis at rgiwargis@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4538. Follow @RamonaGiwargis on Twitter.

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