CARSON CITY — U.S. Rep. Joe Heck told Nevada lawmakers Monday that graduate medical school education, career and technical education, unmanned aerial systems and increased international travel were the focus of his efforts in Congress to boost Nevada’s economy and strengthen national security.
Heck, a doctor and three-term Republican representing Congressional District 3 in southern Nevada, said the federal government is the primary source of funding for graduate medical education through Medicare funds and the Veterans Administration.
He spoke Monday before a joint session of the Nevada Senate and Assembly.
Heck said legislation he is sponsoring with Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla, will help ease doctor shortages.
“I think everyone in the chamber tonight agrees that a healthier Nevada is a better Nevada,” Heck said. “While the Affordable Care Act allowed more people to obtain health insurance, we know that access to health insurance does not mean access to health care.”
“Unfortunately, here in Nevada, we know that fact all too well,” he said.
Heck said a recent study ranked Nevada 45th in the nation in the number of physicians per 100,000 in population.
The goal of the legislation is to increase residency programs in Nevada.
“Our bill is called the Creating Access to Residency Education – or CARE – Act and it creates a federal grant program for states to develop new residency programs or increase slots in existing ones, which will directly assist underserved states like ours in training and retaining new doctors,” Heck said.
Eligible states would receive a two-thirds match for starting or expanding a residency in primary care and a 50 percent match for residencies in other specialties.
“I think that given the current conditions in our state, combined with a state level financial commitment, we would have a strong case to make for that grant funding,” Heck said.
On Tuesday, Heck and representatives from Nevada medical schools will be at Touro University Nevada in Henderson to highlight the need to expand graduate medical education opportunities.
Gov. Brian Sandoval has proposed $10 million for residency training for medical school graduates in an effort to increase the number of physicians working in Nevada and improve the doctor-to-resident ratio, one of the lowest in the U.S.
Heck also said he is working to preserve federal funding for career and technical education programs to prepare Nevada’s workforce for technical jobs of the 21st Century, such as unmanned aerial systems that he said will take Nevada’s economy to “new heights.”
“We must continue to educate policy makers and the public about the wide array of uses for unmanned systems and the benefits those systems will provide in the future,” Heck said.
But he said Congress and lawmakers must guard against “overbearing regulations that will stifle innovation in this burgeoning industry.”
Heck said the drone industry “must be allowed to grow and flourish so we can find out what these systems can do and the benefits they can provide.”
While developing industries will shape Nevada’s economy in the future, Heck said he continues to promote programs to assist its stalwart industry, tourism and hospitality.
According to the U.S. Travel Association, direct travel spending in the United States totaled $888 billion in 2013, Heck said, generating $2.1 trillion in economic output and $134 billion in tax revenue.
Overseas travelers, he said, represent the largest segment of the sector, averaging 17.5 nights and nearly $4,700 per trip.
To bolster international travel, Heck said he has again introduced the Jobs Originating through Launching Travel, or JOLT Act, to expand international tourism and increase national security.
He said the goal is to expedite the visa interview process and make mandatory security requirements for participating countries and mandate use of more security e-passports.
“More travel means more jobs and higher wages and that will lead to a better Nevada,” Heck said.