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EDITORIAL: Medical protectionism has no place in Nevada

For all the consternation about the lack of medical care in Las Vegas, local officials have had an odd reaction to the opening of a new hospital.

Elite Medical Center is near the heart of the Strip and offers emergency care. It opened up last June, giving prospective patients a new option. It could be an expensive one. Elite Medical Center doesn’t accept insurance, so patients have to pay out-of-network rates.

As reported by the Review-Journal’s Jessie Bekker, Elite Medical Center’s entrance into the market isn’t sitting well with existing medical facilities. “We think that Elite Medical Center, if they want to operate as a hospital in the state, that they should operate as a CMS-certified (Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services) center and they should be accredited and Medicare-participating,” said Bill Welch, president of the Nevada Hospital Association, which represents more than 60 Nevada facilities. “Without those things, we’re concerned.”

Translated: We don’t want competition from this upstart company.

Elite Medical Center is licensed through the state, but not the federal government. Elite Medical Center’s CEO Butch Frazier said the facility is seeking CMS accreditation. That doesn’t mean it’s providing substandard care. Just the opposite. Browse through its overwhelmingly positive public reviews, and you’ll see people raving it’s the “best medical facility” they’ve ever visited. Former customers talk about its short wait times, quality of service and caring staff. Those perks come at a price. Like every other emergency room in Las Vegas, Elite Medical Center is much more expensive than an urgent care.

But some politicians don’t think individuals should have the freedom to make their own medical decisions. Clark County Commission Chair Marilyn Kirkpatrick wants an ordinance requiring that new medical facilities be CMS-certified. Expect a legislative effort to implement price controls for emergency room care, too.

There’s a larger issue at play here — the below-cost reimbursements offered by the federal government. In 2017, the Congressional Budget Office found that private insurers pay twice as much as Medicare for the same procedures. Keep that in mind the next time Sen. Bernie Sanders or Sen. Kamala Harris talk about Medicare for all.

If new medical centers, like Elite, take away too many paying customers, other hospitals will face severe financial difficulties. Sunrise Hospital has even launched a PR campaign to pressure lawmakers into raising Medicaid reimbursement rates so it can cover the costs of other services.

But the solution to the problems created by the federal government’s involvement in the health care system isn’t medical protectionism. Medical consumers benefit from more options and more competition, not less.

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