Many Nevadans have urged me and other members of Congress to focus on jobs as our state endures difficult economic times. Critics have said we should forget about health care reform and pass legislation that will stimulate economic growth.
But the facts are clear: In addition to strengthening Nevada’s health care system and providing health security to hard-working people throughout our state, the health reform bill that President Obama signed into law last month will help our economy, both immediately and in the long-term.
This year, small businesses stand to benefit. The reform will provide tax credits to tens of thousands of small business owners who today can’t afford to cover their employees. And workers who purchase coverage on the non-group market will see their premiums decrease by as much as 20 percent — which means Nevada families can save as much as $2,000 a year.
This reform will save money for our country, too. Over the next 10 years, the plan will slash our deficit by $143 billion; by 2030, the bill will take another $1.3 trillion off the deficit while providing coverage to nearly all Americans.
Universal coverage means that even those without a job will have health insurance. Losing one’s job is difficult enough without having to worry about also losing one’s health coverage. But thanks to this bill, becoming unemployed doesn’t mean becoming uninsured. Those without jobs will always have access to affordable, quality health care.
In addition to health care, I’ve also been leading Senate passage of jobs bills that will directly help struggling Nevadans. Our aggressive jobs agenda, which began last year with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, has continued to help jumpstart the economy:
Just last month, The HIRE Act was signed into law to provide incentives for businesses to hire workers who have been unemployed for at least 60 days; it also supports the creation of construction jobs while improving our state’s infrastructure.
The bipartisan Travel Promotion Act became law earlier this month and will market Nevada attractions like Las Vegas, Reno and Lake Tahoe in foreign countries. With more visitors to our state, more Nevadans will be able to find a job.
The American Workers, State and Business Relief Act, which the Senate passed this month, would provide further relief to Nevadans seeking work and tax breaks to Nevada’s families and small businesses.
In addition to making air travel safer, the Senate-passed FAA Reauthorization Act will create tens of thousands of jobs in safety, technology and service positions.
Health care reform was an important achievement for the American people that addresses problems of an unsustainable system — skyrocketing costs, a rise of insurance company abuse, and an increase in the number of Nevadans suffering from a lack of coverage. Needless to say, this reform could not have waited another day.
But it should be evident that getting Nevadans back to work is the priority in every bill we push, including the health care bill. Drastically reducing waste and abuse in the health care system will put more money in the pockets of Nevadans instead of in the pockets of health insurance companies. As benefits of the new health care law begin to take effect, I assure Nevadans that we will continue to do everything we can to encourage hiring and grow our economy as quickly as possible.
Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, is majority leader of the U.S. Senate.