Still a lot of heart

Anybody who knows Rep. Steven Horsford — or has ever heard him give a stemwinding speech on the campaign trail or on the floor of the Nevada Legislature — knows he’s got a lot of heart.

But the state was shocked in early July to find out his heart was in trouble: Two of the major blood vessels feeding the vital organ were 100 percent blocked, and a third was partially blocked. He ended up having six-way bypass surgery.

On Friday, recovering from the procedure and in good health and spirits, Horsford announced in North Las Vegas he’d run for re-election to the 4th Congressional District seat he won in 2012.

“This is exactly the right time for us,” said Horsford in an interview. “I am 100 percent committed to continuing to serve.”

He says the recent health scare didn’t prompt him to announce in August, usually a quiet month in an off year. But with opponents reportedly considering the race, it’s never too early to tell voters (and donors) that he’s going to be in the mix.

Horsford said he wants to finish work on some projects he’s already begun, such as the Yerington federal land bill that will see about 800 jobs created in copper mining. He’s convinced another bill — preserving the archeological finds at Tule Springs — will draw tourists to Nevada.

But his heart scare has renewed his interest in a project he supported in the past: a full-fledged medical school in Southern Nevada. Currently, students from the University of Nevada, Reno medical school come to Las Vegas for clinical work after they finish the academic portion of their studies up north.

Horsford says he wants a school in Southern Nevada, training everybody from new doctors and nurses to experts in electronic medical records.

It’s especially urgent as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act goes into effect. More people may be eligible to get health insurance now, but that does little good if there aren’t enough doctors and nurses to provide their care.

“Now we need to act, and act fast,” he said.

The urgency is understandable: Even if a medical school were to open its doors tomorrow, the first physicians wouldn’t graduate for about four years, and then only to internships and residencies. In the meantime, Nevada’s existing population of doctors will face increased pressure to see patients with newly minted insurance policies.

Horsford said he’ll work with local officials such as North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee, who envisions a medical district built up around the new Veterans Affairs hospital in his city. University system Regent Dr. Mark Doubrava has called for a medical school in Southern Nevada, too. But to get one, Horsford will have to change the math and grab more federal dollars than currently come back to Nevada taxpayers.

A medical school would be a help to the community, perhaps creating the kind of health care that local and state leaders currently seek elsewhere. (Horsford’s surgery was performed in Virginia. In the past, Govs. Kenny Guinn and Bob Miller have sought cancer treatment out of state, as did ex-Las Vegas Mayor Jan Jones and KSNV-TV, Channel 3, owner and former university Chancellor Jim Rogers.)

Oh, and speaking of health, Horsford says his federal health insurance — the same Blue Cross Blue Shield policy all federal employees get — is not as good as the Culinary union insurance he gave up in his old job as head of the Culinary Academy of Las Vegas. Under the Culinary plan, 100 percent of costs are covered; under the federal plan, Horsford has to pay 20 percent of the costs himself. So although he’s a member of Congress, he can identify with millions of Americans who, after a major medical procedure, can look forward to a hefty bill along with a long recovery.

Steve Sebelius is a Las Vegas Review-Journal political columnist and author of the blog Follow him on Twitter (@SteveSebelius) or reach him at (702) 387-5276 or

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