As Senate simmers over repeal and replace, local advocates keep the heat on

While at an event at UMC, Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto says the GOP health care plan would put the most vulnerable at risk. 7/7/17 (Jeff Gillan | KSNV)

Say ‘happy birthday’ to Jenny Stiles.

“30. I'm very excited about 30, too,” she told me.

You'd be excited, too, if you were not supposed to be alive.

“I was born with multiple birth defects. I almost died four times,” Stiles says.

But she's here, thanks to 29 surgeries and the Medicaid that paid for it.

“Without it, I will not live. Without it I cannot have an independent life or do anything that I want to do,” she tells me.

We met Stiles at UMC, where health care advocates, along with Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, delivered Republicans a message: don't dump Obamacare. Fix it.

RELATED LINK | Cortez-Masto tours UMC; sees an Obamacare object lesson

“These are real lives. These are real people. It impacts their health care,” says Cortez Masto.

Research released Friday by the National Institute for Children’s Research and Policy, a non-profit, non-partisan research center at UNLV, says the Senate GOP health care bill would kick 328,000 Nevadans off insurance by 2022. Much of it would come from ending Obamacare's Medicaid expansion, which is why, two weeks ago today, Nevada’s top two Republicans came out against the Republican plan.

“It doesn't protect Nevadans on Medicaid, and the most vulnerable Nevadans,” Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nevada, said on June 23, standing next to Gov. Brian Sandoval.

Republican Dean Heller is still a "no." His Democratic colleague says "good."

“Well, he's on the side of the Governor, and if that's the case, that's the right side to be on,” Cortez Masto says.

Not according to the Trump administration.

The Secretary of Health and Human Services tweeted Friday that “Obamacare's a losing hand for Nevada,” saying the “average Obamacare plan in Nevada costs $2,100 more than four years ago.”

As part of the administration’s media message, it sent out video clips of Americans struggling with higher insurance premiums; among them, retired Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department officer David Moody.

“As of January, I’ve had no insurance again because I can’t find anything that I can afford,” Moody said in a video sent out by HHS.

It was no accident the Friday event was held at UMC, the county’s public hospital that has benefited from Obamacare’s influx of paying patients. Its uninsured rate has dropped, and for the last two years, the hospital has been running in the black, posting profits for the past two years.

If legislation changes and fewer people have insurance, “we will be there, but it’s going to make it much more financially difficult,” says UMC CEO Mason VanHouweling.

Meanwhile, Stiles reaches a milestone.

“Because it's my 30th and I wasn't supposed to make it to 30, in October we're going to Disneyland with a bunch of my friends and family and we're going to have a blast,” she says, a young woman for whom Medicaid means life.

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