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Cortez-Masto tours UMC; sees an Obamacare object lesson

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto tours UMC as the health care debate heats up. 5/30/17 (Jeff Gillan | KSNV)

It was back during the recession, when University Medical Center was bleeding money and needing you, the taxpayer, to bail it out.

Half the people who came to its main Emergency Room entrance had no insurance.

Then came the Affordable Care Act knows as Obamacare.

“Fast forward, post-ACA, we've actually seen those rates on uninsured drop to around 15-percent on average for UMC, so a significant improvement,” Mason Vanhouweling, UMC's CEO tells News 3 after he finished giving a high-profile tour to Nevada's Democrat in the US Senate, Catherine Cortez Masto.

When Cortez Masto arrives back in Washington next week, she’ll be back in a capital that will watch the health care debate heat up.

Last week, the non-partisan congressional budget office said the Republican House plan, the American Health Care Act, now in the Senate, would leave 23 million more people uninsured.

Cortez-Masto says the Affordable Care Act for UMC, has been a lifesaver.

“UMC is our only county hospital. For the first time since 2015, they are actually generating revenue that they can invest back into the hospital, the equipment, the needs for their patients,” she says.

The math is pretty simple: more insurance means more money.

Last year, the hospital had a $42 million profit, meaning it no longer needs a taxpayer subsidy to keep its operations going.

A higher insurance rate was one of the reasons the hospital boosted its bottom line.

In the pediatric ER, Cortez- Masto met with the doctor who runs it.

Jay Fisher worries what will happen if Obamacare gets scrapped.

“I think that the current services that we now have in place would be seriously jeopardized. Seriously jeopardized,” Fisher says.

Republicans say Obamacare ruined the free market and saddled people with sky-high premiums.

The house replacement, they say, balances access to health care with fiscal responsibility and insist those with preexisting conditions will be covered, something critics dispute.

That 23 million more uninsured number? Unreliable, they say. They also point out the CBO “score” says the GOP plan would trim the deficit by $119 billion over ten years.

The house plan is considered a non-starter in the Senate.

Even some Senate Republicans worry about the bill’s rollback of Medicaid, which under Obamacare brought health care to millions.

“This bill does not do enough to address Nevada’s medicaid population or protect Nevadans with pre-existing conditions,” says Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nevada. “The AHCA is a first step, but not the solution."

Cortez-Masto does not want repeal and replace.

“We keep what works in it and we fix what doesn't,” she tells News 3.

And no place has more riding on what happens than UMC, which in 2016, admitted more than 23,000 patients.

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