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September 23, 2014

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ANSWERS: CLARK COUNTY:

Political lesson on Election Day for students

What do you get when you mix a highly competitive presidential race with a growing Clark County population?

A good chance of record-breaking voter turnout at the polls in November.

Registrar of Voters Larry Lomax estimates a showing of 650,000 voters, which would pass the previous record of about 550,000 in 2004.

How is the county going to deal with the potential deluge?

Here’s part of the plan: Cancel school and use students to man the polls.

Lomax said the Clark County School District is planning a teacher in-service day — a nonclass day when teachers catch up on grading and lesson planning — for Nov. 4. That will help quell concerns about thousands of strangers entering schools to vote while children are there, Lomax said.

It also will free up parking spots and larger spaces inside the schools, such as cafeterias. Because of that, the county will have to add only one polling place this year compared with 2006.

As for the students, they’ll get the day off — and with it, perhaps a new appreciation for politics and government.

Lomax, however, hopes some of them will stick around. He foresees needing about 4,000 one-day workers to staff the county’s 339 polling places. He plans to work with the School District to recruit 800 students to be poll workers. Nevada law allows those 16 and older to be poll workers.

Doesn’t the school district have a lot on the line in the election?

It does. The state teacher’s union is pushing a ballot initiative that would increase Nevada’s gaming tax on major casinos from 6.75 percent to 9.75 percent. The additional revenue — as much as $400 million a year — would be used to improve education and increase teacher salaries. The teachers must collect 58,628 signatures by May 20 to qualify the initiative for the November ballot.

Nevada’s powerful gaming interests, now waging a legal battle to keep the initiative off the ballot, will put up quite a fight if it goes before voters this fall, so the teachers will be looking for any advantage they can get. Not having to teach on Election Day sure won’t hurt turnout among the 28,000 teachers and support staff represented by the union.

What’s new at our local public hospital?

As usual at University Medical Center, there’s good and bad news. The good news is that the hospital recovered $345,769 last week from health insurer PacifiCare after a long dispute over claims.

And the bad news?

The county’s internal auditors recently told the hospital that it needs to refund more than $57,800 to Medicare following a review of UMC’s radiology department.

The audit found that technicians were taking X-rays without authorization from physicians. That’s a problem because Medicare rules require a physician’s order.

Most of the problems involved so-called “paired procedures,” when a doctor orders one scan but radiology technicians decide a second one is necessary.

County Auditor Jerry Carroll said technicians and physicians didn’t appear to be intentionally disregarding Medicare requirements. They were simply following UMC protocol that didn’t jibe with Medicare rules, he said.

The hospital now is reviewing other radiology procedures to see whether it needs to refund additional money. Physicians, meanwhile, have been instructed to order additional scans to prevent future problems.

Carroll said it is typical for hospitals to periodically find and correct such errors.

“If you are not paying back the government, you don’t have a good corporate compliance program,” he said.

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