Las Vegas Sun

October 30, 2014

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Gibbons’ surprise cut criticized

Consumer health assistance office gets Assembly backing

The chief of the state’s consumer health assistance program in the governor’s office learned about a plan to abolish her office by watching Gov. Jim Gibbons’ State of the State address last month.

Valerie Rosalin said there was no warning until the address that the governor wanted to scrap the agency to save more than $400,000 a year.

Rosalin said the office, formed by the 1999 Legislature to help people navigate the health care system, has assisted 55,000 people and saved more than $30 million for consumers.

“No other agency in the state does what we do,” Rosalin told the Assembly Ways and Means Committee on Monday.

The nine-member staff reviews medical bills, helps people find free or reduced-price drugs and aids workers who are injured on the job.

“We have been successful in overturning medical denials,” she said.

Committee members made it clear the program would continue. Other agencies are unable to provide the services offered by consumer health, they said.

Assemblyman Joe Hardy, R-Las Vegas, a physician, said the agency has been “invaluable” and should continue.

Assemblyman Joseph Hogan, D-Las Vegas, said given the current economic situation, this is the worst possible time to eliminate an office that helps consumers.

“To eliminate this office would cost more in the long run,” said Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, who led the effort to create the office in 1999.

State Budget Director Andrew Clinger said that as the governor’s team looked at ways to address the state’s $2.4 billion budget shortfall, difficult decisions had to be made. The governor, Clinger said, focused on retaining the core services of government.

“If we had the funding, the governor would want to continue it,” Clinger said.

•••

The roofs of Southern Nevada could feature more solar panels in the future, if a legislator has his way.

Assemblyman David Bobzien, D-Reno, wants to give municipalities the right to offer low-interest loans to homeowners to purchase renewable energy devices. Homeowners would make payments on the loans with their property taxes.

Utilities have some questions about the proposed program, one of several renewable energy measures before the Legislature, but passage seems possible.

Sun reporter J. Patrick Coolican contributed to this story.

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