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September 2, 2014

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Harry Reid: Reform a ‘moral issue’ with financial benefits

At private event, Reid rallies supporters around proposed health care changes

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Tiffany Brown

Sen. Harry Reid speaks at the Nevada State Democratic Party health care rally in the UNLV student union in Las Vegas on Monday night, Aug. 31, 2009.

Health care rally

Sen. Harry Reid receives a medical scrub shirt signed by SEIU members at the close of a Nevada State Democratic Party health care rally in the UNLV student union in Las Vegas on Monday night, Aug. 31, 2009. Launch slideshow »

It had a pastor as its emcee and a list of speakers to talk about experiences losing loved ones or life’s savings to what organizers called a broken health care system.

Before taking the stage as the keynote speaker at a pro-health care reform rally Monday night at UNLV, Sen. Harry Reid had made his message clear, and he tried to drive it home with the first words out of his mouth.

“Health care is a moral issue,” Reid said.

The Rev. Robert Fowler of Victory Missionary Baptist Church, who conducted the rally, made a similar argument.

“Our country will not be judged by how well it does for the strong,” Fowler said. “Our country will be judged by how well it does for the weak.”

Backed by testimonials from nurses, business owners, patients fighting illness and family members of those who lost winnable health battles, Reid defended proposed health care reform legislation, calling it not only a moral imperative, but also a fiscal one.

“We pay for our nation’s broken health care system every day,” Reid said. “Every day, we pay for it. The sooner we fix it, the sooner we will all benefit from increased access and lower costs. It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s the economically smart thing to do.”

Reid called on those who attended the private rally in UNLV’s Student Union to share their opinions with friends, family members and anyone else who would listen.

Reid and his supporters preached the virtues of the proposed reform: eliminating insurance denials based on a pre-existing condition, lowering co-pays, requiring insurance companies to cover the full cost of preventative care, cracking down on waste and making it possible to keep health insurance while changing jobs.

Reid also went on the defensive, attempting to put to rest some of the concerns raised by opponents of the proposed legislation, which includes a public option that would provide health insurance for an estimated 47 million uninsured Americans.

One such group of opponents held a rally earlier in the day in Las Vegas, calling the proposed legislation the prime example of runaway government spending and calling for Reid’s defeat in 2010 because of his support for the proposal.

Specifically, Reid dismissed accusations that the legislation would create “death panels” to inform people when they won’t be covered, or that it would provide insurance for illegal immigrants, or make abortions more readily available – all of which he called falsehoods circulated by insurance and drug companies opposed to the legislation.

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A handful of protesters wait at the bottom of the stairs as attendees of the Nevada State Democratic Party health care rally exit the UNLV student union in Las Vegas on Monday night, Aug. 31, 2009.

During the rally, a small group of protesters gathered on the first floor of the building. One of them, Las Vegas resident Dave Fair, said he opposes government-run health care based on his own experience.

Fair, a wounded combat veteran, said he waited four years for surgery through Veterans Affairs before simply giving up. After that experience, he said he doesn’t believe the federal government is capable of operating health care.

“Government health care, as evidenced by the VA, Medicare and Medicaid, is a financial and health care disaster,” Fair said. “It is rationed care. There is no other way you can handle infinite demand. When the cost is zero, demand will be limitless.”

Fair also accused Reid of losing touch with Nevadans.

“Harry has a $25 million war chest, and he didn’t get it from Nevada,” Fair said. “Harry has become a creature of special interests.”

Inside the rally, however, Reid basked in the praise of supporters who thanked him for his efforts and cheered him on.

Some of the most passionate remarks came from Veronica De La Cruz, a former CNN anchor who lost her younger brother, Las Vegas resident Eric De La Cruz, to a heart problem earlier this year.

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Veronica De La Cruz becomes emotional while talking about her brother who died this past summer, with Rev. Robert Fowler, right, during the Nevada State Democratic Party health care rally in the UNLV student union in Las Vegas on Monday night, Aug. 31, 2009.

Veronica De La Cruz said her brother could have been saved by a timely heart transplant, but was denied private insurance and only secured the necessary Medicare insurance after five years of applications, appeals, and intervention from Reid and others.

By then, however, she said it was too late. Eric De La Cruz passed away July 4.

“Eric didn’t die because of a lack of knowledge,” she said. “He didn’t die because of a limit to our technology. He died because he could not get coverage from an industry that recorded $1.5 billion in profits last year among its top five companies.”

Reid concluded the rally with similarly harsh words for insurance companies and promised that reform is coming.

“This is not a battle between the haves and the have-nots,” Reid said. “The insurance scam that we have in America affects every one of us, and we’re going to change it.”

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