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July 31, 2014

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Las Vegan’s lost battle for insurance puts face on reform

In her brother’s name, former CNN anchor continues advocacy in town halls, Washington

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Tiffany Brown

Veronica De La Cruz talks about her late brother, Eric De La Cruz, during the Nevada State Democratic Party health care rally Monday in the UNLV student union. Eric De La Cruz died July 4 at age 31.

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 »

This isn’t how Veronica De La Cruz would have chosen to grieve for her dead brother.

Eric De La Cruz, who lived in Las Vegas, died July 4 because he could not get a lifesaving heart transplant after a nightmarish trek through health care bureaucracy — both private and public.

“I would rather be at home in bed with the covers pulled over my head,” she said in a Sun interview.

“But I can’t do that because I realize the debate is critical, and stories like Eric’s are going to resonate. And people need to realize what happened to Eric can happen to them,” she said.

Veronica De La Cruz now tours the country, advocating for health care reform. Monday, she appeared at a town-hall event with Sen. Harry Reid, the Democratic majority leader shepherding the reform effort through the Senate.

“I’m going to keep fighting until I do see change, and I’m going to keep working until we get the lies straightened out. It makes me so frustrated, so angry,” she said, referring to the myths about health care reform proposals, like the now-infamous “death panels.”

(For health care information, De La Cruz suggests going to factcheck.org.)

De La Cruz said she favors the principles put forward by President Barack Obama, who has said reform efforts should improve access and lower costs. But she has focused her advocacy on proposals to prevent health insurance companies from denying coverage to people with preexisting conditions — this happened to her brother — or dropping sick people from coverage. These proposals are the least controversial among the various health care bills.

De La Cruz, a former CNN anchor who is now with the TV Guide Network, said she views her public advocacy as a responsibility, a way of honoring her brother.

“It’s very uncomfortable for me, but every time I squirm or want to cry or run away, I think about my brother and look at the faces of people who need a voice,” she said.

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