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April 23, 2014

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Protesters decry GOP stance on health care reform

Democrats organize rally after U.S. Senate Finance Committee vote to omit public option from its bill

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Mona Shield Payne / Special to the Sun

Dick Collins marches with other protesters chanting, “We want reform,” as they approach the doors of the Nevada Republican party headquarters Tuesday during a protest rally organized by Nevada Democrats.

Health care rally

Sandra Hanson holds up a homemade bumper sticker while listening during a rally Tuesday outside the Nevada Republican headquarters. The health care reform rally was organized by Nevada Democrats. Launch slideshow »

Democrats Protest Amidst Health Care Debate

Volunteers with the Nevada State Democratic Party protested outside the state's Republican Party headquarters over health care reform.

Chanting “Republicans lie, Nevadans die,” about 50 people gathered outside the Nevada Republican Party’s Las Vegas headquarters Tuesday afternoon to protest what they called the party’s obstructionist stance on health care reform.

Angered by a U.S. Senate Finance Committee vote earlier in the day to omit a public option from its version of the health care reform bill, protesters rallied outside the headquarters for about 30 minutes.

Dr. Thomas Kinsora, a clinical neuropsychologist, delivered 220 bandages to the headquarters, which he said represent the 220 Nevadans who lose their health insurance each day.

“The time for small fixes and Band-Aids is over,” Kinsora said. “Americans want fundamental change in the way health insurance is administered.”

Kinsora said he became involved in the push for health care reform because he has seen firsthand how the rising cost and dwindling availability of coverage have impacted his patients.

“As a health care veteran, I have watched health care in this country decline over the last 15 years, primarily because fewer and fewer Americans are insured, and fewer and fewer American employees can afford health insurance.”

Inside the Republican Party Headquarters, only a secretary and a handful of volunteers were present.

They declined comment and directed media inquiries to former State Sen. Joe Heck, a Republican candidate for governor who spoke with the media via phone inside the party offices.

Heck, a physician, said accusations that the Republican Party opposes health care are unfair and untrue.

“It’s not that Republicans have been inactive,” Heck said. “Republicans have come to the table with other ideas to enact meaningful and comprehensive reform.”

Heck said Republican proposals, such as malpractice law reform, requiring members of Congress to participate in the public option and ensuring Medicare funding, have all been dismissed without any serious discussion.

“I think this is our critical message: It’s not that the Republican Party is saying no to health care reform. The Republican Party is saying we have ideas, too, and we want a voice at the table.”

Heck said health insurance reform is just one piece of a much bigger picture, and arguments that focus on reforming health insurance will not go far enough to truly reform the American health care industry.

He also expressed dismay over the tone of the rally, which he said does not further the debate.

“These types of activities divert attention from the true issues that need to be addressed in order to provide meaningful health care reform for Nevadans and for all Americans,” Heck said.

Outside, Kinsora agreed that it would be better to hold respectful debates about health care.

“If we could have an intelligent debate between citizens, it would be nice,” Kinsora said. “But we’ve hit an onslaught from this lunatic fringe that’s doing whatever it can to crush this movement.”

The rally’s other speaker was Marla Turner, a nurse whose own battle with a chronic illness bankrupted her family even though she had health insurance.

Turner said a functional health care system should never allow that to happen and called the Senate Finance Committee’s vote against a public option “completely unacceptable.”

“The industry that I devoted my life to ended up failing me when I needed it most,” she said.

While many of the protesters were affiliated with a union or the Nevada State Democratic Party, which organized the rally, the rally also drew a handful of teens who said they were there because they are worried.

Liliana Valderrama, a 17-year-old student at Western High School, said she was there to call for action because she has no health insurance.

“I think it should pass, because we need it,” she said. “A lot of kids in Nevada don’t have health insurance.”

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