Las Vegas Sun

January 31, 2015

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Focus on health care

Volunteer clinic shows what nation’s goal should be: Taking care of people

When Volunteers in Medicine of Southern Nevada opened its clinic last week, it came after a long struggle. The group had to raise operating expenses and work out a deal with Clark County to open at Paradise Park near Tropicana Avenue and Pecos Road.

Neighbors were worried about who would come to the free clinic and what they might do to the park. The Clark County Commission agreed to allow the group to use the facility providing that it limited its hours of operation and the number of patients to 6,000 this year. As well, the group must provide security and can only treat documented residents or citizens, and visits are by appointment.

As Marshall Allen reported in Tuesday’s Las Vegas Sun, the county provides the building nearly free and the Legislature provided money that went toward renovating the facility into a medical office. The rest of the expenses are being offset by donations. The clinic is staffed by volunteers, and patients are not charged for the services they receive.

This is a great start and a wonderful addition to Clark County. The Volunteers in Medicine clinic hopes to expand to other clinics in Southern Nevada and across the state. That is a welcome vision because of the great need. It is estimated that 350,000 people in Clark County lacked insurance in 2009 — roughly 18 percent of the population — and that is expected to grow because of the recession and the higher unemployment in Nevada.

One of the things we appreciate about Volunteers in Medicine’s vision is that it focuses on the basic issue — providing medical care to people who cannot afford it.

Amid all of the bickering, fearmongering and ideological posing in the health care debate in Washington, people seem to forget that there are millions of Americans without health insurance and millions more with insurance that doesn’t provide enough coverage to keep a family with a medical emergency from immense debt. Researchers have suggested that with the increased health care costs, there has been a rise in the number of people filing for bankruptcy due to medical bills.

As well, the uninsured add to the increased costs of health care. When people don’t receive regular care, their medical problems worsen, and by the time they are seen, the cost of treatment skyrockets. Taxpayers and people with private insurance end up paying the cost of medical care for the uninsured through nonprofit clinics, public hospitals and higher premiums.

Thankfully, there are people like the members of Volunteers in Medicine of Southern Nevada trying to provide answers. It’s time for the rest of the nation to move away from the hyperpartisan sniping in the health care debate and get back to finding ways to get people health care.

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