In Ne­vada, Reid goes on at­tack over health­care

Crit­i­cism of the new law has been a ral­ly­ing point for his GOP Se­nate op­po­nent.

Los Angeles Times - - The Nation - Ashley Pow­ers re­port­ing from reno ashley.pow­ers@latimes.com

Fac­ing an irate elec­torate un­sold on the new health­care law, many Democrats have shied away from Pres­i­dent Obama’s sig­na­ture do­mes­tic achieve­ment on the cam­paign trail. Sen. Harry Reid has no such op­tion.

The Se­nate ma­jor­ity leader has been cred­ited with ush­er­ing the law through the frac­tious cham­ber, but also crit­i­cized for the deals that whipped up pub­lic ac­ri­mony and nearly de­railed its pas­sage, in­clud­ing what the GOP de­rided as the Louisiana Pur­chase and the Corn­husker Kick­back.

So as por­tions of the Pa­tient Pro­tec­tion and Af­ford­able Care Act took ef­fect last week, and the GOP re­vived calls to re­peal the law, Reid’s cam­paign be­gan a se­ries of health­care-re­lated attacks on his op­po­nent, Repub­li­can Shar­ron An­gle.

On Mon­day, Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Sec­re­tary Kath­leen Se­be­lius slammed An­gle’s op­po­si­tion to state law­mak­ers re­quir­ing that in­surance com­pa­nies cover, among other things, autism treat­ment and colon can­cer screen­ings.

“You don’t want in­surance com­pa­nies pick­ing and choos­ing who gets cov­er­age and who doesn’t,” Se­be­lius said at a fo­rum in Reno, where signs pro­claimed that Reid was “Stand­ing Up to Big In­surance.”

Reid’s ap­proach serves a dual pur­pose: to drive the de­bate on a thorny is­sue, since most Ne­vadans dis­like the health­care law, and to steer the Se­nate race away from the state’s tat­tered econ­omy and nation-lead­ing 14.4% job­less rate.

“It’s some­thing he can score points on, which he can’t on the econ­omy,” said David Damore, who teaches po­lit­i­cal sci­ence at the Uni­ver­sity of Ne­vada, Las Ve­gas. “Any­time he’s not talk­ing about jobs and fore­clo­sures, it’s good for him, even if he’s talk­ing about an un­pop­u­lar health­care law.”

Still, Reid’s move al­lows An­gle to la­bel him as out of touch with Ne­vada and re­mind vot­ers of his close ties to Obama, whose pop­u­lar­ity here has sunk.

“Shar­ron sides with Ne­vadans and strongly sup­ports re­peal­ing and re­plac­ing ‘Oba­macare,’ while Harry Reid has to­tally ig­nored Ne­vadans in or­der to please Pres­i­dent Obama,” said her spokesman, Jar­rod Agen.

Democrats na­tion­wide have strug­gled to pro­mote the health­care law, whose messy pas­sage and com­plex­ity frus­trated vot­ers and helped spur the small-govern­ment “tea party” move­ment.

In Ne­vada, health­care re­form has long been a po­ten­tial quag­mire for Reid. His ap­proval rat­ings were al­ready dis­mal, and lib­er­tar­ian-lean­ing vot­ers balked at the leg­is­la­tion’s vast reach. Lib­er­als were dis­mayed enough with the law’s lack of a“pub­lic op­tion” that for­mer Pres­i­dent Clin­ton ac­knowl­edged their dis­ap­point­ment when he cam­paigned for

‘It’s some­thing he can score points on, which he can’t on the econ­omy. Any­time he’s not talk­ing about jobs and fore­clo­sures, it’s good for him, even if he’s talk­ing about an un­pop­u­lar health­care law.’

— David Damore, pro­fes­sor, Uni­ver­sity of Ne­vada, Las Ve­gas

Reid in June.

“This health­care is not per­fect, but if we hadn’t passed this health­care bill, we’d never get a sys­tem we’re proud of,” Clin­ton said. “We need to build on the good that’s in this bill, not re­peal it.”

Last week, Democrats launched their ini­tial health­care vol­ley against An­gle, a tea party fa­vorite who is tied with Reid in most polls. In video from a 2009 rally, An­gle re­ferred to the Ne­vada Leg­is­la­ture’s pas­sage of a bill re­quir­ing in­surance com­pa­nies to cover treat­ment for autism and re­lated dis­or­ders.

“Take off the man­dates for cov­er­age in the state of Ne­vada and all over the United States. … You’re pay­ing for things you don’t even need. They just passed the lat­est one ... ev­ery­thing that they want to throw at us now is cov­ered un­der ‘autism,’ ” An­gle said, em­pha­siz­ing the word with air quotes.

Though Reid’s aides sug­gested An­gle was mock­ing autism’s va­lid­ity as a dis­or­der, her spokesman said she was merely crit­i­ciz­ing “costly un­funded govern­ment man­dates that drive up the cost of health in­surance and re­duce the level of care.” That dove­tails with An­gle’s phi­los­o­phy that govern­ment should have as lit­tle role as pos­si­ble in pri­vate in­dus­try.

Also last week, Reid aired a TV ad high­light­ing An­gle’s vote, as a state law­maker, against re­quir­ing in­sur­ers to cover colono­scopies if they were pro­vid­ing treat­ment for colon can­cer. “Colon can­cer kills, un­less you catch it early,” in­tones the an­nouncer, adding that An­gle op­poses “mak­ing in­surance com­pa­nies cover colon can­cer tests, mam­mo­grams or any­thing else.”

On Mon­day, Se­be­lius head­lined the Reno fo­rum, which in­cluded a breast can­cer sur­vivor and a pe­di­a­tri­cian who pounded An­gle’s free-mar­ket ap­proach as cal­lous. Russ Steele, 37, a Reno ac­coun­tant, told the group that be­fore Ne­vada passed its autism law, it had been dif­fi­cult to get treat­ment for his 5-year-old son, Bren­dan, who has trou­ble com­mu­ni­cat­ing ver­bally.

A long­time Demo­crat, Steele had been dis­ap­pointed that the health­care law didn’t in­clude a pub­lic op­tion, but found Reid’s op­po­nent an un­palat­able choice.

“I ques­tion why An­gle’s stick­ing up for the big in­surance com­pa­nies,” he said.

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