Rep. Ruben Kihuen, D-Nev. addresses a group during Immigrant Heritage Month celebration at the Asian Culture Alliance/Center on Saturday, June 10, 2017. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

The Democratic members of Nevada’s congressional delegation have signed onto federal legislation introduced today that would allow people to buy into their state’s Medicaid program, just months after a similar proposal passed the Legislature before it was vetoed by the governor.

The State Public Option Act, which Reps. Ruben Kihuen, Jacky Rosen and Dina Titus and Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto have signed onto as original co-sponsors, would give states the option to allow residents to purchase health insurance coverage through the state’s Medicaid program on the exchange. Assemblyman Mike Sprinkle, a Democrat from northern Nevada, garnered significant national attention when his bill to allow Nevadans to buy into a Medicaid-like system of health insurance passed the Legislature earlier this year.

Under the federal legislation sponsored by Democratic Rep. Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico and Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii, states could charge premiums, copays and deductibles for the plans based on existing standards in the Affordable Care Act, and residents would be able to use the federal tax credits they currently qualify for to help cover the costs of premiums. States would not be allowed to charge premiums higher than 9.5 percent of a family’s income, and plans would be required to cover the essential health benefits required under the ACA.

“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to continue working to find ways to improve Nevada’s health-care system and ensure that all Nevadans have access to quality and affordable health-care coverage,” Kihuen said.

Rosen said in a statement that a Medicaid buy-in program would allow all families access to reliable health insurance and create competition in the health-care marketplace.

“Giving individuals a public health insurance buy-in option is one of the best ways we can improve our health care system for all Nevadans, no matter your zip code,” Rosen said.

Titus said in a statement that the legislation, along with opening the federal Medicare system to all Americans and reducing prescription drug costs, will help provide Nevadans with access to quality health care. Titus is the only Democratic member of Nevada’s congressional delegation who has voiced support for “Medicare for All” legislation.

“While Republicans continue to disrupt the health care sector by manufacturing chaos and rattling insurance markets, this legislation serves as one of many options to provide Nevadans with affordable and accessible health care options,” Titus said.

Cortez Masto said the legislation will “further expand health care access” by giving Nevadan more “low-cost, high-quality” options when it comes to choosing health insurance plans.

The original version of Sprinkle’s bill would have allowed anyone to buy into the state’s Medicaid program, identical to the federal legislation, though with different requirements for establishing premiums. The legislation was later amended to instead authorize the state’s director of Health and Human Services to enter into contracts with private insurers to create a “Nevada Care Plan,” with benefits similar to Medicaid insurance.

The bill passed the Legislature on a party-line vote in both houses and was ultimately vetoed by Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican, who applauded Sprinkle for his “creativity” but said the legislation raised too many questions and needed further study. Sandoval was the first Republican governor to expand the state’s Medicaid program under the ACA and has been a strong advocate over the last few months for preserving funding for the program.

“Moving too soon, without factual foundation or adequate understanding of the possible consequences, could introduce more uncertainty to an already fragile health-care market, and ultimately affect patient health care,” Sandoval wrote in his veto message.

Sprinkle said in a statement that he is “incredibly proud” to see Nevada Democrats pursuing Medicaid buy-in legislation in Congress.

“While I am disappointed that ‘Sprinklecare’ did not become law this past session, our effort in Nevada was a reminder that states are incubators for innovative and forward-thinking policy ideas that can improve people’s lives,” Sprinkle said.

10-25-17 at 7:06 a.m.: This story has been updated to include a statement from Rep. Jacky Rosen.

10-25 at 8:26 a.m.: This story has been updated to include the fact that Rep. Dina Titus is also co-sponsoring the legislation.

10-25- at 9:01 a.m. This story has been updated to include the fact that Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto is also co-sponsoring the legislation.

INDY FAST FACTS Mike Sprinkle Job: Assemblyman, District 30 Party: Democrat In current office: 2012-present *Assembly majority whip since 2017 Birthdate: September 12, 1968 Education: Loyola Marymount University (B.A.) Other public offices held: None Top donations: $411,554 (8/27/12-6/5/18) Top donors: Assembly Democratic Caucus $14,400 Citizens for Justice Trust $13,750 Realtors PAC $12,000 MGM Resorts International $12,057 NSEA $10,000
INDY FAST FACTS Dina Titus Job: Member of the U.S. House of Representatives Nevada’s 1st Congressional District Party: Democrat In current office: 2013-present Birthdate: May 23, 1950 Education: College of William and Mary (B.A.) University of Georgia (M.A.) Florida State University, Tallahassee (Ph.D.) Other public offices held: Member of the U.S. House of Representatives Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District (2009-2010) State Senator, District 7 (1989-2008) Total donations: $8,266,318 (4/1/08-6/30/18) Top donors:  MGM Resorts International $136,060 University of Nevada $62,859 Carpenters & Joiners Union $60,000 Rocky Research $58,300 Painters & Allied Trades Union $57,000 Last Report: 5/23/18 Credit: Center for Responsive Politics
INDY FAST FACTS Jacky Rosen Job: Member of the U.S. House of Representatives Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District Party: Democrat In current office: 2017-present Birthdate: August 2, 1957 Education: University of Minnesota, Twin Cities (B.A.) Other public offices held: None Total donations: $9,013,380 (1/1/16-5/23/18) Top donors: EMILY's List $178,768 League of Conservation Voters $80,270 DE Shaw & Co $69,500 University of Nevada $40,038 Omni New York $32,400 Last Report: 6/11/18 Credit: Center for Responsive Politics
INDY FAST FACTS Ruben Kihuen Job: Member of the U.S. House of Representatives Nevada’s 4th Congressional District Party: Democrat In current office: 2017-present Birhdate: April 25, 1980 Education: University of Nevada, Las Vegas (B.A.) Other public offices held: State Senator, District 10 (2010-2016) State Assemblyman, District 11 (2007-2010) Total donations: $3,566,274 (7/1/11-6/30/18) Top donors: Naqvi Injury Law $10,800 Border Health $10,000 Jobs, Opportunities & Education PAC $10,000 Tpp Export America $10,000 UNITE HERE $10,000 Last Report: 12/31/2017 Credit:  Center for Responsive Politics
INDY FAST FACTS Catherine Cortez Masto Job: U.S. Senator Party: Democrat In current office: 2017-present Birthdate: March 29, 1964 Education: University of Nevada, Reno (B.A.) Gonzaga University (J.D.) Other public offices held: Nevada State Attorney General (2007-2015) Total donations: $21,304,624 (1/06/11 - 3/31/18) Top donors: EMILY's List $565,735 League of Conservation Voters $401,508 J Street $185,558 University of California $77,798 University of Nevada $57,754 Last Report: 12/31/2017 Credit: Center for Responsive Politics
INDY FAST FACTS Brian Sandoval Job: Nevada Governor Party: Republican In current office: 2011-present Birthdate: August 5, 1963 Education: University of Nevada, Reno (B.A.) Ohio State University (J.D.) Other public offices held: U.S. District Court Judge (2005-2009) Nevada State Attorney General (2003-2005) Nevada Gaming Commission Chair (1999-2001) Nevada Gaming Commission Member (1998-2001) State Assemblyman, District 25 (1994-1998) Total donations: $5,035,808 (1/7/11 - 7/5/17) Top donors: Caesars Entertainment $245,000 Station Casinos $158,072 MGM Resorts International $160,000 Wynn Resorts $80,000 Marnell Properties LLC $70,000

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