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Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak discusses measures to help the public with housing stability amid the COVID-19 public health crisis at the Grant Sawyer Building in Las Vegas, Sunday, March 29, 2020. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @rookie__rae

Gov. Steve Sisolak is refocusing a panel of experts originally tasked with a top-to-bottom review of the state’s health care system to instead tackle the state’s long-term response to the coronavirus pandemic.

In a letter to the Patient Protection Commission on Tuesday, Sisolak asked the commission to use their “collective experience and expertise” to aid the state’s ongoing response to the pandemic. He noted that the coronavirus pandemic has underscored many of the state’s health care challenges that necessitated the creation of the commission, one of Sisolak’s 2018 campaign promises that was established through legislation last year.

“We need your recommendations on how Nevada can build, strengthen, and sustain the health care system and public health infrastructure our state needs in these unprecedented times,” Sisolak wrote.

The commission’s members include an academic, two doctors, two hospital CEOs, one union health trust representative, one private insurance representative, one drug company executive, a regional behavioral health coordinator and two patient advocates. There are also three ex officio members of the commission — the director of the Department of Health and Human Services, the insurance commissioner and the executive director of the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange — that serve in an advisory capacity.

The letter outlines specific topics on which Sisolak now wants the commission to focus, including health care access and affordability for vulnerable populations affected by COVID-19; sustaining new health care options that have provided access to care during the pandemic; strengthening the state’s statutory public health and primary care structure; enhancing the state’s ability to assess the health needs of its population through data; and expanding the state’s health workforce capacity.

“While the current data indicates Nevada is making gradual progress in managing COVID-19, COVID-19 remains a serious health and economic threat,” Sisolak wrote. “We know new cases and outbreaks will continue and our health care system must be prepared to respond.”

Sisolak also asked the commission to focus its efforts on recommendations that could be implemented during the current fiscal climate, with state and local governments experiencing significant revenue shortfalls and uncertainty about the future availability of federal funding.

The commission is allowed to submit three bill draft requests based on its recommendations for consideration during the next legislative session. Those requests must be submitted by Sept. 1.

This story and all others about the Patient Protection Commission are edited by Managing Editor Elizabeth Thompson and/or Assistant Editor Michelle Rindels. Sara Cholhagian, the commission’s executive director, is in a relationship with Editor Jon Ralston.

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