Trump rule could test Laxalt’s commitment to sex assault victims

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A backlog of untested rape kits waiting to be processed. Photo credit: Attorney General of Nevada
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A backlog of untested rape kits waiting to be processed. Photo credit: Attorney General of Nevada

Nevada gubernatorial candidate Adam Laxalt is refusing to say whether he supports a Trump administration effort to expand the sale of short term insurance plans, referred to by Democrats as “junk plans.”

Laxalt, a Republican, has long been a proponent of eliminating the Affordable Care Act, pledging in his 2014 campaign to “join the fight against Obamacare.”  But the proposed rule change could put the attorney general who wants to be governor in a political pickle.

Laxalt frequently touts his efforts to reduce the state’s backlog of untested rape kits on behalf of sexual assault survivors.  But does he support protecting health insurance coverage for those same survivors?

Laxalt’s campaign spokesman Parker Briden didn’t respond to repeated requests this week. A spokesperson in Laxalt’s attorney general’s office also could not be reached.

The short-term plans supported by Trump are less expensive because they don’t cover the care required under the ACA, including coverage for pre-existing conditions, a popular provision of the Affordable Care Act.

The plans are currently available for three months.  The Trump administration’s proposal would allow the plans to last for a year and be renewed for up to three years.

Nevada law defines a pre-existing condition as “a condition, regardless of the cause of the condition, for which medical advice, diagnosis, care or treatment was recommended or received during the 6 months immediately preceding the effective date of the new coverage.”

A spokeswoman for the Silver State Insurance Exchange says “health problems resulting from sexual assault could be considered pre-existing conditions, dependent on what those health issues are, and the specific carrier’s benefit plan definition of a pre-existing condition.”

Opponents of the Trump rule expansion fear survivors of sexual assault and others with conditions deemed “pre-existing” could find comprehensive insurance unaffordable as a result of the change.

Sexual assault survivors suffer from a variety of conditions, physical and mental, that could be exempted by insurers from coverage.

In addition to access to gynecological services including testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy, women could be denied coverage for mental health treatment.

The National Comorbidity Survey published by the National Institutes of Health reports child sexual assault (reported by 13.5 percent of women in the U.S.) is associated with “the onset of 14 mood, anxiety, and substance use disorders” among adult survivors.   Access to mental health care is not mandated for short-term health insurance plans.

Senator Dean Heller, who is fighting a contentious re-election challenge from Democratic Congresswoman Jacky Rosen, signed on to a measure last week that is purported to protect coverage for pre-existing conditions. The legislation has been criticized, however, for giving insurance companies the right to sell policies that eliminate care.

Hearings begin next week in a lawsuit filed by 20 states attempting to eliminate the ACA, which the suit says is no longer feasible given the elimination of the individual mandate.  While Laxalt did not sign on to Texas vs. Azar, he is making no effort to defend Nevada’s insurance exchange against legal efforts to dismantle it.

Nearly 20 percent of women are victims of sexual assault during their lifetimes, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Dana Gentry
Reporter | Dana Gentry is a native Las Vegan and award-winning investigative journalist. She is a graduate of Bishop Gorman High School and holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Gentry began her career in broadcasting as an intern at Channel 8, KLAS-TV. She later became a reporter at Channel 8, working with Las Vegas TV news legends Bob Stoldal and the late Ned Day. Gentry left her reporting job in 1985 to focus on motherhood. She returned to TV news in 2001 to launch "Face to Face with Jon Ralston" and the weekly business programs In Business Las Vegas and Vegas Inc, which she co-anchored with Jeff Gillan. Dana is the mother of four adult children, three cats, three dogs and a cockatoo.

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