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Cervical cancer vaccine bill faces another vote

CARSON CITY — A bill requiring insurance companies and state medical programs to make a cervical cancer vaccine available to young women was amended Wednesday to exclude self-funded local government health plans.

Senate Bill 409, introduced by Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, faces a showdown in the Senate today.

“I have the votes today. I don’t know if I will have them tomorrow,” Titus said after the bill was amended.

The bill passed Friday on a 12-9 vote with all 10 Democrats and two Republicans in support. One of those two Republicans, Sen. Randolph Townsend, R-Reno, said he supported the bill in committee and will support the amended version today.

Titus said she does not know how the other Republican supporter from Friday’s vote, Sen. Mark Amodei, R-Carson City, will vote on the bill.

It would require health insurance companies to make the vaccine, called Gardasil, available to those ages 9 to 26.

Titus said the bill does not mandate that all eligible for the vaccine get it but makes it more affordable and accessible.

Funding for the vaccine is included in the budgets for Medicaid and Nevada Check-up, health plans for the working poor and the uninsured.

Nine of 11 Republicans voted against the bill in the Senate because of the mandate to insurance companies.

The bill was brought back for reconsideration on a party line vote Monday because of the concern about the financial effect on self-funded plans.

Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, applauded Titus’ intent, but asked if she would consider another amendment eliminating the insurance company mandate so the measure could pass unanimously. Mandates increase the cost of insurance premiums, she said.

“We all talk about, complain about, how high the rates are for insurance,” Cegavske said. “We have more than 40 mandates on insurance in our state, and we wonder why our premiums are high.”

But Titus said providing the vaccine to young women should save insurance companies money. It’s much less expensive to pay for the vaccine, which costs about $350, than it is to pay for complications from cervical cancer, she said. The state Public Employees’ Benefits Program covers the vaccine now, as do 90 percent of the insurance companies, Titus said.

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