By Michael Sainato
Congressman Ruben Kihuen (D-NV) managed to win his first election to congress in 2016 against Republican incumbent Crescent Hardy after Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) endorsed him in a closely contested Democratic Primary against Bernie Sanders surrogate Lucy Flores and Emily’s List backed Susie Lee. Kihuen was a former staffer in Harry Reid’s office. Though Reid attempted to convey a sense of neutrality in the 2016 Democratic Presidential Primaries until after the Nevada Caucuses, he didn’t provide the other Democrats running against Kihuen the same luxury. Kihuen received just 39 percent of the vote in that primary race, making him vulnerable to a progressive challenger in the 2018 Democratic Primaries in a district that traditionally leans Democrat.
In May 2017 during a townhall, progressive activist Amy Vilela confronted Congressman Kihuen over his reluctance to support single payer Medicare for All. So far, a majority of Democrats in the House of Representatives are co-sponsoring a Medicare for All bill, with the tally at 115. Kihuen refused to join that majority, even after Vilela explained to him at the Town Hall her own experiences with the American healthcare system and how it failed her daughter.
All hospitals are required by law to treat patients who show up to the emergency room in need of care. But the quality and extent of that care is based on a patient’s ability to either pay for treatment out-of-pocket or whether they have health insurance to cover it. In 2015, Vilela’s 22 year-old daughter, Shalynne, went to the emergency room with symptoms of deep vein thrombosis, a blood clot in her leg, but she did not have health insurance and was pressured into being released from the hospital rather than complete a highly expensive MRI to properly diagnose her symptoms. The hospital completed an x-ray, told her to go see a specialist and released her with pain medication. After her release, she flew to Kansas where Shalynne’s blood clot broke off and she suffered a massive pulmonary embolism. She was rushed to an emergency room in Kansas, but the care she finally received there was too late.
“I had to do, what no parent should have to do, and that’s have your daughter die in your arms,” Vilela said in a June 2017 interview with the Real News Network. “There’s nothing you can do, and I remember crying out to God, to please take me instead. When I found out what had happened, and realized the magnitude, and it wasn’t just Shalynne, but there are other Americans that are losing their life, or they’re navigating a serious illness, without any means of paying for it, or they’re worrying about that, instead of worrying about getting better. I knew I couldn’t stand by. I could not remain silent. I had to speak up, and I had to fight, to ensure that this doesn’t continue on. And that’s how I got involved in fighting for Medicare for All.”
She added in her campaign announcement to challenge Congressman Ruben Kihuen (D-NV) in the 2018 Democratic Primaries, “we don’t have time to wait around for career politicians, their donors, or special interests to do the right thing. We need bold action now. We need representatives in Washington that understand the stakes of this fight and who will never stop advocating for the people.”