Today’s Congressional odds and ends

Stark says Medicare Advantage worse than we knew: Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, chairman of the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, today released a Government Accountability Office report showing that private Medicare Advantage plans spent less than they projected in their 2005 bids on medical care for beneficiaries, which in turn earned them $1.14 billion in additional profits over what was expected. “This report confirms that the ‘deal’ offered to Medicare beneficiaries and American taxpayers by these private plans is even worse than we thought,” Stark said in his news release. “Private plans in Medicare spend even less on medical care than they report to CMS — to the tune of over a billion dollars in one year alone. These funds go directly into the pockets of big insurance companies — not toward medical care for beneficiaries.”

McNerney urges gas-pump checks, meets the masses: Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, sent a letter yesterday to California Attorney General Jerry Brown urging him to probe whether the state’s gas pumps are accurate, lest consumers get shortchanged; a similar probe in New Jersey, the results of which were announced last week, turned up massive discrepencies. Meanwhile, McNerney will be holding an hourlong teleconference town hall meeting — like that which Stark held a few weeks ago — tonight, inviting a few hundred constituents to listen in and ask questions. And he’ll have another “Congress at Your Corner” meet-and-greet from 11 a.m. to noon this Saturday, June 28, at the Lucky supermarket at 21001 San Ramon Valley Blvd. in San Ramon.

Lee nominates local programs for national awards: Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, today announced she has nominated the Berkeley Unified School District’s Network for a Healthy California Garden and Cooking Program, and People United for a Better Life in Oakland (PUEBLO), for the national Victory Against Hunger Awards, presented by the bipartisan Congressional Hunger Center. The annual awards — $1,000 grants which will be given this summer — go to programs that battle hunger and work to improve a community’s health through education and hands on experiences. “I am particularly happy to nominate these two groups for their fine work in addressing hunger in our communities,” Lee said in her news release.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.