Dems amp up defense of health care reform

As Democrats gird themselves for House Republicans’ effort next week to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 – the health care reforms signed into law last March by President Barack Obama – some of the caucus’ most liberal members are staking out their own ground.

Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, today introduced the “Public Option Deficit Reduction Act,” which her office said would “establish a robust public option (with physician payment rates set at Medicare plus 5 percent) in the health insurance exchanges created by the health care reform legislation passed in the last Congress.”

This bill is similar to H.R. 5808, which Woolsey introduced last summer along with Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, and Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill.; that bill – with 129 cosponsors including all of the Bay Area’s members except Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton – never got a committee hearing. The Congressional Budget Office had estimated it would bring down the cost of coverage by providing lower cost competition to private insurers while saving the federal government $68 billion dollars in the first seven years, and even more afterwards.

Members of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform also cited a public option (see page 42) as a viable means to control health care costs, Woolsey noted.

“This is the perfect moment for the public option,” Woolsey said in her news release. “It builds on the health care reform legislation by lowering costs and it provides a great way to bring down the deficit. If Republicans really care about the deficit, they should sign on to this bill rather than try to dismantle the health care reform law, which would add billions to the budget deficit.”

Pete StarkMeanwhile, Stark issued a typically scathing memo today blasting new House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., for accusing the nonpartisan CBO of misrepresenting the cost of reforms already enacted last year.

“Why is Cantor lashing out and accusing CBO of falsifying their data? For the same reason that he refuses to wait for a CBO score before jamming a vote through. Cantor knows that CBO will show that their NoCare proposal busts the budget by adding over a trillion dollars to the deficit, and increases the number of uninsured by tens of millions,” Stark wrote. “Unfortunately, Cantor seems to be completely divorced from reality – telling reporters that he doesn’t believe that health reform actually cuts the deficit.”

“While many Republicans have argued with basic science in the climate change debate, Eric Cantor has become the first Republican to argue with basic arithmetic. As Cantor’s office finds reality frustratingly outside its grasp, it’s worth pointing out some other common misconceptions that they might need help with: Toilets swirl a different direction in the Southern hemisphere – NOT TRUE: http://bit.ly/toilet000; Elvis is really alive – NOT TRUE: http://bit.ly/elvis000; Shania Twain is Mark Twain’s great-granddaughter – NOT TRUE: http://bit.ly/shania000; French Fries originated in France – NOT TRUE: http://bit.ly/frenchfries000.”

UPDATE @ 5:10 P.M.: Woolsey’s new bill’s 46 original cosponsors include Stark; Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez; Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove; Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; and Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose.

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.