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.

  • John W

    Should be good theatrics on both sides. So far, Repubs have (a) exempted health care from pay-go, because CBO shows repeal would increase the 10-year deficit outlook; (b) indicated health care repeal will be a straight up or down vote, not allowing Dems to introduce an amendment requiring all House members to disclose whether they accept health care from the federal employee plan and (c) said in the Pledge to America that they would provide protection on pre-existing conditions — without saying how, and even though some of their members are saying it would be unconstitutional to force private insurers to accept all comers. The latter would be interesting, since the reasoning presumably would apply to employer-provided health insurance as well.

  • Elwood

    “completely divorced from reality”

    Best description of Pete Stark I’ve ever seen.

    In his own words.

  • RR, Uninvited Columnist

    This bill is all about 2012, staking out talking points.

  • Ralph Hoffmann

    Tomorrow in the House, for the first time in history, the entire US Constitution will be read. No doubt the GOP will point out it’s a violation of rights to force anyone to buy health insurance. I don’t think it’s unconstitutional to force private insurers to accept all comers.
    Whirlpools DO swirl in the opposite direction in the Southern Hemisphere.

  • RR, Uninvited Columnist

    What’s it all about, Ralphie?

  • Given that the Democrats were unable to really get their message out before, it is hard to believe that they will be able to do so now. Between fractured messaging and still making comments about wanting to work with the Republicans, they are not sending a strong enough message to the public regarding the threat to health care that repeal represents.

  • John W

    Re #6

    I received an e-mail today from “Organizing for America,” Obama’s volunteer political action group, specifically on this topic. They were seeking contributions to wage a major campaign to target Republican House members who vote for repeal (that will be all of them, I presume) and to make sure their constituents know the consequences. A major theme is that every single one of these House members has the option of guaranteed access to health insurance coverage but want to deny that same guaranteed availability to tens of millions who don’t get it through an employer. These House members don’t have to worry about being denied coverage or having their coverage be dropped when they get sick.

  • Darlene Ryno

    I read an article today in the Contra Costa Times regarding the Affordable Care Act. I am interested in reading more regarding ensuring recent college graduates remain on their parents’ health insurance up to age 26. I noticed at the White House website, this portion of the act is carefully worded, “Because of the Affordable Care Act, … Young adults who do not have insurance through their employers may now be able to remain on their parents’ plan up to their 26th birthday”. I have read employers are required to offer health care coverage when they have 50 or more employees. I have also read they are required if they have 11 or more full-time employees. It seems like the law is written that most companies a recent graduate would gravitate to are companies that must offer insurance (not quality insurance, just insurance). So a recent grad who takes a part-time job while looking for full-time employment in this depressed economy would forfeit their parents high quality insurance (approx value by COBRA as $800+) for very low quality insurance they must pay for out of pocket if they work part-time. Of course, the recent graduate that takes a year off to travel the world or volunteer (as the example of Adrienne Lowe of Georgia – http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/10/19/adrienne-explains-how-college-students-are-benefiting-affordable-care-act) on their “parents’ dime” would continue to receive quality health care. The poor student paying off student loans that has to work part-time to pay them off, must now pay to receive poor quality health coverage and spend on their spare time looking for full-time employment. Doesn’t this provision in the law encourage unemployment for those that can afford it? Doesn’t it seem more like a hand-out to the rich? I would like to understand more regarding this provision … please.