Three NorCal House Dems vote for Upton bill

Reps. Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi and Ami Bera were among 39 House Democrats who joined with most Republicans to pass a controversial bill Friday that would let insurers keep selling policies which fall short of the new healthcare law’s standards and consumer protections.

H.R. 3350 by Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., would not only let people with insurance that doesn’t meet the new law’s standards keep it through 2014, but it would also let new customers buy such policies too. The House approved the bill 261-157, but the bill faces a tougher time in the Democrat-led Senate and President Obama has vowed to veto it.

Most Democrats say the Upton bill basically guts the new law, disrupting the risk pools that make individual insurance sold on the new health benefit exchanges affordable for most Americans.

A spokeswoman for McNerney, D-Stockton, didn’t reply to an e-mail and a phone call Friday.

Matthew Kravitz, a spokesman for Garamendi, D-Fairfield, said Obama and House members on both sides of the aisle “all agree that the fact that so many plans are being dropped is an issue of concern.”

“Congressman Garamendi has always said that every law, including the Affordable Care Act, can be improved,” Kravitz said. “Congressman Garamendi voted for the Democratic plan to fix this problem, and he also voted for the Republican plan. The Upton bill has flaws, but by bringing the issue to the Senate, Garamendi hopes the Senate will take up their own legislation and both chambers, in a bicameral bipartisan fashion, can hash out a compromise during a conference committee.”

Bera, D-Rancho Cordova, issued this statement:

“I voted for the Keep Your Plan Act today so that all Sacramento County families have the individual choice to keep their insurance if it is working for them.

“That being said, I encourage Californians to explore their options on California’s new health insurance marketplace, Covered California, where families are likely to find plans that offer better coverage, for less money. California’s website is working, and health plans in the marketplace offer more patient protections and assistance to help pay for insurance, which isn’t available under existing plans.

“The bipartisan passage of today’s bill, and the President’s new proposal to let Americans keep their current coverage through 2014, are important steps in the right direction. As a doctor and the former Chief Medical Officer of Sacramento County, I am committed to bringing down the cost of health care and will keep working to fix parts of the Affordable Care Act that aren’t working for the American people.”

All three Democrats hold what could be described as swing districts. The Cook Political Report, a renowned prognosticator of elections, rates McNerney’s 9th Congressional District and Garamendi’s 3rd Congressional District as “likely Democrat,” meaning they’re not considered competitive at this point but have the potential to become engaged. But Cook rates Bera’s 7th Congressional District as a toss-up in which either party has a good chance of winning.

Elizabeth Emken, one of three Republicans seeking to unseat Bera next year, issued a statement saying Bera is trying to mask his support of an unpopular law.

“Regardless of his vote today, Ami Bera has continually defended Obamacare and all the problems it has caused while voting to keep it the law of the land,” she said. “Bera’s votes have put over 1 million Californians in danger of losing their health care. He can claim he was ‘concerned’ all he wants, but his voting record tells the painful truth – Ami Bera approved of Obamacare, and now he is trying to distance himself from its disastrous effects.”

Health insurers are discontinuing individual-market policies that don’t meet the standards set forth in the nation’s new law. Those receiving such notices are being offered new policies by their insurers, but also can go to the Covered California website to shop around for the best deal and to determine whether they’re eligible for subsidies.

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.

  • Elwood

    Fear and loathing in NorCal.

  • Richard Woulfe

    I think Ami Bera wins this seat again easily, Republicans are divided big time. You’ve got a tea party candidate, this Emken lady, and Ose, a Republican many label a RINO. These three will beat each other up, whichever ones finishes in the top two will be badly damaged, I think. Democrats in this district are solidly behind Bera – who is considered a real comer in Congress – while Republicans are fractured, the party is running three strong candidates – candidates that are all over the place in their ideology. I think Bera wins this seat, REpublican’s are too disorginized to win this seat, no party unity whatsoever.

  • Elwood

    According to today’s CCTimes our beloved Congressman George Miller was for the bill until he was against it (a space of 2 hours). He must have heard from his master Nancy (General Custer) Pelosi.

  • Elwood
  • JohnW

    How about a guy doing his best to make health care available to people who don’t get taxpayer subsidized health care through an employer.

    And to people who have had to contend with a broken individual insurance market that competes on the basis of each insurer’s ability to purify its risk pool with denials of coverage and policy cancellations when people get sick?

    GOP alternative? Not since Nixon.

  • Elwood

    “doing his best”

    If this unbelievably f’d up fiasco is his best I shudder to think what his usual aloof, detached, indifferent performance might produce.

  • JohnW

    Okay, I set myself up with the “doing his best” line. Fact remains, Dems are working to help 47 million uninsured, and Repubs don’t give a rat’s you know what about them. Call me a Marxist, but I’m for the “D” team on this.

  • Elwood

    President Buckwheat says he sorry he misled us.

    Can anyone tell me the difference between misled and lied?

  • JohnW

    Just talked with one of my self-employed neighbors. She lost her former employer-provided insurance and was unable to buy insurance on her own after she was diagnosed with now-cured melanoma. She’s 63. Signed up for a policy through the Covered California exchange. Her cost? $160 per month Guess not everybody is unhappy!

  • Elwood

    I love these happy anecdotes. Six happy endings. Six million people screwed.

  • JohnW

    47 million uninsured is more than 6 million. We don’t know how many of the 6 million are adversely affected. Those are just anecdotes too, many of which have been debunked when reporters followed up to get the specifics from the people involved. The LA Times has done a good job on that.

    Nobody has good data. Some of those 6 million will get a better deal with new plans — because they were paying more due to health status, gender or age; or because they are eligible for subsidies. Many of those adversely affected were winners under the status quo and don’t fare as well under a new system where higher premiums based on health status and gender are no longer allowed, and where the premium spread for age has been reduced from 6 to 1 to 3 to 1.

    I’ve checked the California exchange web site. The premiums are pretty similar to what a decent employer plan would cost for the employer and employee share combined.

  • Richard Kaye

    “Live Shot” Garamendi is now undermining national health insurance. This is one the sharpest 180 degree turns in modern California politics. When Garamendi ran for Congress in 2009, he told everyone that he was 100% behind the national health insurance plan. He repeated over and over again that his innovative plan as California insurance commissioner in the early ’90s was a model for the Clinton Administration plan in 1993-94 and that he therefore was much more “experienced” than his opponents. He also pointed to his supposed “health care expertise” as a primary argument supporting his “The Proven Democrat” slogan. Look at this Garamendi health care speech on 7/1/09: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sMgDnc2fpE4 The very day that Garamendi was sworn into Congress in Nov. 2009, he voted for the Affordable Care Act with great dramatic fanfare.

    Now the reversal. Garamendi claims that he voted for the Republican plan to gut the Affordable Care Act on 11/15/13 because he expects it to be weakened by the Senate or vetoed by the president — the “I don’t like this bill and I’m against key provisions, but I voted for it anyway because I’m sure that it really won’t be enacted” argument is the last refuge of a political scoundrel. What a flip-flopper. I’d love to watch the Garamendi of 2009 hold a health care debate with the Garamendi of 2013 — it would reveal Garamendi’s fundamental hypocrisy. This man is the quintessential slimeball professional politician with no core values who does everything and anything required to advance his selfish political interests. “Live Shot” Garamendi deserves to be ousted from office by Democrats, Republicans and independents alike. If a Republican defeats him in 2014, Democrats would have a good candidate in Sen. Lois Wolk or Assemblymember Mariko Yamada to run against that Republican in 2016. The political career of the duplicitous Garamendi needs to come to a rapid end.