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Reactions to the Affordable Care Act repeal vote

Here’s what some Northern California voices had to say about today’s symbolic, 244-185 House vote to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

From Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove:

“I should be saying today that the House of Representatives voted for a good bipartisan jobs bill to get Americans back to work … but I can’t. The Republican leadership in Congress would rather waste time on meaningless theater than do something about jobs. Yet again, they scheduled a vote to allow 17 million children with pre-existing conditions to once again be denied coverage and to raise prescription drug costs for more than five million seniors.”

From Colusa County Supervisor Kim Vann, Garamendi’s Republican challenger:

“By voting to protect the health care law’s $600 billion tax on American families and small businesses, John Garamendi has proven once again where his priorities lie—and they’re not with the people of California’s new 3rd district. John Garamendi has reaffirmed his support for a law that threatens seniors’ access to care by cutting over $500 billion from Medicare and empowering an unelected and unaccountable board of bureaucrats to make decisions regarding seniors’ health care.

“As small businesses continue to be burdened with new regulations and as health care costs continue to rise, it’s clear that John Garamendi’s health care overhaul isn’t working—and it’s even more obvious that the radical ‘single payer’ Canadian-style government-run system, which John Garamendi is fighting for, is completely out-of-touch with what Californians need. I’ll fight not only to repeal John Garamendi’s healthcare overhaul, but to also implement common sense reforms that increase access to quality care, allow Americans to keep the insurance they like, and protect Americans with pre-existing conditions, while lowering costs and ensuring that patients and their doctors, not government bureaucrats, remain in control of their health care decisions.”

Lots more from Bay Area House Democrats, after the jump…
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Posted on Wednesday, July 11th, 2012
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Lee, George Miller, healthcare reform, John Garamendi, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, U.S. House | 5 Comments »

California state officials speak on SCOTUS ruling

California’s foremost elected officials are speaking out about the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.

From Gov. Jerry Brown:

“Today’s dramatic Supreme Court ruling removes the last roadblock to fulfilling President Obama’s historic plan to bring health care to millions of uninsured citizens.”

From Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom:

“There is a healthcare crisis in this country, a crisis with profound implications for each citizen in every city and county in America. Today’s United States Supreme Court decision, which upheld the individual insurance requirement, is just a start. But the decision allowing states to opt-out of Medicaid expansion still leaves millions of Americans vulnerable.

“We can — and must – act now to do more to offer healthcare access to all. We do not have time to stand on the sidelines. There is a crisis but there is also a solution.

“Americans know it is much less expensive to keep people healthy than it is to treat their sickness. This is particularly true when much of the treatment for uninsured Americans is provided in costly emergency rooms. Without a universal healthcare plan, our emergency rooms will continue to bear the brunt of this crisis and citizens will pay the price with higher taxes, more expensive premiums, hidden costs and increased fees.

“While serving as mayor of San Francisco, I saw first hand the impact of the healthcare crisis on the insured, uninsured, businesses, emergency rooms and municipal coffers.
We decided to address this crisis head-on and launched the country’s first local universal health care program, Healthy San Francisco. It is blueprint that can be replicated by cities and counties across the nation. A public plan can work. San Francisco is proving it.

“Since being implemented, more than 80 percent of uninsured San Franciscans have received medical coverage. Healthy San Francisco is not health insurance, instead it provides access to affordable basic and ongoing health care services for the uninsured, regardless of immigration status, employment status, or pre-existing medical conditions.

“We must not wait for the federal government to take the lead in the wake of the today’s Supreme Court decision. Cities and counties across the nation, such as Dallas, Indianapolis, and Miami, have already taken steps to establish healthcare service access programs. California must move forward with innovative programs, like Healthy San Francisco, that provide access to healthcare and not simply access to healthcare insurance.”

From Attorney General Kamala Harris:

“Today’s decision is a historic victory for Californians, for the President, and for the country. The Affordable Care Act repairs a healthcare system badly in need of reform and ensures that every American has access to affordable health care. We never doubted the constitutionality of this law, and it is already making a difference in the lives of millions of Californians.”

More, after the jump…
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Posted on Thursday, June 28th, 2012
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg, Dave Jones, Gavin Newsom, Gov. Jerry Brown, healthcare reform, Jerry Brown, John Perez, Kamala Harris | 10 Comments »

McNerney, Garamendi & foes on SCOTUS ruling

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act ensures the health care reform law will be a top issue in this November’s battles for control of the House. In and near the Bay Area, the candidates have come out swinging today.

From Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, who’s seeking re-election in the newly drawn 9th Congressional District:

Jerry McNerney“When I am with people, working in our region, I hear how having access to affordable health care is imperative to our families. I have been unemployed and understand what it’s like to worry about providing for your family and had to struggle to find health coverage.

“The health care reform we passed is far from perfect and needs to be improved upon, but it is a big step in the right direction. Folks who are uninsured will now have some peace of mind, knowing that they will have health care. In our area, where unemployment has been much higher than the rest of the country, and where people need access to affordable health care, this is a vital element to our economic recovery.”

And from McNerney’s opponent this November, Republican candidate Ricky Gill of Lodi:

Ricky Gill “Jerry McNerney promised that his health care plan would reduce health care costs, but today we learned it is simply a massive tax increase that is already contributing to skyrocketing health care premiums for middle class families. Jerry McNerney stands for the status quo, but I am committed to moving responsibly towards bipartisan, comprehensive health care reform that increases patient choice, reduces costs, and protects coverage for seniors, young people and those with pre-existing health conditions.”

From Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, who’s seeking re-election in the newly drawn 3rd Congressional District:

John Garamendi “When people fall ill, we should help them get better. Most of us have experienced hard times. Many of us have gone without health coverage. When you lay all the heated rhetoric and legalese aside, the health care debate is really about what we’re going to do when people get sick or injured. In America, we should take care of each other. It is irresponsible to force millions of Americans to delay treatment because they can’t afford it, to live one broken leg or one chronic illness away from financial calamity.

“Today a 5-4 majority in the Supreme Court made the right decision. President Obama and Democrats in Congress did the right thing. We developed a plan that extended health coverage to most Americans. We fulfilled our moral obligation to seniors, to children, and to hardworking Americans. The Supreme Court sided with our authority to improve health care for all Americans.

“The health care law establishes a powerful Patient’s Bill of Rights. No longer will Americans with a pre-existing condition be denied health coverage. No longer will women be charged more for coverage. The health law will finally close the prescription drug donut hole, so seniors can afford their medication. The benefits of the Affordable Care Act have already started. 32.5 million Seniors have already received free preventative services. Three million additional young adults now have health coverage because of the law. Small businesses can take advantage of tax credits so they can provide insurance for their employees. Starting in 2014, 30 million more Americans will be able to afford access to health care.

“Jesus taught us, ‘Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ All the world’s great religions urge us to be compassionate and to help the sick. All good people recoil at the sight of needless suffering and cruelty.

“We all deserve the freedom from want and the freedom from fear. While I hope to eventually see Medicare for All in America, the Affordable Care Act is a vast improvement over the dark days when we allowed the insurance companies to run roughshod over our health.”

And from Garamendi’s opponent this November, Republican candidate and Colusa County Supervisor Kim Vann:

Kim Vann “Today’s Supreme Court ruling underscores the urgency with which Obamacare should be repealed and replaced with solutions that do not tax and cripple our economy. Rather than providing a lasting solution to the challenges facing our health care system, the health care law places a $600 billion tax on American families and businesses, while cutting over $500 billion from Medicare, empowering an unelected and unaccountable board of bureaucrats to make decisions regarding seniors’ health care, and imposing burdensome and costly regulations on our small businesses. It’s clear these solutions aren’t working. We must work for real reforms that lower costs and increase access to quality care, while ensuring that patients and their doctors—not government bureaucrats—remain in control of their healthcare decisions.

“My opponent, Congressman John Garamendi, has already voted for a more radical government health care overhaul than Obamacare. He supports the complete government takeover of health care—a ‘single payer’ government-run system. This radical position is not only out of step with most Republicans and Democrats—it’s out of touch with reality.”

Posted on Thursday, June 28th, 2012
Under: 2012 Congressional Election, healthcare reform, Jerry McNerney, John Garamendi, U.S. House | 1 Comment »

Reactions to the SCOTUS health care reform ruling

Your lawmakers are sounding off on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision upholding the Affordable Care Act as constitutional.

From U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.:

Barbara Boxer “The Supreme Court’s ruling is a victory for America’s families, who deserve affordable health care.
“The decision is great news for the millions of Californians who have already seen the benefits of this law – including the six million who now have access to free preventive health services, 355,000 young adults who now have coverage on their parents’ health plans and 320,000 seniors who have received help in paying for their prescription drugs.
“Now Americans will have the certainty of knowing they won’t be denied coverage because of a preexisting condition. Women won’t be charged a higher premium because of their gender. And families struggling with serious illnesses will not face lifetime limits on coverage.
“We will continue to fight Republican efforts to repeal these important health benefits while we work to make sure every American has access to quality, affordable health care.”

From U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah:

Orrin Hatch“The American people know that this law violates our deepest constitutional principles of limited government, despite the Supreme Court’s ruling today. President Obama’s $2.6 trillion health spending law is an unprecedented power grab by this White House that will increase health care costs, add to our skyrocketing national debt, and put Washington bureaucrats in between patients and their doctors. This ruling doesn’t change the fact that a majority of the people of Utah and across America want this law repealed. The American people will have the last word at the ballot box this November. But let me be absolutely clear, I will continue the fight to repeal this assault on individual liberty and limited government.”

From U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.:

Dianne Feinstein “This is an historic day. The Supreme Court today upheld the health care reform law passed by Congress in 2010, meaning Californians can be confident that access to affordable health insurance is finally a reality.

“I believe the health care reform law—including the individual mandate and the insurance exchanges designed to create large purchasing pools to make coverage more affordable—is critical to reducing the number of Americans who go without health insurance. The state exchanges will be up and running in 2014, and I am gratified they will have an opportunity to help Californians and drive down soaring health care costs.

“Because of today’s decision, California will receive an estimated $14.5 billion in federal funds designated to increase insurance coverage—including an estimated $5.5 billion annually to help low and middle-income residents purchase insurance in the exchanges and an estimated $9 billion a year to insure newly eligible Medi-Cal beneficiaries. **

“Many positive benefits of the law have already gone into effect including provisions that allow children to stay on their parent’s health insurance plan until age 26, prohibit insurance companies from denying children health insurance based on a pre-existing condition and prohibit insurance companies from canceling coverage because of an illness such as breast cancer. Millions of Americans will continue to benefit from these insurance reforms.

“I realize that passage of health care reform was extremely controversial. But we cannot forget that insuring fellow Americans and driving down the exploding cost of health care spending in this country is a national emergency. Even with this favorable decision from the court, our work reforming the insurance market and expanding access to health care continues.”

From House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio:

John Boehner “The president’s health care law is hurting our economy by driving up health costs and making it harder for small businesses to hire. Today’s ruling underscores the urgency of repealing this harmful law in its entirety. What Americans want is a common-sense, step-by-step approach to health care reform that will protect Americans’ access to the care they need, from the doctor they choose, at a lower cost. Republicans stand ready to work with a president who will listen to the people and will not repeat the mistakes that gave our country ObamaCare.”

From House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco:

Nancy Pelosi “This decision is a victory for the American people. With this ruling, Americans will benefit from critical patient protections, lower costs for the middle class, more coverage for families, and greater accountability for the insurance industry.

“The Affordable Care Act is already paying dividends for millions of Americans – with more to come. Children can no longer be denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions. Seniors are paying less for prescription drugs. Students and young adults can stay on their parents’ plans. Being a woman is no longer a pre-existing medical condition.”

“In passing health reform, we made history for our nation and progress for the American people. We completed the unfinished business of our society and strengthened the character of our country. We ensured health care would be a right for all, not a privilege for the few. Today, the Supreme Court affirmed our progress and protected that right, securing a future of health and economic security for the middle class and for every American.”

More, after the jump…
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Posted on Thursday, June 28th, 2012
Under: Anna Eshoo, Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, Dianne Feinstein, George Miller, healthcare reform, Jackie Speier, John Boehner, Lynn Woolsey, Mike Honda, Mike Thompson, Nancy Pelosi, Pete Stark, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, Zoe Lofgren | 2 Comments »

Local Dems running hard with student-loan issue

Democrats are running hard with the student-loan issue, including some efforts here in the Bay Area.

The interest rate on need-based student loans will double to 6.8 percent July 1 unless a law is passed. Both sides of the aisle appear to favor freezing the interest rate, yet each side is using the question of how to pay for it against the other as a political issue.

The House last week passed Republicans’ HR 4628 to maintain the rate at 3.4 percent for another year, paid for by eliminating the Prevention and Public Health Fund created by the Affordable Care Act health care reform law. Democrats say the GOP has set up a false dilemma by cutting flu vaccines, cancer and heart disease screenings and other services for children and families.

The White House has threatened a veto, but the bill isn’t expected to get past the Democrat-controlled Senate, anyway. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has introduced S.2343 to pay for freezing the interest rate by making it harder for owners of so-called S corporations to avoid paying Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes on some of their earnings.

The Senate might consider Reid’s bill Monday, so politicians are hitting the streets and phones to drum up support.

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, will be joined by UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, Mills College President Alecia DeCoudreaux, Holy Names University President William Hynes, and Cal State East Bay President Leroy Morishita for a news conference tomorrow morning at Cal’s Haas Pavilion.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, will address this and other issues during a conference call tomorrow with reporters.

And Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, will attend a rally Thursday morning at San Jose State University with local students who’ll discuss how the interest-rate increase would affect them. An estimated 7.4 million students nationwide, including more than 570,000 in California, would pay an average of $1,000 more over the life of their loans.

UPDATE @ 4:25 P.M. WEDNESDAY: Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, was banging the drum today at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, while Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, did so at Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park.

Posted on Tuesday, May 1st, 2012
Under: Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, education, Harry Reid, healthcare reform, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, Zoe Lofgren | 3 Comments »

$122.3 mil in grants to California health centers

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services today announced almost $122.3 million in grants awarded to California community health centers – including about $24.9 million in the greater Bay Area – under the Affordable Care Act health care reform law.

Grantees estimate these awards will help them serve approximately 166,504 new patients. But it’s also a potent crowd-pleaser in a presidential campaign year.

“President Obama’s health care law is making community health centers in California stronger,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a news release. “For many Americans, community health centers are the major source of care that ranges from prevention to treatment of chronic diseases. This investment will expand our ability to provide high-quality care to millions of people while supporting good paying jobs in communities across the country.”

Funding totaling more than $728 million across the nation will support renovation and construction projects, boosting health centers’ patient capacity and creating jobs. The Affordable Care Act provides $9.5 billion to expand services over five years and $1.5 billion to support major construction and renovation projects at community health centers. A new report released today shows the law already has supported construction or renovation of 190 health center sites and creation of 67 new sites across the nation. Employment at community health centers nationwide has increased by 15 percent since the start of 2009, and such centers now serve almost three million more patients.

The grants announced today are from two capital programs: One will provide about $629 million to 171 existing health centers across the country for longer-term projects to expand their facilities, improve existing services, and serve more patients. The other will provide about $99.3 million to 227 existing health centers to address pressing facility and equipment needs.

For a list of the California recipients, read after the jump:
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Posted on Tuesday, May 1st, 2012
Under: healthcare reform | 5 Comments »

Obama 2012 defends, touts health care reform

As the Affordable Care Act‘s second anniversary looms this week, the war of words over its worth is becoming deafening. It’s a fascinating phenomenon, in that both sides truly seem to believe they have a winning issue here.

Here in Oakland, Democratic activist Christine Pelosi of San Francisco – daughter of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi – and Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson rallied about 30 volunteers today at the campaign headquarters on Telegraph Avenue, briefing them on the reform law’s effects to prepare them for an afternoon of phone-banking.

Christine Pelosi @ OFA HQ 3-19-12Just as Medicare and Social Security were “an intergenerational compact,” so too is health care reform “a societal compact” from a president who believes “health care is a right, not a privilege,” Pelosi said.

By forcing insurers to spend most of their premiums revenue on health care, not administration; by requiring them to insure people with pre-existing conditions; by reducing prescription costs for seniors; and by advancing patients’ rights, including the right to wellness visits, the law has improved the lives of millions of Americans, she said.

As the U.S. Supreme Court takes up the question of its constitutionality and as Republicans run on platforms of repeal, “our response has to be, ‘we’re not going back,’” Pelosi told the volunteers. “And each of you is taking personal responsibility to make sure that we’re going forward.”

Carson noted about 356,000 young adults in California – out of 2.5 million nationwide – have benefitted from the reform law by being allowed to remain on their parents’ health insurance until age 26. Almost an equal number of Californians on Medicare got a $250 rebate in 2010 to help cover the cost of their prescriptions when they hit the “donut hole” in their coverage, and almost 320,000 got a 50 percent discount in 2011 on their covered, brand-name prescriptions when they hit the donut hole; the law will close the hole by 2020.

Carson also said 12 million Californians no longer need worry about lifetime limits on their coverage; almost 3 million Californians on Medicare received free preventative services (such as mammograms and colonoscopies) or a free wellness visit with their doctor last year; and almost 6.2 million Californians with private insurance gained preventative service coverage with no cost-sharing.

He told the campaign volunteers that this is what they must convey to the people they call, in order to ensure they’re not swayed by “those who are critical, those who are fearful, those who are financed by the insurance companies.”

Lots more, after the jump…
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Posted on Monday, March 19th, 2012
Under: 2012 presidential election, healthcare reform, Oakland, Obama presidency | 1 Comment »

Chan plans hearing on health care reform impacts

Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan – a former Assembly Health Committee chair who championed health insurance for kids – on Monday will host the first in a series of hearings on local implementation of national health care reforms.

The hearing, from 9 to 10:30 a.m. in the Board of Supervisors’ chambers on the fifth floor of 1221 Oak St. in Oakland, will bring together local health care leaders for an overview of the Affordable Care Act and its impact on the county. Speakers will include Richard Thomason, program officer at the Blue Shield of California Foundation; Alex Briscoe, director of the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency; and Peter Harbage, the state’s former Assistant Secretary for Health under Gov. Gray Davis.

Chan’s office says that by 2018, more than 150,000 people in Alameda County will be newly covered by Medi-Cal or private insurance as a result of the Affordable Care Act. Health care providers are getting ready for major delivery system changes, including more availability of medical homes and integrated care delivery through accountable care organizations.

Future hearings will address a different issue area each month, trying to fit specific local issues into the big picture through community feedback and policy recommendations.

Posted on Thursday, November 10th, 2011
Under: Alameda County, Alameda County Board of Supervisors, healthcare reform | No Comments »

Report: Health exchange must reach e-generation

Recent healthcare reforms could leave millions of Californians behind unless the state’s new Health Benefit Exchange board moves aggressively to reach them, according to a new report from a Berekely-based advocacy group.

The Greenlining Institute, which advocates for communities of color and other disadvantaged groups, will present its report to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ fall meeting on Friday in National Harbor, Md., just outside of Washington, D.C.

“The Health Benefit Exchange simply can’t operate on the principle of, ‘If you build it, they will come,’” said report co-author Carla Saporta, Greenlining’s health policy director. “If the populations most in need don’t know about it, they won’t come. Putting up a website where people can enroll is a good start, but the Exchange must reach people where they are – whether that’s in community centers or on their smartphones.”

Among the report’s key findings are that most of the 4.7 million Californians newly eligible for health insurance will be from communities of color, and many live in households where English is not the primary language. People of color and low-income communities are less likely to have Internet access, less likely to use the Internet to connect to government services, and more likely to use smartphones rather than computers as their primary online access.

The report says smartphone and social networking site usage is particularly prevalent among adults aged 18-29, which is exactly the young and healthy population whose enrollment is critical to successful implementation of the exchange. So, the Exchange must use a variety of strategies to reach these populations, including smartphone apps, kiosks in key public sites, and telephone and in-person assistance in a variety of languages, the report says.

Posted on Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011
Under: healthcare reform | 1 Comment »

Marijuana case might predict health care ruling

Eva Rodriguez, an editorial writer at the Washington Post, blogged an interesting take last night on why a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court ruling on an Oakland-based medical marijuana case could predict the court’s course on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

She’s saying that “the four more liberal justices on the court — Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Obama appointees Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — should have no trouble reading the Constitution as bestowing broad powers on the federal government to regulate all manner of commerce.”

That’s not surprising. But she notes that the Gonzales v. Raich marijuana case – brought by Oakland medical marijuana patient and activist Angel Raich – might be significant here because conservative justices Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy joined with their liberal colleagues in 2005 to uphold the Controlled Substances Act’s ban on marijuana under the government’s Commerce Clause powers.

Joan McCarter, writing this morning at the Daily Kos, dug into Scalia’s concurrence to find the relevant language:

Our cases show that the regulation of intrastate activities may be necessary to and proper for the regulation of interstate commerce in two general circumstances. Most directly, the commerce power permits Congress not only to devise rules for the governance of commerce between States but also to facilitate interstate commerce by eliminating potential obstructions, and to restrict it by eliminating potential stimulants.[...]

As the Court put it in Wrightwood Dairy, where Congress has the authority to enact a regulation of interstate commerce, “it possesses every power needed to make that regulation effective.”

This, Rodriguez and McCarter seem to believe, indicates Scalia might feel the same way about the Affordable Care Act’s individual health insurance mandate.

Posted on Thursday, September 29th, 2011
Under: healthcare reform, marijuana | No Comments »