All posts by Mark DeSaulnier

CD10 – One Candidate Has Promised To Sign the Public Option Letter

By Mark DeSaulnier

I am saddened by the passing of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, a champion for social justice.

Senator Kennedy’s dedication to health care reform demonstrated a commitment to honoring human rights and to the enrichment of the common wealth before personal wealth.

The centerpiece of Senator Kennedy’s historic health care bill is the public option.

I am on the record as an unequivocal supporter of the public option as the centerpiece of health care reform legislation. In memory of Senator Kennedy, I am proud to promise again today to sign the letter to Secretary Kathleen Sebelius confirming that any final proposal without a public option will not win my vote (

The only entity large enough to create an organization capable of introducing competition into the health insurance market is the federal government.

Today, we must pay tribute to a great American; tomorrow we must pick up the mantle and achieve his goal. Senator Kennedy’s legacy demands nothing less than the passage of comprehensive health care for all.

With deep sympathy for the Kennedy family,

Mark DeSaulnier

The public option is essential to health care reform

By Senator Mark DeSaulnier

The introduction of health care cooperatives into the reform debate is a dangerous distraction. Health care co-ops will not increase competition in a business dominated by giant insurance companies, but rather fail in the most critical need of health care reform: cost control.

Co-ops have been around for a long time in the United States and have been successful in some industries-grocery stores, community credit unions and electricity. However health care co-ops have a very different record.

Conservatives herald co-ops because, during the 1930s and 40s, health insurance co-ops covered hundreds of thousands of Americans, in large part due to the financial support of the federal Farm Security Administration (FSA).  But this and other health care co-ops have a history of failure without tight federal regulation and significant taxpayer investment.

A local health insurance co-op, as described by many conservatives in Congress and the media could not grow large enough or quickly enough to compete with health insurance industry behemoths and near-monopolies that control the majority of the market.

The only entity large enough to create an organization capable of introducing competition into the health insurance market is the federal government.

A public option capable of competing with Big Insurance will force insurance companies to lower premiums and improve quality of service.  

The public option will provide an affordable, basic coverage plan to all who want it. For those who prefer to buy insurance from a private plan, competition from the public option will aid in lowering the costs of coverage.

Claims that the public option will simply overrun the health insurance market and eliminate private companies are absurd. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that, even among those with incomes that make them eligible for assistance that will aid in paying for a public option, just one-third would chose that public option. Moreover, under the reform proposal in Congress, three million more people would have primary medical coverage through an employer than under current law, according to the CBO.

The public option creates competition in a market dominated by a few massive conglomerates.  It lowers health insurance premiums across the board and increases quality of care. As the debate in Congress and throughout our nation rages on, we must be a clear for voice advocating for the public option. It the only true reform that can control costs and provide health care insurance for a greater number of Americans.

A stronger health care system for older Americans – and that’s the truth

By Senator Mark DeSaulnier

Older Americans have an especially important stake in the health care reform debate, yet opponents of reform have resorted to telling bold-faced lies to protect their economic interests.

Republican scare tactics-tying health care reform to fictional death panels and a raid on Medicare-are shameful and neglect to recognize the current precarious state of health for many seniors.

Sold to Congress by the Bush Administration as a saving grace, Medicare Part D actually withholds benefits from more than three million senior citizens and requires co-payments for check-ups and wellness visits, discouraging preventive care. At the same time, Medicare Part D prohibits the government from negotiating drug prices, forcing older Americans to pay an average 3.5 times the market value for prescriptions.

The health care reform bill before Congress offers coverage to those three million seniors, eliminates co-payments for preventative treatment, and lowers the cost of prescription drugs.

Reform will make Medicare far more efficient.  It will cut billions in wasteful spending from the system, end $177 billion of overpayments to private providers, and force insurers to compete for Medicare dollars.  Eliminating waste will create a more sustainable and better-designed Medicare system.

Health care reform is critically important for older Americans age 50 to 64, who are at a particular risk of losing health insurance.  In today’s economy, older employees are often the first to be laid off. With Medicare available to only those over the age of 65, these displaced workers are forced into private insurance. Yet many insurance companies will not cover Americans within this age group, especially if the individual suffers from a pre-existing condition.

Health care reform will prevent private companies from denying them coverage – and will ensure that a robust public option provides a quality, affordable choice of plan.

Because health care reform, with a strong public option, offers clear benefits to older Americans, fear mongering and lies are all that the naysayers have left.

As AARP Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond said last week: “This effort is too important to our members and their families to let misinformation derail our best shot in a generation to fix what’s wrong in our health care system.”

Small businesses benefit big from health care reform

by Senator Mark DeSaulnier

Health care reform is a matter of national economic urgency for small businesses.

To say that the current health care system puts small businesses at a disadvantage is a huge understatement. Small businesses pay up to 18 percent more per worker than large firms for the same health insurance policy. That means higher operational costs, lower wages, fewer profits, and, ultimately, less coverage. More than half of the Americans who are uninsured, 27 million, own or are employed by a small company.

According to surveys, three-quarters of Californian small businesses rate the availability of affordable health care among their top business challenges. With the vocal minority attempting to hijack health care reform, the views of small business owners are being drowned out at a time when we can least afford it – literally.

As a former small business owner, the benefits of health care reform are crystal clear. Small businesses need: reliable, predictable health care costs that are on par with big corporations and foreign competitors.

As the owner of TR’s Bar & Grill in downtown Concord for 30 years, I was presented with a familiar lose-lose situation. Small business owners sink more and more money into rising healthcare costs and lose profits critical to further investment and growth, or deny health care to employees, making them vulnerable to medical and financial disaster.

No one should be forced to choose between a sinking business and sick workers. We must fight Big Tobacco, Big Pharmaceuticals, and Big Insurance special interests to ensure small business owners never have to make that absurd choice again.

More and more small business owners are beginning to understand that they will be among the greatest beneficiaries of health care reform that includes a robust public option. And they rightly should be. Firms with fewer than 20 employees accounted for around a quarter of all employment growth from 1992 to 2005.

A combination of tax credits, employee subsidies, exemptions for smaller businesses, and access to a competitive health insurance market that includes a public option – all in the current bill before Congress – will succeed in providing more dependable and cost-effective options to owners and their workforce.

I know, first hand, that if the proposed new health care system existed when I was running TR’s, the restaurant would have been more profitable, employees would have taken home more pay, and we would have had the luxury of choosing between a range of higher quality plans.

I strongly recommend that you take the opportunity to read the White House report on the ‘Economic Effects of Health Care Reform on Small Businesses and their Employees’ ( A strong public option ensures competition will drive down inflated premiums and make health care affordable again.

Now is the time to push back on special interests and ensure that health care reform includes a robust public option. It’s what small business owners-our greatest economic drivers-want and need.

Health Care Reform: It’s Time

(A take on health care from Rep. Miller and Sen. DeSaulnier. – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

By Congressman George Miller and Senator Mark DeSaulnier

We stand on the cusp of a transformative moment in our country’s history: making quality, affordable health care a right for all Americans.

Make no mistake. Real health care reform is central not only to our personal health, but to the health of our economy and our recovery from the most desperate financial crisis since the Great Depression. Real health care reform will free small businesses and families from a burden that has crushed the spirit of innovation driving America’s strength and prosperity.

President Obama is correct; health care reform is not just about the 47 million Americans without insurance. Health care reform is about every small business that has been forced to lay off employees or cut back coverage because it became too expensive. Health care reform is about ensuring that, for the good of our dynamic economy that demands the world’s most flexible and highly trained workforce, those who return to school, who become too sick, who change jobs, or who are laid off do not risk losing insurance. Health care reform is about putting an end to the personal bankruptcies attributable to medical problems.

Edit by Brian: More over the flip.

We simply cannot let this historic opportunity pass. As the President reminded us this week, 14,000 Americans continue to lose health insurance coverage every day.

Most importantly, we must be clear that real health care reform includes a strong public insurance option. Seventy-six percent of Americans support a public option because they understand that it will increase choice, lower costs, and expand access to care. A public option is the only way to introduce free market principles to an industry dominated by a few giant providers.

Of the companies that provide health care to employees, 85 percent do not offer a choice of insurance plan. In 16 states, one health insurance provider controls over half the market.

This leads to high prices and a lack of efficiency. According to the Kaiser family foundation, health insurance premiums have risen 113% in the last 10 years-four times faster than the growth of wages.

The health care plan now under consideration in Congress will greatly help our East Bay communities. More than 25,000 local small businesses would receive a tax credit to help pay the cost of providing insurance, more than 62,000 uninsured people would receive access to quality, affordable care; more than 20,000 seniors would avoid paying the ‘donut hole’ for prescription drug costs; and local health care providers would receive over $189 million annually for uncompensated care. Those who have insurance will be free to continue receiving their current benefits.

We know that the insurance industry is spending more than $1 million dollars per day to prevent health care reform and keep the status quo of rising costs and limited access. The insurance industry rightly fears that an affordable public option will force private sector providers to cut costs and improve service delivery.

The special interest health care lobbyists are on the wrong side of history. In this transformative time for our nation, we must rally around President Obama to support comprehensive reform with a robust public option that will provide quality, affordable health care for all Americans.

Pushing Back for Progressive Values: No All-Cuts Budget

(Welcome Sen. DeSaulnier – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

At the Contra Costa County United Democratic Campaign CD 10 candidates’ forum last week, the candidates were asked to list examples of when they had defied Democratic party leadership in order to stand up for progressive values and make real change.  I told the audience of Contra Costa Democratic activists that I had a history of doing so, and in fact might have to do so if the leadership put an all-cuts budget up for a vote this week in the Senate.  Yesterday, I kept my promise and did not vote for the all-cuts budget that was brought to the floor.

Progressive values and commonsense dictate that we have a budget that combines cuts with increases in revenue.  A cuts-only budget is a recipe for disaster in California and severely hurts the most vulnerable of our fellow Californians.  In an era of “yes we can,” the Governor and Republican legislators are telling Californians “no they can’t” have sensible solutions to California’s budget crisis.  They have pushed Democrats into a “through the looking glass” scenario where Democrats are on the record voting for $11 billion in cuts and Republicans are on the record voting against them, but there is no record that in fact the Republicans want even deeper cuts and refuse to support any tax increases whatsoever.  Only in Sacramento could such an Alice in Wonderland scenario unfold.

The truth is that standing up for progressive values sometimes dictates that we go against the decisions of our leadership.  I cannot in good conscience vote for a budget that does not include significant revenue increases.  In the next few days, we will have votes on raising revenue through an oil severance tax and an increase in the tobacco tax.  I will vote for those because proposals to increase revenue to the state must be part of any solution to California’s deficit.  

In addition, I joined with Senator Lois Wolk in writing the Legislative Analyst’s Office seeking advice on the most efficient way to close corporate tax loopholes in California.  There are approximately $50 billion – $50 billion! – in tax loopholes that exist right now.  

It’s time to push back hard against the ideological inflexibility of the Governor and the Republicans in the legislature and make them take responsibility in front of the voters for their efforts to drive California over a fiscal cliff.  There is no proposal that will create a budget that is pain free.  But an all-cuts budget is the most painful for the people who are the most vulnerable.

We can do better for California.  Yes, as progressives, we can stand up to make a bad budget better.  That was my promise to the Contra Costa Democrats last Friday and it’s my promise to you today.

Mark DeSaulnier