Tag Archives: healthcare reform

The State of a Better Union

Last night, President Barack Obama delivered his State of the Union address – my first as a U.S. Congressman. You’ve heard a lot of instant reactions from the Beltway and beyond about the President’s message, but it’s my hope we can take a step back from the minutia and develop a better sense of recent history.

Let’s remember where we were when the President delivered his inaugural address last year. When the President took office, America had just endured the worst year for job loss since 1945. In the last three months of 2008, our country was hemorrhaging an average of 673,000 jobs per month. By the last three months of 2009, that number was reduced to 69,333, a 90% improvement. To be sure, the state of our union needs to be much stronger, but because of the efforts of President Obama and Democrats in Congress, we’ve endured the worst of the Bush recession and we’re creating an economy that once again creates jobs for the middle and working classes.

More over the flip…

The central piece of legislation responsible for our recovery is without question the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). To date, the ARRA stimulus package has infused $154.9 billion into the American economy, saving or creating 640,000 jobs, including 110,000 in California. In the last quarter of 2009, ARRA had added between 1.5 and 3% in real GDP growth to our struggling economy.

In my home state of California, ARRA has brought more than $63 billion in investments and tax incentives to California with billions more on the way, including $9.7 billion for education, $7.9 billion for health and human services, and $5 billion for transportation.

Indeed, we are in the midst of the most significant infrastructure revitalization since the 1950s. There is no better example than the Caldecott Tunnel expansion in my district. It is the single largest ARRA transportation grant in the nation, a $197.5 million allotment that will create 6,000 to 7,000 jobs while easing congestion for travelers between Alameda and Contra Costa counties. With state funds drying up because of systematic budget failures, Bay Area residents have ARRA to thank for this important project.

ARRA was Congress’s most important economic accomplishment last year, but it did not stand alone. Let us not forget, 2009 was the year CHIP health care was expanded to four million low-income children. And for students torn between a college education and looming debt in this economy, Congressman George Miller’s College Cost Reduction and Access Act revolutionized student aid in America, increasing Pell Grant availability by $600 per semester, and substantially lowering future interest rates and monthly payments.

Considering where we started, we’ve made incredible progress in America. But I recognize that we still have a long way to go to get our nation back on track. Unemployment rates are at an unacceptably high level. In my state of California, unemployment hovered at 12.4% last month. We still have a lot of work to do to get people back to work.

In December, the House passed two bills that deserve immediate attention from the Senate. The Jobs for Main Street Act is in many ways a second ARRA, delivering an additional $35 billion for roads and public transit and $20 billion for education, saving or creating 25,000 jobs in education alone. It would recruit 25,000 new young people into AmeriCorps and create work study and summer job employment opportunities for 500,000 young workers struggling to find employment in this tough economy while also extending unemployment insurance. The House also passed the Wall Street Reform and Accountability Act, legislation that would help stop predatory behavior on Wall Street while providing relief for homeowners, renters, and small business owners. If signed into law, these bills will surely strengthen the state of the union in the years to come.

But as we move forward in the fight for job creation and accountability in the financial sector, we still must finish what we started. I joined Congress with a pledge to fight for comprehensive health care reform, and I plan on finishing the job.

Indeed, health reform isn’t just about quality and affordable care; it will also help strengthen our economy if done right. We know that health care costs make up 17% of our economy. If we let the status quo continue, that number will rise to 37% by 2037. And what are we getting for this expense? According to the World Health Organization, the U.S. ranks at the bottom of 19 industrialized nations in the number of preventable deaths from common illnesses.

If we pass health care reform now, three things will almost immediately happen: patients will not be denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions; adult aged children will be given access to their parents insurance until the age of 27; and health care will be portable if you lose or change your job.

I will continue to work with my colleagues to fight hard for the things I care about in health care reform, including a robust public option and generous affordability protections for seniors and the middle class. And let me be clear, I’m not the least bit concerned about using majority rule in the Senate to pass meaningful health care reform. Congress has employed reconciliation in the past to make major policy shifts, including the passage of welfare reform and the Bush tax cuts, and the fact of the matter is this country will find itself in serious trouble if we do not act now. No one Senator should feel entitled to veto power over 17% percent of our economy.

So as we reflect on last night’s State of the Union address, let’s remember how far we’ve come after only one year into President Obama’s term and also remember how far we still must go.

Congressman John Garamendi (D-Walnut Creek) represents California’s 10th Congressional District. He previously served as a Deputy Interior Secretary under President Bill Clinton and was California’s Lieutenant Governor and Insurance Commissioner.

Ventura County Democratic Central Committee Passes FDL Resolution for Public Option

I am proud to announce that last night, the Ventura County Central Committee became the first committee nationwide to approve the FireDogLake resolution only supporting such healthcare reform as contains at least the choice of a robust public option.  Robert Cruickshank’s Central Committee in Monterey had the resolution on the agenda, but did not get to it before the scheduled adjournment.

This is part of a national effort to get Democratic clubs and central committees nationwide to adopt similar resolutions over the coming month, and forward them on to Congressmembers whose districts are geographically aligned with the county/club making the endorsement.  My brother and fellow Calitician Dante Atkins helped rewrite the language of the resolution so that it fit with California resolution rules.

If you are a member of a Democratic or progressive club–or, better yet, a member of your Central Committee–I highly encourage you to submit the same or very similar resolution to your local club/committee as well, in order to leverage maximum pressure on your representatives.

The text of the resolution adopted by the VCDCC was as follows:

WHEREAS, the heath care system of the United States is in crisis, with almost fifty million Americans lacking any health insurance, tens of millions more lacking adequate coverage, and millions more who do have private coverage paying increasingly unaffordable premiums, resulting in inadequate access to care and premature death, illness, or financial ruin for millions of Americans; and

WHEREAS, public polls show that an overwhelming majority of Americans want health care reform to offer the choice of a robust public option similar to Medicare in order to, in the words of President Obama, “keep the insurance companies honest,” while co-ops or so-called “triggers” are inadequate in and of themselves to address the health care crisis by creating significant competition for the medical insurance industry; and

WHEREAS, Republicans and their allies in the health insurance industry have organized and funded groups of extremists to disrupt efforts on the part of the Democratic majority and administration to reasonably discuss the issue with the American people, and have demonstrated an utter unwillingness to compromise in any way to pass meaningful health care reform;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Ventura County Democratic Central Committee urges Democratic members of Congress to vote for only such healthcare reform proposals as contain at least the choice for a robust public plan at all stages of the legislative process including conference and reconciliation, and encourages Democratic legislators to use any available parliamentary means to pass such reform;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Ventura County Democratic Central Committee shall send a copy of this resolution to all members of Congress who represent at least a part of the geographic region of which this Committee is the officially sanctioned body of the Democratic Party.

The resolution will be forwarded on to Elton Gallegly and to Lois Capps.  Capps has not signed the FDL pledge even though she represents a D+10 district; FDL is also placing phone pressure on 106 Democratic representatives in such districts to encourage them to sign the pledge for a public option.

Thirteen CA Legislators Rewarded by Carrots, Not Sticks Initiative

A new initiative organized by Howie Klein, Jane Hamsher, fellow Calitician Dante Atkins and myself to verbally and financially reward Congressmembers who pledge to vote down any healthcare bill that does not include the public option is catching fire today.  The objective is to use carrots as well as sticks to achieve progressive goals.  As I said in the diary kicking off this intiative at DailyKos:

Human beings are psychologically predictable creatures, much like Pavlov’s famous canine.  We do respond well to punishment, but we respond just as well if not better to positive reinforcement.  Do nothing but beat a dog with a stick, and the dog is likelier to be aggressive than lovingly loyal.  Do nothing but scream at a child, and the child will eventually fail to respond to her abusive parent.  Senators and Representatives, no matter how elevated, are still just people: the rules of psychological conditioning still apply.  If all we can do is scream at people who don’t do what we want, eventually no one will listen to us at all.

Utilizing Jane Hamsher’s signatory list, Howie Klein set up an ActBlue page called They Took the Pledge.  Spurred on by Jane Hamsher’s post, my dkos diary, Dante’s dkos diary, and Howie Klein’s efforts at Blue America PAC, the online effort has raised over $60,000 since this morning, becoming ActBlue’s top fundraising page.  And the media has begun to take note, with stories on CBS Online, Politico, and The Plum Line.

On the list are 13 deserving CA Legislators who could use your dollars and/or words of encouragement:

Judy Chu (CA-32)

Sam Farr (CA-17)

Bob Filner (CA-51)

Mike Honda (CA-15)

Barbara Lee (CA-09)

Grace Napolitano (CA-38)

Laura Richardson (CA-37)

Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-34)

Linda Sanchez (CA-39)

Jackie Speier (CA-12)

Maxine Waters (CA-35)

Diane Watson (CA-33)

Lynn Woolsey (CA-06)

If you have the resources, please consider donations to our excellent California legislators.  For those who can’t chip in, DFA has a thank you action item to thank our healthcare heroes.

With an approach that uses more carrots and less sticks, hopefully we can encourage others in California and across the country to join these brave progressive leaders.

Only One Healthcare Reform Will Control Costs — and Fix the Crisis

After eight dismal years of healthcare policy from an administration more interested in engorging the nation’s insurance and pharmaceutical industries, how refreshing to hear a State of the Union speech that calls for comprehensive reform and recognizes the real pain and suffering of American families priced out of access to care.

So President Obama deserves plaudits for his emphasis on healthcare reform, and pledge to getting it done this year amidst the deepening economic gloom.

But it won’t do our nation — or the President and Congress — any good to expend the political capital necessary to pass legislation unless we actually fix the problem.

And any bill, like so many of those short sighted proposals now being considered in several legislative committees, that leaves the insurance companies in control of our health won’t curb the rise in costs that are devastating families today or do anything about the now all too routine denials of care.

Only one reform, single-payer, or an expanded and upgraded Medicare for all, effectively controls costs at the source, by eliminating the stranglehold of the insurance giants and the price gouging we see in ever-rising premiums, co-pays, deductibles, and other daily costs that have caused so much harm to so many. A bill that gets us there, John Conyers’ HR 676, has been recently reintroduced in the House.

A report just out today from the Institute of Medicine reaffirms the problem, Markowitz noted. Average premiums for family coverage have soared by 119 percent the past decade – three and a half times the growth of family incomes.

The IOM noted that many companies are dumping full-time positions, and replacing them with part-time, contract, and temporary jobs that don’t offer health benefits. Also, more and more areas around the country are experiencing severe problems with limited hospital access to emergency care and in-patient bed capacity as the result of the growing number of uninsured and underinsured Americans.

There’s an added bonus. Single payer reform is that it not only guarantees coverage for everyone, controls costs, and ensures complete choice of provider — it also promotes economic recovery.

A recent study by the Institute for Health and Socio-Economic Policy (IHSP), research arm of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee, finds that single payer reform would create 2.6 million new good paying jobs, infuse $317 billion in new business and public revenues, and inject another $100 billion in wages into the U.S. economy. The study may be viewed at www.CalNurses.org.

While 30 percent of the new jobs would be in health and social services, the ripple effect of job creation goes throughout the economy, with gains in retail trade, accommodation and food services, manufacturing, and administrative services, as well as healthcare.

Response to Senator Kuehl’s 7th Essay on Healthcare Reform

Note: The following is a response, written by Jeanine Meyer Rodriguez of SEIU’s California State Council, to Sen. Shiela Kuehl’s 7th essay on healthcare reform posted on the California Progress Report titled “The Speaker’s and Governor’s Healthcare Bill: Part of a Series of Essays by Sheila Kuehl.” I work for It’s Our Healthcare, which is a coalition that includes SEIU.  However this response should not be taken to be representative of any other member of the IOH coalition or the coalition as a whole.  This is SEIU’s position.

Senator Kuehl’s essay is full of criticism but makes no mention of a politically viable solution.  Single payer is not going to happen just because it is good policy: we need a strategy for winning. But single payer can evolve if we start with the right framework and keep working on it.  In the meantime, millions of people without adequate health insurance go without care when they are sick and some die because of it.

Medicare and Social Security are not perfect programs but they are better today than when they were created. AB1x is not a perfect bill but it is far better than the status quo today-and we can make it even better over time.

On the substance, there are lots of problems with how the Senator characterizes the bill.  I’d like to highlight just a couple of the main points.

[More on the flip]

“Provisions of the bill actually harmful to regular, working and middle-class families…”

* The status quo is harmful to regular, working and middle-class families as our healthcare rapidly deteriorates. There are protections in the bill to ensure that the mandate is not “harmful” to working and middle-class families.

* For the first time ever sets a standard for health benefits on the job: today employers can and do drop coverage. Just as the minimum wage sets a standard for wages that helps working families, so will setting a standard for health benefits on the job.

“nothing is provided.”

* Public program coverage is provided to millions of Californians, including 800,000 children and over 2 million adults. Many others would be provided subsidies to get coverage.

“no regulation of the cost of insurance or medical expense, no maximum deductibles, and no floor on how little coverage you can buy…”

* An estimated 3-4 million people would get coverage through a statewide purchasing pool-twice the size of CALPERS–which would be able to negotiate for the best possible price.

* Now, for the first time, this bill gives a state regulator authority to set maximum deductibles and a floor on benefits that insurers can’t go below.  Junk coverage is sold right now and hundreds of thousands of people find only when it is too late that they bought junk.

The Senator’s comments about SEIU are offensive and just plain wrong.  We have been focused on healthcare reform for many years now and have been working hard to make real progress.  SEIU’s change in leadership of the State Council did not change our position on healthcare reform. If we are salivating at anything, it is at the prospect of getting health coverage for 70%-80% of the uninsured.

SEIU locals in California have remained united all year in support of our principles for healthcare reform and we continue to stand together.  We are fighting for our members’ interests and for their families too.  Our families want what all Californians want–affordable, real healthcare when we need it.

It’s time to come together to make something work because the status quo is not acceptable and we can’t afford to wait any longer.

California Speaks NOW

( – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

xposted at terryfaceplace
I’m at the California Speaks event in San Diego today, where participants are discussing the healthcare reform legislation that’s currently under consideration in the state of California.

The process by which this conversation is being held is interesting in itself. Forums are being held in eight locations throughout the state today, and they’re all hooked up by satellite and computer links.

More below the fold…

There are around 600 participants in San Diego, and about 3,000 total throughout California, and they are representative of the population as a whole, with some slight variation (because it depended on who showed up out of that representative sample). They’re broken up into groups of ten, and each group has a facilitator with a laptop who is communicating their table discussion to a “theme team” who is compiling the most common topics, comments and remarks for the entire state.

As the discussion progresses and common themes emerge, participants use individual keypads to document their votes on a variety of opinions. At the end of the day, the statistical data and discussions will be compiled into a preliminary report which will be handed out to everyone as they leave. Eventually a final report will be written utilizing today’s data, and that will be presented to Governor Schwarzenegger and the California Legislature, who have agreed to consider the opinions of Californian’s as they move forward in enacting healthcare reform legislation.

Pretty cool, eh? This is big geeky fun for big geeky me.

Both the Governor and Assemblymember Fabian Nunez provided opening remarks via satelitte link, the MC of the event is in Los Angeles, and I am completely digging the whole democracy via technology thing here today.

I’ll be back later with further details about the discussion and the outcome of today’s conversation. Talk to you soon!

Courage Campaign Conference Call To DIscuss Healthcare Reform and the 2007 Agenda

This Thursday, January 11, from 4-5pm, The Courage Campaign will convene our second public conference call, this time to discuss healthcare reform and the wider 2007 agenda in the wake of Arnold’s speech yesterday outlining his healthcare reform plan and his state of the state tonight. (And please join us for our LiveBlog of the state of the state starting at 5:05pm tonight.)

Like last time, we have some exciting guests lined up to speak to us and take our questions on the call:

Assemblywoman Karen Bass (CA-47), majority leader of the assembly and a reliable progressive, will be on the call to talk about the Democrats’ plans for 2007 and to give her take on the state of the state.

Sal Roselli, President of the SEIU State Council of California and President of SEIU United Healthcare Workers-West will share his thoughts on Arnold’s healthcare proposal and what SEIU’s plans are to make sure we get some real reform.

Matt Stoller of MyDD will speak to us as well to give us a wider context and no doubt discuss how the blogosphere can frame and really have an impact on the California healthcare debate and ensure we pursue a progressive agenda in this era of “post-partisanship.”

Again, the call is this Thursday at 4pm. To join, please RSVP to [email protected] to get the dial-in details. Also, feel free to e-mail her your questions for our guests as well. Hope you can make it but if not, the call will be archived on the blog pretty soon after the call concludes.

Field Poll Finds Massive Support For Healthcare Reform

(Cross-posted from The Courage Campaign)

It's rare but, in politics, sometimes doing the right thing and doing the easy thing are the same. And for California politicians, tackling healthcare may have just gotten a whole lot easier…politically anyway.

According to the new Field Poll, eight in ten (81%) Californians believe

“it should be public policy that government guarantee that all Californians have access to affordable health care insurance or other health care coverage.”

That is the actual wording from the question asked to respondents. Remarkable.

In addition, 78% agree (44% strongly) that government has a responsibility for providing health care coverage for people who can’t afford to pay for it.


These findings would seem to signal that one of the the greatest hurdles to expanding healthcare coverage through government policy, distrust in government to efficiently implement a healthcare system better than the current one, is no hurdle at all.

Another question that loomed over whether people would support an overhaul of the healthcare system was whether the majority with adequate health insurance would get behind reforms that benefitted the minority who are un- or under-insured. The poll answers that question resoundingly. From The Chron:

The survey also found that while a majority of voters are satisfied with the current system of coverage, there is much anxiety about losing coverage in the future and not being able to pay the costs of a major illness or injury. Indeed, 77 percent said they worry that they might not be able to pay for a major injury or illness.

With rising healthcare costs, which employers are increasingly passing onto employees if not lowering coverage altogether, there is a significant amount of insecurity about health coverage out there, even among the middle class. Which means for the pleaser in chief, our governor, passing healthcare reform is a no-brainer.

Adam Mendelsohn, Schwarzenegger's communications director, said the poll results are "another clear indication" that the governor's emphasis on health care this year is welcomed by the voters.

"The system is broken, costs are going up and people are concerned about the future of their health care, which is exactly why the governor is taking this on," he said.

The LA Times is reporting that Schwarzenegger will lay out his plan to fix California’s healthcare system in a speech he’ll deliver on Monday. Let's hope the results of this poll embolden the governor to go further than he might ordinarily go. He likes to say his first priority is to do the people's business. Well, governor, the people have spoken.

The Courage Campaign will be holding a conference call next Thursday to discuss the governor’s plans for 2007 with an eye on healthcare in particular. We’ll have details for everyone soon, I hope you will join us.