California Put Center-Stage in National Debate

How much appetite do Californians have for ongoing talk about national health care reform? We are about to find out.

Two California members of Congress have recently proposed limiting or completely reversing the national health care reform law — which provoked an equal and opposite reaction among many state lawmakers.  And it has become an issue in the race for a U.S. Senate seat in California, as well.

“I believe we should repeal the new health care law and replace it with real patient-centered reforms that reduce costs and improve access to quality care,” said Rep. Wally Herger (R-Chico).

After the seemingly endless debate in Washington over the issue, that was the last thing Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento) wanted to hear.

“Repeal health care? Are you kidding?” she said. “My goodness, we worked over a year and a half on that and consulted with a lot of people and realized that this is an important part and fabric of American life. It is now law, and I have no intention of repealing this thing at all.”

The issue has become a defining one for Senator Barbara Boxer (D-California) and her Republican opponent in the race for Boxer’s Senate seat, Carly Fiorina.

“(Health care reform) started out being a discussion about making quality, affordable health care accessible to everyone,” Fiorina said. “Along the way it became health insurance reform. What we now have actually doesn’t solve any of the problems that true health care reform was intended to solve.”

Boxer’s campaign manager, Rose Kapolczynski, put it this way: “Carly Fiorina would increase the cost of prescription drugs and allow insurance companies to deny people coverage when they get sick or have a pre-existing condition,” she said. “It’s more evidence that she’s not on the side of California families.”

Boxer has been a longtime supporter of health care reform, while Fiorina said she wants to eliminate it altogether.

Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Gold River) doesn’t go that far, but he has advocated repealing one of the provisions in the health care reform legislation — one that requires some small businesses to file a 1099 tax form to the Internal Revenue Service. Lungren also said that a federal approach to reform is not necessary.

“I believe we can look to proposals that would create healthcare exchanges administered on a statewide, or even regional, basis,” he said.

All of that drew the ire of Rep. Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena).

“We live in the greatest country in the world, yet millions of Americans are living without health care,” Thompson said.  “When these people can’t get the medical attention they need, we all pay the price, whether it’s through lost productivity or higher insurance premiums.”

That’s a lot of national attention being directed at the lawmakers from California, and voters here are likely to hear the rhetoric heat up as November nears.

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