Congressman John Garamendi

Representing the 3rd District of California
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Rep. John Garamendi Casts "Most Important Vote of My Public Policy Career"

November 7, 2009
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman John Garamendi, (D-Walnut Creek, CA), California's first State Insurance Commissioner, today proudly cast one of his first votes in Congress for the Affordable Health Care Act for America, H.R. 3962. The bill passed by an 220-215 vote this evening.

"This is the most important vote of my public policy career," Rep. Garamendi said.

The Affordable Health Care for America Act will provide every American citizen access to quality, affordable patient-centered health care—while reducing the deficit and lowering costs—instead of leaving Americans at the mercy of a health insurance industry calling the shots and rationing our health care.   The bill must now be merged with legislation under consideration in the U.S. Senate.

In his first Congressional floor speech on a bill since being sworn into office Thursday, Garamendi called the public option – included in the comprehensive health care reform – an important enforcement mechanism. Garamendi believes the public option will help control costs by lowering administrative overhead and bringing real competition to the health insurance market. H.R. 3962 covers 36 million more—nearly every American—the largest expansion of coverage since Medicare passed in 1964.

"In its fullness, the public option would allow all of us to walk away from the clutches of the profit before people private insurance companies whose first operating commandment in deciding our claims is ‘Pay as little as late as possible'," Garamendi said.

Rep. Garamendi's floor speech on the bill is available here.

H.R. 3962 will transform America's health care delivery system. The plan includes a public option to help increase competition and hold the insurance industry accountable. Denial of treatment for pre-existing conditions and denial of coverage due to technicalities in condition reporting will be ended. Out-of-pocket expenses will be capped and subsidies and tax breaks will be made available to consumers and small businesses. This combined with the reduction in administrative overhead costs, the savings associated with an emphasis on preventative medicine, and other measures will provide individual consumers and as the nation with substantial long term cost savings. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the health care reform bill will cut the deficit by over $30 billion over the next decade and will continue to create a surplus over the next 20 years.

In Congressman Garamendi's home district of CA-10:

    * 497,000 residents will see their employer-provided coverage expanded to include no co-pays for preventative medicine, and no more rate increases for pre-existing conditions, and oral, vision, hearing benefits will be available for all children;
    * 36,000 uninsured residents will obtain coverage;
    * Up to 106,000 households will be provided credits to help pay for coverage;
    * 96,000 Medicare beneficiaries will see improved coverage, including 11,800 seniors currently trapped in the "prescription drug donut hole";
    * 14,500 small businesses will be able to obtain affordable health care coverage and tax credits to help reduce insurance costs will be available to 13,100 small businesses;
    * Up to 1,400 families will be protected from bankruptcy; and          
    * Uncompensated care costs for hospitals and health care providers will be reduced by $41 million.

Rep. Garamendi has been a leader in health care reform for more than three decades. According to Jonathan Cohn of the New Republic, "Those of us in the business of health wonkery know [Garamendi] as one of our own."

Garamendi's background

As California's first State Insurance Commissioner, Garamendi transformed the agency into the best consumer protection agency in the nation. Commissioner Garamendi:

    * Published "Priced Out," a report that highlights the problems associated with health care delivery in California, offering more than 50 concrete recommendations to improve care and access and
    * Proposed a universal health care bill that that would have covered almost all Californians. The bill was vetoed, but many of its principles were adopted by Bill Clinton during his 1992 presidential campaign.

As a state legislator, including time spent as chair of the California State Senate Health and Welfare committee, Garamendi:

    * Authored more than 20 health care-related bills that were signed into law;
    * Expanded clinic access to millions of unserved and underserved Californians;
    * Transformed California's Emergency Medical Services; and
    * Brought better and more compassionate care to seniors and those suffering from mental illness.