Orange County's two Democratic members of Congress are
taking the Obamacare message to the front lines during the August congressional
break, encouraging their constituents to sign up for health care insurance to be
offered on government exchanges.
Reps. Loretta Sanchez, D-Santa Ana, and Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, are hosting town hall events in advance of Oct. 1, the date Americans will be eligible to purchase insurance from state-run exchanges, created by the 2010 Affordable Care Act. The representatives are part of a nationwide effort by Democrats this month to raise awareness of and enthusiasm for the new health care law. Holding the line on premium prices depends on getting as many Americans as possible, especially the young and healthy, to sign up for the program.
"It's a very beneficial program in the long run," Sanchez told the Register this week. Her first event was at the Delhi Center in Santa Ana Tuesday night; it attracted between 100 and 115 constituents.
"We're really targeting those people who have not had a health-care plan, since those people will be responsible for one on Jan. 1," she said, referring to the individual mandate to purchase health insurance. Sanchez is joined at her events -- the second is at 7 p.m. Thursday at Anaheim Community Center -- by representatives from CalOptima, California's version of Medicaid; Covered California, California's health care exchange; the Department of Health and Human Services, and University of California, Irvine.
Experts have expressed concern that young, healthy Americans may choose not to buy health insurance and instead pay the $95 penalty, which could be less expensive than health coverage. But Sanchez doesn't see it that way. "In most cases, it's worth it to sign up," she said, noting that government subsidies will make some plans more affordable. She added that people can't sign up for coverage retroactively, meaning that if a person gets sick mid-year, he or she is stuck with the doctor's bills.
Lowenthal will be co-sponsoring two public Covered California events, one of which is scheduled for Sept. 6, and will team up with Covered California to host an Aug. 16 invitation-only event with business leaders to be held at Long Beach City College.
Republicans in Congress oppose the health-care overhaul, citing cost, quality concerns and government intrusion into the private sector, and are seeking ways to defund it or otherwise thwart its implementation. They will be bringing a different message to Orange County.
Rep. John Campbell, R-Irvine, expects to field questions on Obamacare when he meets with constituents, but he won't be encouraging them to sign up, said Campbell's spokesman Christopher Bognanno. Campbell is a co-sponsor of a bill to defund the health care law.
Campbell only last week began scheduling events for recess when he received medical clearance. Campbell recently announced he will retire at the end of his term and that he is battling several health ailments.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, is scheduling meetings with constituents and expects topics to include immigration and Obamacare implementation, according to his office. This week, Issa made two trips to Camp Pendleton; he and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Costa Mesa, joined President Barack Obama there on Wednesday and Issa made a separate visit to the Camp Pendleton Naval Hospital.
Matt Fleming and David Hood of the Register's Washington Bureau contributed to this report.
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