Saturday in Senator Feinstein’s den…

In a New York Times article entitled Taking Health Care Courtship Up Another Notch by Sheryl Gay Stolberg describing the White House’s effort to outreach to various Senators to secure their votes for health reform, there’s this California nugget:

At least one White House official, Ms. DeParle, has gone so far as to make a house call. When Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, expressed misgivings about how expanding Medicaid would affect California’s budget, Ms. DeParle gathered some charts and dropped in on a Saturday. They spent nearly three hours talking over coffee in Ms. Feinstein’s den.

That’s not a small amount of outreach for a Senator not on a relevant Senate Committee. But when this gets to the floor, every vote will count.

Senator Feinstein has been equivocal in support of health care reform. While many have been disappointed in her lack of championing a public health insurance option, she has been fairly clear in being supportive of the general concept.

But on health reform in general, her tone has been more skeptical than supportive:

* In late August, she put a long missive laying out her thoughts on health reform, which were unhelpfully titled, “Concerns About Health Reform.”

* In September, she struck similar notes in a San Francisco Chronicle article by Carolyn Lochhead, supporting some concepts but raising questions about others.

Some of the questions she raises are legitimate–from the need for affordability for California’s families facing a high cost-of-living, to the impact on our budget to the need to protect our safety-net hospitals–and are appropriate for someone looking out for California’s interests and specific needs. There are other concerns that are misguided–for example, the impact on the state budget is inflated–and other points that are contradictory. In another post, we’ll go into the Senator’s statement in a more detailed way.

What’s most disappointing is that California’s health care situation is in a particularly bad situation–and so California is likely to disproportionately benefit from health reform. Someone from California could be expected to be a vocal champion for the urgency of health reform–even if she also looked out for the important specifics.

It’s good that the White House is walking the Senator through the specifics. It’s up to Californians to make clear their support for health reform and their sense of urgency in the next few days and weeks.
Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.

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