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Monday, March 15, 2010

To My Representatives In Congress

Below is a letter I have sent this morning (3/15/2010) to my representatives in Congress regarding the health care reform bill.

To: Senator Dianne Feinstein
Senator Barbara Boxer
Member of the House of Representatives Laura Richardson

From: Dennis C. Smith
Long Beach, CA

Dear Senators Feinstein and Boxer and Rep. Richardson,

I believe in openness and honest, so I will start this letter with both. I have never voted for any of you in your elections for your current offices. I have never donated to your campaigns for office; to my recollection however I do not believe I have contributed to any of your opponents either. I am a registered Republican. I am married and have two daughters in elementary school. I am a partner in a mortgage brokerage, which makes me a small business owner. I volunteer in my community, currently serving on the Board of Directors of Community Hospital of Long Beach---please note my views below are my views and not representative of the hospital, its staff or any other member of the board (though a few may agree with me). My lack of votes or financial support makes me no less a constituent of yours, just as those who have supported you are no more a constituent than me. You are my representatives in Washington D.C. as such I wish you to please represent me, and California.

President Obama is pressuring Speaker of the House Nance Pelosi, a fellow Californian, to have the House of Representatives vote to pass the health care reform bill written by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, not a Californian, without any conference between the Senate and House to iron out significant differences. The President is calling for this vote because his intention is an end run around the way the Senate and House have worked for decades on crafting legislation that becomes law, especially law that results in major social and economic reform for our nation. Mr. Obama is calling for this vote because he has invested all of his political capital on this measure and needs the House to go along with the Senate bill so he can sign a document and then tell the American people "I have reformed our health care system."

During the political campaign to get health care reform passed President Obama, Senator Reid and Speaker Pelosi have disparaged the Republican party and along with many members of the media have declared the Republicans "the party of No." During this process the three of you, plus many of your fellow Democrats (though not all nor a majority as seen by the difficulty in passing the bills) have become the party of "Yes Sir and Yes Ma'am," with all due respect to Senator Boxer. Yes Sir, Senator Reid. Yes Sir, President Obama. Yes Ma'am, Speaker Pelosi.

You have followed the three leaders blindly and without a peep to your constituents, or for your constituents. The bill that the President is pushing for a vote on in the House was created with bribes, kick-backs, carve-outs, or whatever terminology you wish to use--perhaps something softer like compromise or negotiations. All I know, and most Californians paying attention, is that a State with a small portion of the number of residents on Medicaid/MediCal received assistance to cover the increased costs of the bill being passed. With more doctors than Florida treating patients covered under Medicare, California doctors are facing dramatic cuts in reimbursement, cuts that the bill eliminates for doctors in the Sunshine State. Louisiana, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Nevada, Montana, North Dakota, all received special deals in the health care bill put together by Senator Reid in order to secure votes. And now you are going to vote for special consideration for other states residents at tremendous cost to your own.

Our state is broke and by all accounts should probably file bankruptcy if it could. This health care bill takes a over burdened MediCal system that bleeds funding already and forces tens of thousands of more Californians into the system--with no reimbursement from Washington. We can't pay for MediCal now, how will we pay for it if this bill passes?

Unemployment across the country and in California is climbing. In our City of Long Beach the official rate is over 14%. Every week, week after week, over 400,000 Americans file initial claims for unemployment insurance. Employers are doing all they can to keep people on payroll. During the past year as millions of Americans have lost their jobs the Federal government as added jobs, thousands. During the past year as millions of Americans have seen wages and compensation shrink Federal employees have seen pay increases. Every sector of the economy, except government employees, and more specifically Federal government employees, have suffered. This bill will create thousands of more jobs in the Federal government and over one hundred new departments. How can one of the stated purposes, simplifying the delivery of health care, be done when this bill requires more bureaucracy between me and my doctor?

This health care reform bill is supposed to be so great for the American people. If so why does it not start until after the 2012 elections? It is "scored" to be budget neutral and save money, but this number is chicanery as the taxes required to support the spending start right away with a two year head start before the expenses kick in. Why not calculate the cost when expenses and revenues are in effect? Is it because the bill then becomes a burden on a budget already Trillions in the red?

California is broke and costs are being added to our state budget as a result of this bill. Americans are out of work and added costs and burdens will be added to employers as a result of this bill. The United States is facing skyrocketing deficits and debt for the next several years, our debt burden will quickly approach 100% of Gross Domestic Product, and this bill will add billions and billions more dollars to the budget on the expense side of the ledger. This bill has special deals made to help several states to buy the votes of their representatives, paid for by Californians. This bill is not good for me, my family, my city, my state nor my country. Who is it good for?

This bill is not about what is best of the American people, nor Californians. This bill has become a political scoreboard for President Obama and the Democratic leadership. They want to say, need to say, "we passed health care reform." They are asking you, three loyal Democrats, to support them so they can win a political victory. Not a social victory, not an economic victory, not a victory of reform that benefits the majority of Americans today or in the future. But a personal political victory.

Once the House passes this bill President Obama will sign it and it becomes the law of the land. While the three leaders, Obama, Reid and Pelosi, have promised "reconciliation" to "fix" the bill; once signed there is no requirement to change it. The bill is law and they have gotten the "win." If to get votes they need to promise Democrats in the House that changes can be made to fix what will be the new law, then it should not pass. Do you not find there is something incredibly wrong with the logic of passing a law so you can then fix it? You are being asked to pass and support a broken piece of legislation.

As a constituent I ask you, my representatives in Washington, to please contact your party's leadership. Please communicate to the White House, the Majority Leader and the Speaker that Californians are against this burdensome legislation. Against a bill that must be fixed before it becomes law but will not be until after it is law. Against a bill that most Americans and Californians do not support.

Health care reform is needed. Despite what your leaders say, you know that Republicans and Democrats understand this. I believe that deep down you also know that this is not the way to go about the reform; using tricks and bribes and special deals and arm twisting. Deep down you know that this bill has become not about our country but about egos and politics. Is this really something you can be proud of? Something ten years from now you will say proudly, "I helped with this?"

Please, start over. Together show leadership for the nation. Tell Californians and America, "we believe health care reform can be achieved with the support of the American people and all members of Congress." Put forth a plan for reform, a plan showing a timeline and what issues will be tackled first, a plan that does not turn our entire health care system upside down, which despite the negative news needed to try to get this bill passed works very, very well for the overwhelming majority of Americans and Californians.

Please do not be part of a system that has to use tricks and arcane parliamentary procedure to pass a law that forever changes our nation. We deserve better, we deserve your representation and integrity to do what is best for your constituents.

Thank you,

Dennis C. Smith

To contact Senator Feinstein click here

To contact Senator Boxer click here

To contact Representative Richardson click here


Update: A DC Musing's reader in the 37th Congressional District was inspired by the post and sent a letter to Richardson as well, also requesting she vote "No" on the Senate version of the health care bill. He shared her response and granted permission for me to reproduce here.


Long Beach, CA 90807


Thank you for contacting me about health care reform. I appreciate the opportunity to hear your opinion on this issue.

As you may know, on November 7, 2009, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act of 2009. I voted for this legislation because I believe that now is the time for health care reform that American families can believe in and count on to be there when they need it most. Every 1-percent increase in the unemployment rate results in 1 million more people becoming uninsured. Providing health care for the uninsured costs insured American families $100 billion every year. With the unemployment rate at 10.2 percent across the nation, 12.5 percent in California, and as high as 20 percent in some areas of our district, it is even more urgent that healthcare reform be enacted.

I also voted for this bill because the fact that so many Los Angeles County residents are struggling to obtain and retain affordable, quality health insurance places a tremendous strain on hospitals and medical service providers. Within the past years, five community hospitals have ceased operations due to the inadequate level of reimbursement they received for providing millions of dollars in uncompensated care for the uninsured. Growing health care costs are also hampering the ability of businesses to create jobs. Health care costs for California business have increased 138% since 2006.

We need to be sure that any reform effort does not place additional burdens on the middle class or hurt our economy. I believe that real, effective reform needs to include a public option. H.R. 3962 includes a public option that will lead to increased competition and choice which will ensure that all Americans have an affordable choice among insurance providers to choose the plan that works best for their family. 1 in 5 Californians are uninsured or underinsured. These numbers are staggering and if we do nothing, they will only grow worse. Five percent of all the non-elderly uninsured persons in the nation reside in Los Angeles County. H.R. 3962 also eliminates the prescription drug donut hole for seniors so that they will always be able to obtain the medication they need.

Most importantly, I voted for H.R. 3962 because it provides American families with stability and peace of mind. Never again will they have to choose between their health and their livelihood. This bill provides American families with higher quality health care. It leaves important health decisions up to patients and doctors, not to insurance companies. This bill provides American families with greater choice. It creates a high-quality, robust, public health insurance option for families to choose from. Finally, this bill lowers costs for American families. It eliminates co-pays and deductibles for preventive care while putting an annual cap on out-of-pocket expenses for American families.

The hour is late and the need is great. I voted for H.R. 3962 because I believe we cannot squander the opportunity we have this year to reform the health care system so that it provides accessible, affordable, quality health care to all Americans. On December 24, 2009, the Senate passed its own version of the health care bill. I will be guided by these principals as the House of Representatives and the Senate enter into conference to reconcile the differences between their two bills.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me about health care reform. While we may not agree on this particular issue, I greatly value input from my constituents and I take all viewpoints into consideration when deciding how to vote. As your Congresswoman, I hope you will continue to inform me of your opinions so that I may best represent you in the future.


Laura A. Richardson

Member of Congress

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