The congressman, who appeared in Malibu last week, links health care and energy to the economy.
By Olivia Damavandi / Assistant Editor
As the Senate prepared to vote on a bill to stimulate job growth, U.S. Democratic Rep. Henry A. Waxman appeared at Pepperdine University last week Friday to discuss the status of two other bills imperative to economic recovery: health care and energy.
At the meeting, hosted by Malibu Rotary Club, Waxman expressed his own frustrations with the political battles over health care reform and a carbon cap-and-trade system, both of which the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee has advocated for a number of years.
The health care bill, he said, would expand coverage, tighten regulation of the insurance industry, make the nation’s medical system more efficient, and maintain the costs of entitlement programs like Medicare.
Republicans have remained staunchly opposed to any major health care legislation, which Waxman called “the major problem.” But divided Democrats have also contributed to the failure of passing the bill, which Waxman admitted has taken longer than he expected.
In addition, Waxman expressed frustration over “scare tactics” that he said have also been used to stall the bill.
“We’ve already had people describe death panels as part of the bill, which is just not true. It’s just made up to scare people,” Waxman said. “They’ve certainly tried to scare the elderly. I’ve had a lot of people come up to me and say, ‘I don’t want a government-run health care plan; I’m on Medicare.’ One, they don’t realize that it’s [Medicare] government-run and, two, they don’t realize they’re not going to have as generous a Medicare plan in the future unless we can start controlling the cost.”
Waxman said dramatic increases of insurance costs recently announced by Anthem Blue Cross, California’s largest health insurer, “underscore the problem of these individual insurance plans because they are cherry picking.
“They didn’t increase the insurance for everybody. We want to see if they were increasing the insurance for those people who have a more generous insurance policy, if they’d like to shift them on to something where they’d have to spend more money out of pocket, which would mean less that the insurance companies would have to pay. Or whether they’re the people they want to get rid of.”
Audience members on Friday had the opportunity to question the congressman.
Malibu resident Dr. Jeff Harris questioned why a tax was not imposed on soda drinks, thought by many to be a leading contributor to the high rates of childhood obesity and diabetes nationwide.
Waxman responded, “The politics of soda is the powerful interest of the people that manufacture the sodas. They didn’t want a tax on them, they didn’t want to make their product more expensive.”
On the issue of energy, Waxman said while the energy bill would increase national security by helping to end the country’s dependence on foreign oil and improve the environment by cutting carbon emissions, it would also spur economic recovery by producing jobs.
Waxman said there exists a significant demand to begin the wide use of alternative energy, and that he has been contacted by many venture capitalists from Santa Monica who are interested in investing money into alternative energy projects like battery-powered cars.
“If we don’t have jobs, more people don’t have insurance,” he said, correlating the two issues.
The passing of the bills would be big accomplishments, Waxman said, “But everything depends on the economy. If people are out of work and the economy is in trouble in November, the party in power usually suffers … I think the Republicans are banking on that, so we’ve got to get the economy moving.”