U.S. Rep. Ami Bera has spent most of his career as one of the Capital Region’s leading voices on health care, first as a doctor and later as Sacramento County’s chief medical officer and a dean of admissions for the UC Davis medical school. But since being elected to Congress in 2010 to represent the 7th Congressional District, which includes Folsom, Elk Grove, Rancho Cordova and Fair Oaks, Bera’s focus has broadened considerably. Catching him on this coast can be tricky these days, but in July we were able to sit down with him in his Rancho Cordova offices to talk about the Affordable Care Act, immigration and a host of other hot topics.
Comstock’s: This conversation will appear in print in October, the same month we’ll be registering Californians for the health benefits exchange, Covered California. You’ve had your issues with the Affordable Care Act over the past couple years. Where are you with where the law is now?
Bera: I’ve pretty consistently said that I would have started approaching health care reform in a different manner. There are two major issues when it comes to health care. One is the cost. Individuals, small business and large employers are paying more and more every year, and their benefits get to be less and less. And then there’s the access issue: 30 million to maybe 50 million Americans with inadequate or no health insurance. You’ve got to address both issues, but the president chose to address the access issue without fundamentally changing the cost structure. My worry there has always been that if you bring these folks into a system where costs are constantly going up, you just accelerate that. But now we’re seeing something slightly different. It could be the recession or it could be that there’s a tipping point where costs can’t go up that much, but we’ve seen a deceleration in the cost increases. But since we’re still bringing all these folks in, we’ve got to address the cost issue. That’s where I think the focus should be. (click here to continue reading)