Healthcare and the Affordable Care Act

Healthcare in America needs to be accessible and affordable for everyone. I was not a member of Congress when it passed the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”), and while the law is an important step in fixing decades-old problems with our health care system, it remains a work in progress. Opponents of the law have made dozens of politically motivated and fruitless attempts to repeal the law which have gone and will continue to go nowhere. Repeal is not the answer. A more productive approach, and one that I am fully committed to, is to make constructive changes needed to make it work. That’s why I have repeatedly supported changes proposed by both parties to fix the new law and make it better.

I’ve voted to keep the promise that if you like your plan you can keep it. I voted to make sure individuals and families are given the same extension on enrollment that the President gave businesses. I cosponsored the Protect Medical Innovation Act, a bipartisan bill to repeal the medical device excise tax in the ACA; here in San Diego we were acutely aware of the potential for this industry-specific tax to stifle innovation in the biotech industry that plays such a central role in our economy, while also driving up medical costs. In each case, that’s meant voting against my own party to make sure that we end up with the best system possible for both individuals and employers. In addition, I personally, have refused to take taxpayer-subsidized health care, because I believe it’s wrong for members of Congress to get subsidized health care while others are struggling to afford insurance.

While there is still a ways to go to make health care more accessible, and to get the ACA right, the new law offers some real benefits for San Diegans. For example, it prevents insurance companies from denying coverage because of a pre-existing condition. It also lets adult children stay on their parent’s health care plan until they’re 26 – a change that helps a lot of families with kids in college or who are starting out in their first job. These are the kind of improvements that we would lose if we heeded the mistaken calls just to “repeal Obamacare.” And we can’t go back to the days when too many people got their primary care in the emergency room or lost their homes and savings to medical bill bankruptcies.

As we continue to seek more cost-effective ways to deliver high-quality healthcare more widely and efficiently – outside of the political DC debates about the ACA – San Diego’s technology industries are leading the way in innovation. I introduced the Health Savings Through Technology Act to integrate digital health into Medicare, Medicaid, the VA, and military care while increasing the use of wireless health information technologies (including technologies related to digital health, mobile health (mHealth), telehealth, telemedicine, e-Care, remote patient monitoring, and the collection of patient-generated health data) by patients, caregivers, and healthcare providers. By taking advantage of the innovation coming out of San Diego, we can make health care cheaper to provide across the board.

It’s important to remain invested in the front lines of medical treatment, safety, and research. I've also voted to increase research to accelerate development of clinical trials to treat pediatric diseases, and for funding for pediatric residency and training programs to address the physician shortage. I've supported legislation to make our prescription drug system safer for consumers by applying uniform standards and new safeguards against contaminated and counterfeit drugs, and to protect the National Institutes of Health from dangerous budget cuts through sequestration.

I will continue to be an active and strong advocate for healthcare reform – for patients, for our local hospitals, and for medical professionals. I know how vital reliable and affordable healthcare is, and how frustrating a system full of irrationalities and the wrong economic and health incentives can be. Everyone is eager to help find solutions to our ailing healthcare system, and they are equally eager for a representative who hears their concerns, understands the issues, and works to make sure doctors, patients, and healthcare institutions all have a say in how we address this national problem. That’s always been my problem-solving approach, and that’s the approach I will take as your representative in Congress.

Contraception and Reproductive Choice

Unbelievably, in Congress we are still fighting battles over reproductive choice and access to contraception. Those wars were fought and won 30-40 years ago. I strongly favor reproductive freedom and a woman’s right to make her own medical decisions in consultation with her doctor. My wife and I have a long history of supporting Planned Parenthood, and I'm the only candidate with a history of standing up for the right of women to make their own health care decisions.

It is embarrassing and shameful that when so many families are hurting or are facing uncertainty about their jobs, children’s education, parents’ long-term care – when there are so many pressing issues for our nation and Congress – we are having a national discussion about who should have access to contraception.

In Congress I am a forceful advocate for women’s access to contraception and a woman’s right to choose, and I will continue to do so as long as these battles persist.

You can read more about my record on Equal Rights issues here.