Saying that the federal government’s new health care plan is a “plateau” not a “pinnacle,” Congressman John Garamendi (D-Walnut Grove) praised the plan as an important social advance. Speaking to several dozen people in the city council chambers of the Walnut Creek city hall, Garamendi, a Democrat, said the new legislation will provide health care for Americans who cannot afford or cannot obtain coverage.
Garamendi made his remarks on June 2 at a small business forum.
The health care bill passed Congress and was signed into law in March by President Barack Obama.
Garamendi said that for 100 years the nation has been trying to provide health insurance to all citizens. Such presidents as Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton have advocated universal health coverage. Only Obama has succeeded.
Garamendi conceded that there are problems with the new legislation but said that the new healthcare act will improve access and affordability for individuals who want and need health care.
The congressman said that people over age 50 are especially vulnerable to the high cost of illness. He said that such people, if unemployed and lack coverage, are generally not able to obtain health insurance if they have an existing condition like diabetes. The legislation, much of which will not take effect until 2014, will remove barriers to all Americans seeking health insurance.
To help pay for the new health insurance plan, the payroll tax for Medicare will, for individuals earning over $200,000 per year in wages, jump from 1.45 percent to 2.9 percent on wages exceeding $200,000.
Also, for individuals earning over $200,000 per year, there will be a special tax of 3.8 percent on income derived from interest, dividends, and capital gains.
Garamendi, in a special election, won his congressional seat on November 3. Garamendi represents California’s Tenth Congressional District, which includes Walnut Creek. Garamendi’s seat was occupied by Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher, who, in June 2009, resigned from Congress to take a job with the State Department.
Prior to serving in Congress, Garamendi was California’s lieutenant governor. Earlier, he served as the state’s insurance commissioner.