Other Opinions

RICHARD LEHMAN: Costa, Cardoza showed leadership in health vote

We’ve had a broken health care system for years, and people who understand the dilemma facing us know that if we don’t fix Medicare and Medicaid, sooner rather than later, it will bankrupt our nation. In addition, all Americans who have insurance today pay at least an $1,800 hidden premium to cover those with no insurance.

Presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain in last year’s presidential race both proposed different solutions to fix this ailing system if elected president. The vast majority of Americans, regardless of political party, feel that Congress and the Administration must address these issues.

Once again, in Michael Der Manouel’s commentary in The Bee, he has chosen Congressmen Jim Costa and Dennis Cardoza as the targets of his partisan political attacks.

Mr. Der Manouel’s diatribe on Congressmen Costa and Cardoza omits a very important fact. When the Republicans were in charge of Congress for 12 years, and President George W. Bush was in office for eight years, they had every opportunity to fix health care in America in their own image, all while they were running up a $9 trillion dollar deficit. Sadly, they failed to do so.

There are two ways to deal with important, controversial legislation. The first is to sit on the political sidelines, criticize everything you see, and then take pot-shots as Mr. Der Manouel did in his recent column.

This strategy is politically low-risk. Alternatively, one can demonstrate true leadership and advocate for your district, as Costa and Cardoza have done, and try to address the difficult challenges facing us. Costa and Cardoza have demonstrated once again their choice to take the political hard road and advocate for one of the poorest regions of the country and try to improve our health care system.

In our Valley, we have approximately 87 primary care physicians per 100,000 people and 43 specialists per 100,000 people. We also have a severe shortage of nurses in our hospitals. There are only 257 nurses per 100,000 people, which is 33% of the national average.

We also know, because we have a shortage of doctors in the San Joaquin Valley, that without a medical school, we will not have the necessary physicians to provide the primary and specialized care.

Our Valley’s health centers are overburdened, our hospitals are stretched thin. We have one of the highest health professional shortages anywhere in the United States.

Costa and Cardoza have the responsibility to negotiate with the House leadership and the Obama Administration on behalf of our Valley. Doing the hard work and getting involved in the legislative process is what is expected of legislators. Their work will bring federal dollars directly to our Valley to improve health centers, hospitals and bring specialized physicians to Fresno and Merced.

Costa and Cardoza held numerous meetings with Valley constituents and medical professionals during the spring, summer and fall to discuss Valley health care needs. There are many people who cannot afford paying their premiums anymore or afford vital medications.

Should our nation continue to deny Valley residents even the most basic medical care, simply because it is unavailable or they cannot afford it?

Ironically, Mr. Der Manouel wants to see the federal government subsidize water for our Valley, yet he opposes providing health care for our farm communities and those who need it most.

It is easy for someone to play Monday morning congressman and point fingers of blame on others for the ills of our Valley. But we deserve leaders who do more than pass blame, or are so myopic, that they do not work on issues Valley voters have sent them to Washington to solve.

There will never be a perfect bill. Negotiations are difficult and time consuming. Partisan attacks will not make things better. We can all judge the final bill and those responsible for it.

For now I am thankful that we have two very experienced and competent legislators working on our behalf.