Congressman Jerry McNerney (D-Pleasanton) said Tuesday that any federal health care measure that he supports in the coming weeks will have to provide benefits to small businesses that are already struggling to stay profitable while also meeting the needs of their employees.
Speaking at a luncheon sponsored by the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce, McNerney said the federal government's plan has to lower health care costs while also making health care available to people who now are left out of adequate health care.
"We're talking about a lot of people that want to change jobs or to work for small businesses or move or have a health condition that prevents them from getting health care at another place," McNerney said.
He told of a Danville man who has brain cancer and went through a half-million-dollars in savings for treatments because he lacked health insurance. He moved in with his brother who now takes care of him and wonders if he, too, will go bankrupt paying for his brother's medical care.
"We should not allow this to happen in our country," McNerney said. "We are the greatest country in the world and we `cannot and should not allow our people to suffer in that way because of health care costs."
McNerney called for a "uniquely American system, a system that reflects the best of what this country has to offer in health care."
"And that includes competition," he explained. "We have some of the finest providers, some of the finest physicians, some of the finest hospitals right here in the Bay Area. Health care here is absolutely second to none."
"So what we need to do is find a way to introduce competition into that system, matching private enterprises with public programs to make sure we get the best possible performance out of our system," he added.
McNerney said he has toured his 11th Congressional District during the current August recess and earlier, talking to hospitals, doctors, nursing home providers, hospice centers and health care recipients to get information on problems they see in the current health care system and listening to suggestions for how to improve it.
He said he has read every page of the voluminous health care measure before Congress and is convinced that the bill when finalized will close the gap that leaves millions of Americans uninsured.
"We have to do it in a way that benefits small businesses," he said. "I was a consultant for many years and created a number of start-up companies. I know how businesses struggle with these things and it's important that we take into account what's going to work for small businesses."
On other issues, McNerney said he expects a transportation reauthorization bill will be approved next year that should provide additional federal money for the Tri-Valley, including finding funding assistance to extend Hwy. 84 to I-680 and for improvements to the 580-680 freeway interchange.
"Pleasanton is at the corner of 580-680, the crossroads of people and commerce in the Bay Area and also the major route between the Port of Oakland and all points east in the country," he said. "We have to bring federal money here to make sure that this corridor moves freely,"
On education, McNerney said he was able to bring $60 million in federal funds to local districts and knows that more is needed. He said the situation is critical for schools throughout his district, including Pleasanton. He talked about two teachers near his Val Vista neighborhood home who recently lost their jobs in Pleasanton. They have since found positions with nearby school districts.
"We have to be aware of how important our schools are and how valuable an addition they are to our community," McNerney said.
"Whenever I meet a business leader and try to promote Pleasanton and try to get them to move to our community or any of the communities in my district, the very first question is what are your schools like?" McNerney said.
"They ask: 'Are my executives going to want to send their kids to your schools?' I know that question personally. The reason my wife and I chose to live in Pleasanton is because of the excellent reputation of schools here."