Eshoo takes on Republicans over health care repeal

January 6, 2011 7:34:48 PM PST
Bay Area members of Congress are taking up the fight over health care reform in Washington. Local lawmakers are jumping into the fray over the Republican effort to repeal President Barack Obama's health care law.

Republicans in the House of Representatives are making a show of repealing the health care law and Thursday, Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, added her own act.

As a Republican led committee considered repealing the health care law, Eshoo made sure they understood what that would mean.

"We hold in the palm of our hands the lives of every human being in this country," she said.

Eshoo says repeal would lift the current ban on capping health care benefits. For USC medical student Josh Lilienstein, it would be a life changing event.

"I was diagnosed with metastatic testicular cancer during my first year of medical school," he said.

Lilienstein's medical bills exceeded his lifetime cap and only because the medical school switched insurance companies was he able to get reinsured.

"I'm lucky enough that I'm in a position that there is an institution that may be able to help me but most people aren't so lucky," Lilienstein said.

Novato CPA Holly Reid is another example. Reid's cancer fighting pills cost $60,000 a year. She has been on them for almost t10 years. If her insurance company could put a cap on her lifetime benefit she would be facing a very difficult dilemma.

"I don't know that I could keep my home; I think it could drastically change my middle class lifestyle," she said.

Reid says she might be forced onto public assistance, Medicaid or Medicare, which is a point Eshoo made at Thursday's hearing.

"Those that are moved into those programs, and they will be if this is repealed, is going to increase the burden of these public insurance programs," Eshoo said.

And taxpayers will be stuck with the bill rather than insurance companies.

A spokesperson for the insurance industry would not speculate on what will happen with benefit caps if the health care law is repealed.

"In Washington, where they get to debate the law itself, we observe it and if they change it we'll respond to it and make the best we can," Patrick Johnston said.

Meanwhile, Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, introduced legislation to restore the public option to the health care law, saying it will trim $68 billion from the deficit. That will not fly any more than the repeal itself will, but what we are seeing is Democrats turning the tables on Republicans, who made a lot of noise about the unpopular provisions of the bill when it was being debated.