Economy, education and health-care questions topped the list for 47th district congressional candidates Gary DeLong and Alan Lowenthal at the Rotary Club of Long Beach’s congressional candidate forum Wednesday in the Queen Mary’s Grand Salon.
Candidates were given several minutes to answer questions, but no rebuttals or question-and-answer period were allowed, despite DeLong’s attempt to create a Q & A at the end of the formal questioning.
Rotary Club of Long Beach: What should health care look like in 15 years? What is the role of a freshman congressman in this controversial legislative arena?
State Senator Alan Lowenthal (D): Thank you. What I’ve learned already is that I’ve got to be a little bit more brief. Maybe that’s what health care needs. Over the next 15 years, our goal should be affordable and accessible health care system for all citizens. I support the Affordable Care Act. It ensures an illness will not bankrupt a family; we will not lose our home or (insurance) protection because of a pre-existing condition. Individuals will not lose their healthcare insurance because they’ve developed an injury or an illness. We will focus on preventative health measures. Individuals and small businesses will be able to come together and divide healthcare coverage at an affordable cost. The Congressional Budget Office has said rather than be something that will drive the budget deficit… over the next 10 years the Affordable Care Act will reduce the deficit by providing insurance for all people and reducing healthcare costs. So there are things the government can do, and one of the things I can do as a congressman is to listen to my constituents over the next four years or two years. Is it working, or is it not working? We also have to know changes in health care are not just going to be government driven. There are already tremendous changes that are already occurring within health care that we need to balance and understand. The practice of medicine, the types of hospitals that we will see, where medicine will be practiced will change over the next 15 years because it will go from a cottage industry to one that’s much more technologically driven and much more based on best practices. We will see that the new people coming out of medical school and residencies and training do not want to do what the old timers wanted to do. In new medicine, they want a real life, they want regular hours, they want a turnkey office, and they want something that’s better than what they’ve done before. We will see larger and larger rooms and larger hospital systems in the next 15 years. I’ll just finish by saying my wife is a Kaiser doc. She practices both in the north and in the south. Kaiser is one that promotes wellness, has the highest patient satisfaction, and that model is something we will be looking at much, much more. Whether it’s the Kaiser model or another hospital, the next 15 years we will look at programs that are doctor-driven but also have the orientation of large collective groups which the emphasis is on wellness and the prevention of illness. You’re going to see much more of that in the next 15 years. I think the first step is the Affordable Care Act. Thank you.
First of all, I want thank Alan for pointing out all the differences between us when it comes to the economy. We have a government which we can’t afford today. We’re deficit spending over a trillion dollars, and he thinks the answer is more government. I think that’s crazy. But that’s the difference between us. I’ve worked in the private sector. I just don’t spend money I don’t have. I don’t think we need more government. We need government to get out of the way. We have the best economy, the best capitalism, the best network in the world. Let me be clear. I am not anti-government. I just believe we should have as much government as we can afford. Regarding health care, I think there are things we want. I think we want to improve the quality of care and have the opportunity to do so, and we want health care to be more affordable. We’ve had a huge increase in healthcare costs over the last decade. Does the Affordable Care Act provide those things? That’s the question. Clearly it does not. I think it helps with improving access. I think there are also benefits for covering pre-existing conditions, covering youth until 26. I think there’s some good parts to that. But it fails miserably on the other terms. We’ve talked about our economic situation. Why the hell would we be willing to … spend $1.8 trillion that we don’t have in the next 10 years. Does that make sense to you that we’re going to borrow money from China to support health care and get further in debt? Does that make sense to anybody in this room? Because I’ll tell you, it does not make sense to me. And as I talk to doctors and I talk to health care administration and I talk to professionals in the health care industry, what I hear from them is that they’re very concerned. They’re concerned doctors are going to leave the field. They want things to be better. They want it to change. It’s not perfect. It can get better. We need to work to make it better. But we can’t work to make it better by spending $1.8 trillion. That is absolutely crazy. There are things we can do. We can do tort reform and try to get rid of those frivolous lawsuits that increase the costs of health care. We can help small-business owners [with a tax write-off] for their health insurance costs. There are a number of things we can do, and I think who we should listen to is the medical care professionals explain to us what needs to be improved, and we need to partner with them as elected officials to make those things happen. That’s why I want to be your congressman. Thank you.
What sort of federal legislation or modification to existing legislation, if any, would improve or degrade the quality of education in our country and/or be beneficial or harmful to our state? Please highlight threats, challenges or opportunities as you perceive them with an emphasis on what your role will be.
DeLong: I’ll tell you what I won’t do. What I won’t do is what the state legislature is doing. In the last two years they’ve taken a billion dollars away from the Cal State University system. They’ve taken 30 percent away. Do you think that’s going to improve the education for our kids? It’s not. They’ve done similar cuts to the [University of California] system. They’ve cut over 20 percent to the community college system… not to mention the cuts for (grades) K-12. We should be making more investments in education, not less. Again, I think we need government out of the way to an extent. For every dollar you invest in education, the federal government is taking a piece, the state government’s taking a piece, other administrations are taking a piece, and how much of that tax dollar you and I are paying is actually getting to the classroom? We want that money to get into classrooms for our kids… So if you ask what I will do, I will carefully look at every taxpayer dollar, and I will make sure it gets to where we want it to get to. Thank you.
For the past two years, let me preface this by saying, I’ve been the chair of the California Senate’s Education Committee, where our major goals in the state I’ve been trying to implement have been: How do you improve student success? How do you prepare students for the world of work? How do you increase the accountability of students, teachers and institutions? And how do you improve the way we measure this through assessments that really make sense and really help students succeed? Our legislation is focused on developing programs that implement that… [We proposed] the Long Beach College Promise Act, which really linked the Long Beach Unified School District with Long Beach [City] College, to be able to better share our resources and to really form a seamless educational system. This year I’m the author of the California Student Success Act, which really changes the very nature of our community colleges… We prioritize those courses that meet those students’ educational plans so that they end up at a community college with either a degree, with either a transfer to a four-year school, or they end up at a community college with workforce credentials and enter the work force with some kind of certificate process. That’s what we really need to do in this. And we need to do this in a timely way. The problems are that we need to work, as we’ve done in the state, with a partnership between the local communities, our different institutions and the state. And we need to do that with the federal government. It will not help us in the sequestration if we cut approximately $350 million in federal funds from education. We must continue to fund education at that level. And right now, at the federal level, we have the No Child Left Behind (program)… There were some problems with that (program)… as a new congressman, I would need to work on. It needs to be reauthorized. It needs to have a better way of coming up with a better system of assessments. It has to have realistic goals. It mandates lots of things back to the laws of the states, but it does not provide the states with the resources to [enforce those mandates]. We need to change that and become better as a partnership… Thank you.