Rogan's health-care record assailed

Robert Shaffer

BURBANK -- There's a health-care debate in the district, and it

involves bills and amendments and seniors and one Republican congressman.

Critics of Rep. James Rogan (R-Burbank) held a newsconference last

week to protest the congressman's choice of one HMO bill over another,

and charge him with misleading the public in a series of television

advertisements promoting his position on health-care reform.

Rogan's staff struck back, pointing out that one of the event's

sponsors, Americans for Democratic Action, gave $1,000 to Rogan's opponent in an upcoming election, state Sen. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank).

Americans for Democratic Action and the Congress of California

Seniors, another group that is often critical of Rogan, accuse the

congressman of voting one way then distorting his record in misleading

ads and other communications with voters.

"He is the master of the politics of confusion," Lila Garrett,

president of the Southern California Americans for Democratic Action,

said at the rally. "Remember his promises, expect the opposite, and you

won't be disappointed."

The reform bill Rogan voted for in Congress, she said, has loopholes

throughout. Glendale's congressman voted against a bill sponsored by

Reps. John Dingell (D-Mich.) and Charlie Norwood (R-Ga.) that ultimately

passed the House of Representatives.

Under the alternative bill Rogan supported, patients lose their right

to sue in state court and are not able to appeal HMO decisions to an

truly independent review board, Garrett said.

But Scott Corley, a Rogan staffer who works on health care, paints a

completely different picture.

Allowing patients to file similar lawsuits in both state and federal

courts is unnecessary, he said.

The review board is a different matter, however. Corley conceded the

bill Rogan supported would set up a review board that would only

determine if an HMO followed a patient's policy when determining if it

was justified in denying care. Proponents of Norwood-Dingell say that

bill provides for review that must take into account the best interests

of the patient.

But no bill is perfect, Corley said, and there are other reasons Rogan

voted for an alternate, including limiting punitive damages that bankrupt

businesses and drive up the cost of health care. The substitute bill also

went further in other areas of patient protections, he said.

But the differences don't end there. Another piece of the successful

bill Rogan and his detractors cannot agree on is if the legislation makes

employers who do not make medical decisions liable if sued.

Norwood-Dingell supporters, and the authors themselves, say businesses

are protected if they don't make decisions; Corley said that is open to

interpretation.

The four health-care reform bills debated in Congress last year were

remarkably similar, Corley said. It's all election-year politics, he

said.

"We get into minute differences, but there is a titanic gulf that has

been created by a partisan fight," he said.

Garrett said Rogan's opposition to the bipartisan bill shows where he

is coming from.

"Given the choice between voting for the people or the insurance

companies, Rogan consistently chooses insurance companies," she said.

Corley said many Republicans voted for the most popular bill because

they didn't want to be cast as anti-reform in an election year.

"In the end, many Republicans realized the bill would pass, so they

voted for it. Congressman Rogan was unwilling to do that."

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