Editor's note: Last in a three-part series about the effects of the Obama administration's health-care reform on Huntington Beach and Fountain Valley health-care providers and their patients.
It was a small gathering on a quiet day in one of Orange County's quieter cities, but the group surrounding the stage looked like a who's-who of the area's right-wingers.
Costa Mesa Mayor Allan Mansoor recited the Pledge of Allegiance. Assemblyman Van Tran and local Republican Party Chairman Scott Baugh took turns at the microphone. Fountain Valley Mayor Larry Crandall and Mayor Pro Tem Cheryl Brothers stood in the crowd to offer support.
The crowd of several dozen that assembled May 18 in the parking lot of the Fountain Valley Town Center had a single purpose: to voice displeasure with the health-care reform passed by Congress and signed by the Obama administration. The conservative group Revere America, chaired by Pataki, organized the event, and volunteers circulated petitions with the goal of sending 1 million signatures opposing reform to the White House.
"During the worst recession since the Great Depression, this is the worst possible time to add these new challenges to our economy," said Tran, who also referred to the reform as a "job-killing health-care agenda."
Since President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in March, opinions – and predictions – about the reform have varied widely throughout Huntington Beach and Fountain Valley. Some anticipate more business for insurance agents, while others foresee less; some believe extending health insurance to more Americans will result in lower costs, while others expect it to drive costs through the roof.
Probably the area closest to reaching a consensus on health-care reform is the political arena. Among elected officials in an overwhelmingly conservative part of the county, ObamaCare – as it's often derisively labeled by opponents – has few supporters.
"I feel that we're buying into a program that is going to be a financial disaster to our country," said Assemblyman Jim Silva, a Republican whose district includes Huntington Beach.
The reform, he said, would result in higher taxes and have a detrimental effect on health care itself. Silva said he agreed that parts of the American health system need fixing, but didn't believe federal regulation was the solution.
"People say, 'Look at England. Look at Canada,'" he said. "Well, people in Europe and Canada and England come to us for their operations because those countries can't afford the program."
Crandall wasn't among the speakers at the Revere America rally, but he said afterward that he considered the reform's mandate that nearly all Americans purchase health insurance to be a violation of individual rights.
"Many of those folks choose to be not insured," he said. "The logical explanation is a lot of young people say, 'I can make $20 or $15 an hour with no insurance, but if the company has to buy insurance for me, it's more like $11 or $12 an hour.' The rest of humankind should not be penalized for the personal decisions some people make because they don't need or want health insurance."
Huntington Beach Mayor Cathy Green also disagrees with Obama's approach to health reform, although she comes to it from a different standpoint than Crandall. The two-term councilwoman, who will be termed out in November, worked for nearly three decades as a nurse before going on leave during her first stint as mayor.
The true problem with America's health system, Green said, is the exorbitant costs of medical school and patient treatment. Putting 32 million more people on the insurance rolls, she said, wouldn't lower those expenses.
"I don't think there's any doubt we need to do something," Green said. "Medicare is going to go under if we really don't do something. The cost of pharmaceuticals is so expensive, and yet we still have to make sure that we have incentives to invent new drugs and test them and make sure they work. But the way we're doing it right now is just making the costs go up."
Her colleague, Mayor Pro Tem Jill Hardy, is one of the few local elected officials to cheer the reform. Hardy, a Democrat, said she expected the larger insurance rolls to lower health costs for the city. And she denounced the complaint among many conservatives that health-care reform equals socialism.
"People don't seem to have a problem with public education," Hardy said. "I've never heard of public education being a form of socialism. There's a lot of things we contribute to together because we can't do it individually. We drive on common roads. We play in public parks."