Editor’s note: An interview with Dr. Raul Ruiz’s opponent, Kimberlin Brown Pelzer, appeared in the Oct. 11 issue of the Town Crier.
Congressman Dr. Raul Ruiz is seeking his fourth term representing California’s 36th House District. He was first elected in 2012, when he upset incumbent Mary Bono Mack and was reelected in 2014 and 2016. In each election, his percentage of the votes cast has grown. In 2016, when state Sen. Jeff Stone challenged Ruiz, the incumbent garnered 62 percent of the vote.
“Healthcare is the number 1 issue of the campaign without a doubt,” Ruiz said. Besides coverage for those without health insurance, Ruiz pointed to recent comments from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) blaming the deficit on Medicare and Social Security.
“Seniors are still worried,” he added.
Ruiz argued that Republicans have sabotaged the Affordable Care Act, which drove premiums up in prior years. This year, as they level off, Republicans are claiming credit.
But he pointed to the policy of ending the cost-sharing provision, the lack of advertising open seasons, and failure to seek young and healthy individuals to join the insurance pool.
Only now, after years of trying to repeal the ACA, are Republicans claiming to care about insuring individuals with preexisting conditions, he argued.
“All of these affect and make healthcare more expensive,” he charged.
The cost of healthcare can be lowered, he opined, and offered several options. First would be to allow the Medicare agency to negotiate drug prices with the pharmaceutical firms. Also, allowing the importation of medicine from Canada if it meets U.S. safety standards.
“Lipitor is less than $50 in Canada and more than $150 in the U.S.,” he said.
Finally, he said he supports a public health insurance program with lower premium and lower deductible, but stressed that is not the same as “single-payer” nor “Medicare for All.”
“This has been one fiscally irresponsible administration,” Ruiz said. He pointed to the soaring debt and how much the tax changes have benefited very high income individuals at the cost to the lower and middle classes.
“The best way to help reduce the budget debt is to invest in people,” Ruiz argued. “Education will increase wages.”
Despite claims that the tax law benefited middle-class wages, Ruiz said, “CEOs are keeping the profits. More than 37 percent of private companies have increased their stock buy-back program, which benefits owners. Only 4 percent of employees have seen a bonus or wage increase.”
As an option, he referred to his bill to give small businesses a 10-percent tax credit for increasing their payrolls.
Ruiz does not favor building bigger and more costly border walls. He favors improving the technology available to the Border Patrol. This includes more drones.
“We need to help them prevent gangs, drugs and people who want to hurt other people form entering the country,” he said. But many immigrants benefit from our local agriculture and tourism sectors, he added.
Agreeing that global warming is increasing the number and nature of wildfires in Southern California, Ruiz wants to invest more funding in forest agencies so they can fight and mitigate the large fires.
And he pointed to his legislation, H.R. 1183, which was signed into law last winter. He introduced the bill to help communities deal with the damages from wildfires and try to prevent recurrence after his community meetings following the 2013 Mountain Fire.
When asked whether any national issues were prominent in this Congressional campaign, Ruiz opined, “Women are more motivated to vote for many reasons.” Among these were the efforts to repeal the ACA, the jeopardy of Medicare and harassment related to sexual assaults.
“Women are angry at male national leaders, and tired of bullying and harassing,” he said.
Ruiz is optimistic about the election results. He points to the 10 bills he has sponsored, seen passed and signed. Bipartisanship is important to him and he feels the local constituents favor this style, too.
Also, his efforts to help local programs and businesses such as the Anza Electric Cooperative, Federal Aviation Administration noise standards and tariffs on Canadian newsprint have all been for district constituents.