Rep. Dennis Cardoza was still undecided on the national health care reform bill Friday, but it wasn't for a lack of people trying to influence him.
Golden Valley Health Centers has planned a press conference for today to push for "yes" votes from the Democrat and other Central Valley legislators.
Meanwhile Barbara Williams, past president of the Merced County Republican Women Federated, said she called Cardoza to persuade him to vote no, but was only able to leave a message for the congressman.
A statement on Cardoza's Web page reported the congressman's office has received thousands of calls and letters about health care reform over the past few months.
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Mike Jensen, Cardoza's press secretary, said the majority of those contacts seemed to be in favor of health care reform but he noted that the majority also seemed to come from outside the district. Jensen said he would need more time to analyze the responses and where they came from to get a true picture of what residents of California's 18th Congressional District want.
Cardoza will announce today how he plans to vote Sunday.
Golden Valley Health Centers' press conference will take place at 1 p.m. today at Merced's Golden Valley Health Center, 737 W. Childs Ave.
Christine Noguera, deputy chief executive officer, said Golden Valley served 85,000 people in 2009, about 25,000 of whom did not have health insurance. Golden Valley, a private, nonprofit health system, operates 25 clinic sites and eight dental centers in the Modesto and Merced areas.
"If we don't begin addressing the problems in a more comprehensive approach, the nation's health care system is going to find itself in a position where it can't continue to operate," Noguera said.
"As a nation, by not passing this bill, we are denying (people) care -- you, I, everybody."
One provision in the bill would provide $11 billion in funding for community health centers, such as Golden Valley.
"I personally would like to see a stronger bill," Noguera said. "A national health care plan would've been fine with me, but we have to start somewhere. This bill will make some of the huge giant steps that our programs need."
Republican Barbara Williams of Merced said her message to Cardoza is "now is not the right time."
"I think he should definitely vote against the bill and that is not because I do not want good health care. I know it needs to be redone and revised, but this bill is not it," Williams said, adding she wants legislators to take apart the bill and assess it one portion at a time. "Right now is not the time to dump all this expense onto our economy."
Many Democrats have pointed to a report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which estimates the health care bill will cut the nation's deficit by $138 billion over the next 10 years.
Williams doesn't believe it.
"There's no way you can dump 15 million people onto our health care system and say you are going to lower the deficit. It's impossible," she said.
Williams has also left messages for Democrat Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein when she could not get through to a person.
"I hope it's not because they've taken their phones off the hook," she said.
Reporter Amy Starnes can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.