Rep. Becerra on Question of Congressional Health Care Coverage

This is a rush transcript from "Your World With Neil Cavuto," April 14, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, ANCHOR: All right, well, reaction fast and furious to this report that Congress is confused about its own health care status. Now that health reform is the law of the land, it seems a number of Democrats have inadvertently killed their own coverage and may have to add a legislative fix.

Well, Democratic Congressman Xavier Becerra of California says he has got some concerns.

But, Congressman, what do you think of this? What is really going on? The report was that a lot of your colleagues realized that both they and their workers might have to give up their federal coverage. Is that true?

REP. XAVIER BECERRA D-CALIF.: Neil — first, Neil, Xavier, the first name Xavier — X like an H.

CAVUTO: Oh, I apologize.

BECERRA: Not a problem.

CAVUTO: I’m Neil. It sounds like Neil. But go ahead.

BECERRA: Got it. Neil’s easy. Xavier is a little bit more difficult.


BECERRA: I think what you’re finding is that, in this case, this particular provision, which was added in the Senate, in fact, added by Tom Coburn, who, at some point, you will have probably a chance to talk to. You can ask him why he made some errors in drafting this.

It was probably for the purpose of making sure that members of Congress and federal workers also participated in the same kind of exchange that we created in this legislation.

CAVUTO: Right.

BECERRA: Unfortunately, because it was poorly drafted, it looks like it might actually cause some members of — the staff of members Congress to actually lose their particular coverage and have to go into an exchange that may — doesn’t get — doesn’t go into effect until 2014. I think it is an error that can be corrected.

CAVUTO: Right. And we should just say — you’re right, Congressman, but just to catch people up on the nuances here, these exchanges don’t take effect until 2014. Many of these federal workers are concerned that the coverage they enjoy now...

BECERRA: That’s right. They should be.

CAVUTO: ...would have to be given up.

All right, but let’s say you fix it, because you realize that your own are compromised here. Then how is that any different from all these legislative and legal efforts in so many states to overturn this thing? You’re trying to fix something after the fact, right?


BECERRA: But, Neil, again, that — aim that question at Senator Coburn and the Senate, because that wasn’t a House provision.

CAVUTO: I’m aiming it at you. I’m aiming it at you. OK. Fine.


BECERRA: OK. It wasn’t a House provision. We didn’t have it in our House bill.


CAVUTO: Man, oh, man. I don’t care. I’m not blaming anyone.

BECERRA: We made sure we created an exchange.

CAVUTO: I’m not blaming anyone.


CAVUTO: I’m asking you, do you think this thing should be patched? Do you think it should be addressed, yes or no?

BECERRA: Any time you do a big reform, you’re going to find they need to iron out some wrinkles. In this case, this Republican amendment, which was accepted in the Senate, has some wrinkles.

But I think the philosophy — and, again, ask Senator Coburn.


CAVUTO: Congressman, this — please leave his name of out it. I don’t care if it’s a Republican. I don’t care if Attila the Hun came up with this.


CAVUTO: On this measure, Congressman, if all of a sudden there are allowances made to patch something for federal workers, you would be open to that?

BECERRA: Neil, if — you’re not saying that you would want workers who have coverage through an exchange right now, federal workers, to be denied coverage simply because of a drafting error by Senator Coburn when he drafted this amendment. I don’t think so.


CAVUTO: All right. Fine. Then you’re looking after your own. That’s fine. I am saying this, though.


BECERRA: Wait. Let’s make this clear. No, let’s make something very clear.


CAVUTO: No, no, if others find similar things that hurt them...

BECERRA: We make sure in this legislation, Neil, to say to everyone, if you have got insurance and you like it, you get to keep it.

A lot of federal employees probably like the insurance they have. They should get to keep it. That’s our purpose.

CAVUTO: So, what about all these people across the country, Congressman, who have been saying there are a lot of provisions in this we don’t like either? There’s a doctor we just had on who said this is going to be onerous to him. How about providing some patches to him, patches to all of it?


BECERRA: Simple answer for those folks, Neil. If they have insurance and they like their insurance, they get to keep it.

If they don’t have insurance, by the way, and — or say that they’re a small business and they want to offer it. Guess what? As of this year, they get a 35 percent tax credit for their employees access to health insurance. And so...


CAVUTO: But, Congressman, you just said, you just said, if you have insurance, you get to keep it. You said that’s a...

BECERRA: That’s right.

CAVUTO: That’s a guarantee in this. Yet, you have discovered, little — in less time than it takes for the ink to dry on this puppy, that, at least when it comes to some federal workers, that might not be the case.

So, lo and behold, if you have discovered...

BECERRA: Well, Neil, Neil...


CAVUTO: Again, I don’t care. I don’t care whether a Republican did it or a Democrat.


BECERRA: You’re distorting it. You’re distorting it. You’re distorting it.

CAVUTO: Then clarify this.


BECERRA: No one is saying that they will not get insurance.

CAVUTO: All right. All right.

BECERRA: No one is saying that they won’t get insurance. It may be different insurance.


CAVUTO: There’s a gap. There’s a gap for federal workers, right? There’s a fear of a gap for federal workers, right?

BECERRA: No, it’s not clear. It’s not clear because the provision by Senator Coburn is very vague. And, so, there has to be some interpretation of it.

CAVUTO: Oy vey.

All right, so you’re trying to get a clarification and a patch for them. That’s fine. All I’m asking you is, a guarantee that was made when this first started that there would not be an interruption in coverage, that there would be not be holes, it turns out, for some federal workers, there are indeed holes.

So, what was so crazy, that criticism early on, that this wasn’t fully appreciated? Federal workers are the first to say, my God, we have a problem here.


BECERRA: Neil, you’re trying to ascribe of a defect in this provision by Senator Coburn to the entire bill, which I won’t accept, because we shouldn’t accept.


BECERRA: The fact that, today, preexisting — preexisting conditions are going to be prohibited from being used by insurance companies to deny people coverage is good stuff.

CAVUTO: Focus on this. Focus on this.

BECERRA: The fact that seniors in America will get $250 in coverage for that doughnut hole are great.

CAVUTO: I know. I know. I know. And consider me thick-skulled on this issue. If there was an oversight for federal workers that might accidentally take them out of the coverage they enjoy now until these exchanges are up and running, you would want to fix that, right?

BECERRA: If Senator Coburn meant to take them off, then he would have to explain that.

CAVUTO: All right.

BECERRA: I don’t think anyone in Congress was intending to take any worker who has insurance off of the coverage they have. And so we would fix that if indeed that was what the provision ultimately did.

CAVUTO: And let’s say — OK. Then, finally, let’s say you discovered there was a provision there that Fox anchors have a gap in their coverage.


CAVUTO: Would you similarly...

BECERRA: I would fight — Neil, I would fight as hard as I could to make sure those phenomenal Fox anchors got to have to their coverage...

CAVUTO: All right.

BECERRA: ...especially if their initials were N.C. I would fight very, very hard.

CAVUTO: Oh, there we go. That’s all I needed to know, Congressman.

Thank you very, very much, Xavier Becerra.

BECERRA: But I thought — I really — I really thought that was the purpose of the interview.

CAVUTO: Pretty much just that.


CAVUTO: Thank you, sir. Appreciate it.

BECERRA: Good to see you, Neil.

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