Rep. James E. Rogan (R-Glendale) traded jabs with Democratic challenger Adam Schiff on Thursday over patients' rights legislation and prescription drug plans, with Rogan making his attack in a videotaped message shown to a group of 60 senior citizens in Pasadena.
Still in Washington, D.C., because of the federal budget impasse, Rogan taped a message shown to members of the Pasadena Seniors Curriculum in which he charged that state Sen. Schiff (D-Burbank) backs legislation that would limit seniors' choices for prescription drug benefits and would increase the liability of employers who provide health insurance.
Rogan said he opposed the Norwood-Dingell patients' bill of rights because he fears it would increase liability for employers, allowing them to be sued more easily by employees over health insurance coverage.
"The trial lawyers who would make billions of dollars off of these frivolous lawsuits are backing Adam Schiff," Rogan told the seniors, saying he instead supports two other patients' rights bills that do not subject employers to additional liability.
In a telephone interview later, Schiff said the Norwood-Dingell bill is the better alternative to "HMO-industry backed" bills supported by Rogan, and he said there is language in the bill to protect employers from liability.
"Sixty-eight Republican members of Congress joined in supporting this bipartisan bill," Schiff said of Norwood-Dingell. "I don't see how [Rogan] can explain how such a strong group of his colleagues feel he is on the wrong side of this issue."
Rogan also said legislation backed by Schiff to provide prescription drug benefits for Medicare recipients would unreasonably limit the choices of seniors to a government-run program.
The congressman said he supports a plan that would give seniors the option to "choose from dozens of low-cost private insurance plans . . . without forcing them into a government-run HMO with a one-size-fits-all approach."
Schiff said the bill backed by Rogan is a pharmaceutical industry plan that would provide insurance companies tax incentives without guaranteeing they would provide affordable prescription drugs to Medicare recipients.
"Mr. Rogan would give seniors the choice of having no drug benefit," Schiff said. "It doesn't require anybody to provide a benefit to anyone."
Rogan was hoping to return to his district today, but campaign spokesman Jeff Solsby said Congress may work into the weekend, so even a Saturday return is uncertain.
Solsby said the congressman is getting help from state Sen. Bill Murrow (R-Carlsbad), who is scheduled to bring Orange County supporters to the 27th Congressional District on Saturday to walk precincts for the incumbent.
Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who is facing a challenge from Rep. Tom Campbell (R-San Jose), has agreed to appear at a get-out-the-vote rally for Schiff and other local legislative candidates at a Democratic Party office in Pasadena on Saturday.