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Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe lobbies for Medicaid dollars

Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe in Washington, D.C.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe in Washington, D.C.
Kitty Felde/KPCC

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Spending cuts are the top priority for congressional Republicans. But two GOP politicians from L.A. County are urging them to leave Medicaid alone.

L.A. County supervisors Mike Antonovich and Don Knabe are Republicans. They scored a private meeting in D.C. with House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, the top Californian in the GOP’s House leadership.

Knabe says they talked about the Republicans’ move to cap Medicaid, the government’s health care program for the poor. He told McCarthy the cap would “kill” L.A. County, which has the largest uninsured population in the country.

"I think he was surprised, that coming out of myself and Antonovich and talking about Medicaid," says Knabe. "But we also understood his problem with the debt and the kinds of things they have to do. So we didn’t just say, 'Hey! Don’t touch us! Leave us alone! Give us more money!' We said, 'Just be thoughtful about it, how you get through this process, so it’s not a slash-and-burn kind of mentality'.”

Knabe says L.A. County’s size works against it. He says Congress has lots of members from rural districts – and some don’t understand the challenges faced by urban L.A. County.

He recognizes that he faces a lot of competition when he lobbies for D.C. dollars. "When you get in an elevator over there on the Hill, look at all the name tags," he says. "American Carburetor Association, American Glass Manufacturers, Christmas Tree Growers, and you understand how difficult it is to get things done back here because everyone has their little niche. And so you come back here with bigger issues, and you say, 'Well, why won’t they listen?' Well, get in the elevator and you’ll find out. They do listen, but it’s competing interests."

Knabe says participants drove the point home at a White House meeting with county supervisors from around the country. He was there to talk about Medicaid and they were there to lobby just as passionately for white stripes down the middle of a two-lane highway.