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Gov. meets with congressional delegation, still hopeful on Medi-Cal

February 27, 2012 |  5:20 pm

Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday sounded still hopeful of gaining federal approval for more flexibility in administering the Medi-Cal health insurance program for the poor, even after having been rebuffed by the Obama administration.

"There are possibilities that are being examined that will enable California to more tightly manage its Medi-Cal program," the governor said at the U.S. Capitol after meeting behind closed doors with a rare bipartisan gathering of California's congressional delegation.

He was cut off by an aide, who said, "If you talk too much about it, you might hurt your negotiations."

The Obama administration has rejected Brown’s efforts to require co-pays from Medi-Cal recipients for emergency-room visits and routine trips to the doctor and dentist. But Brown told reporters, "There may be room to accommodate some of the things we’re looking for.''

It was Brown’s first meeting at the Capitol with members of the famously fractious delegation since his return to the governorship last year. Lawmakers from both parties said the meeting covered a wide range of issues from immigration to transportation and was cordial.

Brown encouraged bipartisan cooperation, said Rep. Judy Chu (D-El Monte), who attended the meeting.

But it will be difficult to bring together the delegation for anything, especially in an election year. California House members, for example, are split along partisan lines over a Republican effort to allow new oil drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to generate money for transportation projects.

Rep. John Garamendi (D-Walnut Creek) said he was pleased by one thing that Brown did differently from his predecessor. Unlike Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was late for a delegation meeting, Brown was on time and "very forthcoming,'' Garamendi said.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose), head of the California House Democrats, said that Brown, unlike other governors she has met, didn't come with index cards "because he actually knows these programs. That’s a nice change."

The state’s Democrats and Republican House members appeared to find at least one area of agreement: They agreed to work together to get the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to open a new satellite office in California.

--Richard Simon in Washington

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