California is an increasingly expensive place to live. Housing and taxes, in general, are higher here than any other state.

Sadly, health care coverage is also on that list of high cost items. Many California families are experiencing more costly coverage as Covered California premiums increased on average by double-digits this year. In Kern County, families pay an average of 12.2 percent more for those premiums.

Our country has a unique opportunity now to improve our health care system and help families. I commend our congressman, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, for giving our state the opportunity to provide input as Congress seeks to fix our nation’s health care system.

In a letter to the nation’s governors, Congressman McCarthy rightly articulates the “shared goal of enacting health care reforms that lower costs, improve quality, empower states and individuals, and bring our health care system into the 21st Century.”

California state officials have a choice – voice ideas so Californians get better health care coverage or bury their heads in the sand.

We must take advantage of the opportunity to play a constructive role and ensure all Californians have access to more affordable and higher quality health care. This includes examining how more flexibility from federal government regulations might provide additional tools for our state and local governments, along with health care providers, to seek innovations and efficiencies in improving health care for local communities.

A more sustainable health care system benefits all Californians. This includes families that are struggling with California’s increasingly high cost of living, lower-income residents who rely on the government’s social safety net, small businesses that want to hire more workers, and local industries that are already overburdened with expensive federal and state regulations.

I offered Gov. Jerry Brown my help to facilitate a constructive dialogue between Sacramento and California Republican policymakers in Washington, whom I have a strong, working relationship with. More importantly, I want to listen and convey your ideas for a better health care system to state and federal leaders.

Please share your thoughts and ideas with me at Senator.Fuller@sen.ca.gov. Together, we can find a better way to deliver affordable, high-quality health care to all Californians.

State Senate Republican Leader Jean Fuller of Bakersfield represents the 16th District.