SACRAMENTO, Calif. —While Republicans open debate Tuesday on repealing health reform, leaders in California are sitting down to a completely different discussion: how they can most aggressively implement the new law and remain among the Obama administration’s model states on the reform — without stumbling over the significant challenges that stand in their way.

California’s Health and Human Services secretary, Diana Dooley, had dinner last week with Joel Ario, the Obama administration’s lead on health exchanges, and discussed the state’s progress on implementing the new law.

Ario complimented Dooley, telling her that the Obama administration saw California as a “pace car” on health reform. Dooley offered a slightly different perspective.

“I told him we don’t want to be a pace car state,” Dooley told POLITICO in an interview after just one week in office. “We want to be the lead car.”

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