Valley Doctors Debate Health Care Reform

September 9, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
In his health care reform speech to the joint session of Congress, President Obama mentioned unprecedented support from doctors. In the valley, many doctors agree that some sort of reform is necessary. They're just not all sure the president's version is the right one.                  |   Watch Video Above for Extended Coverage   |

40,000 patients walk through the doors of the United Health Centers every year, getting basic health care at a low cost. Nearly all of the bills are paid by the state or federal governments, but Dr. Rogelio Fernandez says it's actually saving money. "Health centers across the country have been shown to reduce the cost of provisions care for the Medicaid program as compared to private physicians," he said.

By keeping patients out of the emergency room, he says the clinics cut health care costs to taxpayers by as much as 70%. But Dr. Ap Sidhu says offering that kind of care to everyone would be enormously expensive. 99% of his patients are on government-funded health care and he says when the government tries to cut costs, his ability to care for patients suffers. "The way they reduce costs, they're going to control how many surgeries are going to be performed, which procedure you can have, when you can have a CAT scan and all that." Said Dr. Sidhu.

In addition to being a primary care physician, Dr. Sidhu is also the chairman of the Fresno County Republican party. He thinks reform should come in baby steps, starting with malpractice lawsuit reform. "You can talk to any physician," he said. "You can talk to any hospital. When there's the fear of a lawsuit, you put those patients through so many tests that we can avoid."

Dr. Fernandez agrees that tort reform will help, but he also believes in a bigger reform plan whether it's government-funded health care or not. "Some things do have to change, but are things going to be better with the public option? I don't know," he said.

The most powerful doctors' group, the American Medical Association, has come out in support of the plan to reform health care, at least partly because it would avoid a 20% reduction in their Medicare fees.

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