Local Reaction to Obama's Health Care Plan

Fresno, CA -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Click here for Entire Press Conference Video (and story)

Critics of the president's health plan say we can't afford to buy everyone health insurance. But those without health insurance or a means to pay their medical bills are already racking up a bill of more than $125 million dollars a year at this one hospital alone. It's a bill the taxpayers are already paying.

Some in the Valley like the Presidents health insurance plans and some don't.

John Subia said, "I think everybody should have a way to get health insurance everyone needs to have it."

Brooke Nasalroad said, "I don't think that it's right that everybody should be able to get health insurance, that's just the way I feel though. Because people work hard to get their health insurance and for people just to be given health insurance, I don't think it's right."

But as the president explained, those without health insurance are costing everybody money. He said, "The average American family is paying thousands of dollars in hidden costs in their insurance premiums to pay for what's called uncompensated care, people who show up at the emergency room because they don't have a primary care physician."

Uncompensated care is a major burden at Fresno's Community Regional Medical Center.

Steve Walter said, "About ten, 12 per cent of the patients we see don't have insurance or a way to pay their bill."

Steve Walter, the Hospital Systems Chief Financial Officer says that translates into about $125 million dollars a year. Fresno County taxpayers pay about $20 million dollars for indigent health care. The Federal Government pays another $75 million. The rest of the costs are absorbed by the hospital and indirectly to paying insured customers.

"We take care of everybody, we don't ask questions we just take care of people and we try to make ends meet at the end of the day that's going to be very difficult," said Walter.

Walter says there are a lot of questions about the president's health care plan, but acknowledges things could be better.

"We have the most expensive health care system in the world, and yet we don't have the best outcomes and we don't have the best coverage's and yet there are a lot of people that don't have insurance," said Walter.

All local hospitals deal with patients who can't pay, and low compensation rates from the state and federal government. Until it's finalized it is not clear how much the president's plan will help.

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