Fresno may reject millions in health care funds

FRESNO, Calif.

County Health Director Dr. Edward Moreno will ask the Board of Supervisors to withdraw the county's application to participate. Moreno told Action News; "The County and the hospital have determined there are significant financial risks in creating a new low income health program."

Fresno County now pays Community Hospitals $20 million a year to care for the indigent, so local health care advocates are puzzled as to what risk the county fears because the federal program would give Fresno County $50 million over the next two years.

Richard Yanes of Metro Ministry believes the county needs to get in on the program. "Our poverty level here is one of the greatest in the country and for the Board of Supervisors not to go forward with this is just very, very difficult to understand." He said.

County Supervisor Henry Perea told Action News his fellow board members would be making a big mistake if they reject the program. "For us to walk away from the amount of money that's available to create a new more efficient health care delivery system I think it would be really irresponsible on the part of the County as well as Community Hospitals to walk away from that."

But Moreno says there are additional requirements the county and Community Hospitals would have to follow, and he's not certain the county could meet them, even with the federal money. "We do have a big need to enhance care for our poor adults but we also have some of the most limited and minimal resources in the state." Moreno said.

Perea told Action News the federal program would require expanding health care services to rural areas. He says it could require the county to partner with health care providers other than Community to provide the care. But Yanes says despite the obstacles the county needs to move forward. "I don't see how the county can afford to pass this up." We have potential in this county of 55 thousand people in this county are uninsured."

The Low Income Health Insurance Program is a bridge to help counties get ready for the new federal health program which starts in 2014. Ten California counties are already taking part in the federal program. All the rest have applied.

The Republican majority on the Fresno County Board of Supervisors could vote to withdraw the county's application at their next meeting on September 20th.

A coalition of local health care and social service agencies is holding a news conference Thursday morning to encourage the supervisors to stick with the program.

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