Supervisors debate medical care for undocumented

FRESNO, Calif.

It's estimated 90 percent of the farmworkers who plant and harvest Valley crops are here illegally. And Fresno County Supervisor Judy Case is worried that when it comes to health care they may have it too good.

Case explained, "The question is should somebody who enters this country illegally receive a higher level of specialty care than other individuals who are born in this country."

Specialty care is anything beyond basic primary care, and Fresno County Supervisor Henry Perea disputes the idea there's anything special about providing treatment for cancer heart disease, diabetes, stroke.

Perea added, "Its life and death kind of stuff that these folks don't somehow we have in our heads we think they are not entitled to that kind of care."

The county was using mostly state funds to pay Community Regional Medical Center to care for the poor and the undocumented, but the affordable care act changed everything. Under the act the poor could get health care. So the state took much of its money back. But the affordable care act does not cover the undocumented so the county is no longer being reimbursed for those costs. The undocumented could still receive primary care from federally subsidized clinics, but the county would have to use its own money to pay for anything beyond their basic health care.

Supervisor Debbie Poochigian cited other needs for that money. "We are taking net county dollars that could be used for deputies."

Perea noted the cost to cover the gap in health care would be about $5 million a year. Not too much he thought for those who support agriculture a $6.5 billion a year industry in Fresno County.

"We're happy to parade these brave people to water rallies in Sacramento and call them brave people and how we are trying to save their jobs and the next day when we are talking about something like this, we call them illegal, I think that's wrong," explained Perea.

Last week a judge ruled Fresno County did not have to continue providing health care to the indigent, but stayed his decision for 60 days to allow for an appeal.

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