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Fresno leaders aren't embracing health care funds

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Fresno County Board of Supervisors may reject $50 million to provide health care to the poor. The money in limbo is part of the federal Low-Income Health Insurance program. The County applied for the money months ago but now questions whether it has enough resources to sustain the plan. That would leave man y of the poor uninsured.

"They have to accept the help because we need it," said Reynaldo Valdez. He is one of 12,000 uninsured Fresno County residents who would benefit from the federal program to expand health coverage to the indigent. "When I need a refill of my medicine, I have to come to the Sierra Vista Clinic because it's the only place where they can see me," said Valdez.

Members of the health care community gathered to voice their support for the plan on Thursday outside the clinic.

"We got all these people who are unemployed, losing their health insurance. Here's an opportunity to fix two things at once," said Kevin Hamilton, director of programs at Clinica Sierra Vista.

The Board of Supervisors is considering rejecting the funds because of limited resources. Fresno County currently pays $20 million a year to Community Regional Medical Centers to provide care to the poor. The federal program could pay the County more but it could interfere with the current deal with the hospital.

"The County and hospital have determined there are significant financial risks associated with creating a new low-income health program," said Fresno County Health director Dr. Edward Moreno.

The risks would come from additional requirements the County and Community Hospital would have to follow and county officials aren't certain if they could meet them.

"To get that money, you have to put up a certain amount of money and you know right now, they are saying it will not work out," said Supervisor Debbie Poochigian. She is not sure if the program can sustain itself even with the federal money.

"It's definitely not a done deal by any means, I mean, we might decide to spend more time reviewing it," she said.

A critical decision the board faces that may impact thousands of Fresno's uninsured.

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community regional medical center, fresno, fresno county, health care, local
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