Coalition targets health care;

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Group forms to improve coverage in the Valley

The Fresno Bee

A group of doctors, consumers and health-care advocates Thursday announced the formation of a coalition to improve health-care coverage for Valley residents.

The effort was announced at a news conference Thursday at Fresno City Hall.

The local coalition joins a statewide effort spearheaded by the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, a nonpartisan consumer advocacy organization based in Santa Monica.

The foundation has established a network of 1,000 local and statewide groups to push for health-care reform as costs skyrocket and the number of uninsured increases.

Jerry Flanagan, health policy director of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, said the state’s health-care system “is bankrupt and threatens the California economy.” “Thirty percent of the population in Fresno County are uninsured,” he said. “Blue- and white-collar workers.”

One-third of the uninsured are children, he added.

Flanagan’s group organized a town hall meeting Thursday at Comcast studios in Fresno.

The town hall meeting will be broadcast at 9 p.m. April 11, 13 and 15; 10 a.m. April 16; and 10 a.m., 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. April 17 on Fresno Comcast Channel 14.

Local coalition members who spoke at the news conference included: The Rev. Walt Parry, of Fresno Metro Ministry; Patsy Montgomery, of Planned Parenthood; Dr. Dominic Dizon, a physician at University Medical Center; James Kratzer, a pediatrician; and Rocio Madrigal, a married mother of four whose family is struggling without insurance. Kay McVay, legislative liaison coordinator and past president of the California Nurses Association in Oakland, also spoke.

The Fresno Chamber of Commerce and several business groups also have expressed support for the coalition, Flanagan said.

Dizon, who oversees clinic services at UMC, talked about a regional approach under way to expand health-care services to children in the county.

He said UMC, the Fresno County Health Department, Sequoia Community Health Foundation and United Health Centers — which all offer clinic services to a large number of poor and uninsured — have partnered in a program designed to increase health-care services for children. The partnership recently received a $1 million federal grant and hopes to begin enrolling children for services in August.

“We hope to reach 26,000 children, 8,000 of them uninsured” Dizon said.

The program would provide medical, dental and vision services for children whose families are below 300% of poverty level. Dizon said a family of four making $56,000 a year would qualify.

Flanagan said the Fresno program could be a model for the rest of the state.

Madrigal, the only consumer in the group, said her husband is a cement worker for a small company that does not offer health insurance. She cares for four children at home ages 1 to 13.

The family does not qualify for Medi-Cal, the state-federal health-care program for the poor, because her husband makes $44,000 a year. But they can’t afford to pay for health-care services.

“We are in collections right now over a $2,000 medical bill,” she said. “We are people who work.”

The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights has spent two years bringing community groups together, with the goal of supporting its greater statewide efforts for improving health-care access. The foundation also has set up town hall meetings in 11 communities, including Fresno, to hear opinions and exchange ideas.

The foundation recently published a report documenting what it says is overwhelming support for health-care cost controls that could lead to universal access to care.

The report and other information can be viewed at

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