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California Discusses Health Care Reform


California political leaders held a statewide health care forum as part of Barack Obama's health reform initiative. San Diego took part in the satellite conference. KPBS Reporter Tom Fudge has more.

The forum was hosted by two Governors and attended by some top executives. But those who spoke included Renaldo Hernandez in San Diego. He says two years ago the cost of a private health insurance plan broke him financially, and that shouldn't happen in America.

"I knew I had a right to education. And if I got in trouble with the law I had a right to defense. Why don't I have a right to have health care?" he said.

The forum was co-hosted by Arnold Schwarzenegger, two years after his own health care reform plan failed in Sacramento. Speakers included the CEO of Safeway Corporation, which reduced health care costs by rewarding employees who stayed in good shape. Washington Governor Chris Gregoire said people could reduce health care costs by affecting health problems they can control.

"Fifty percent of the health care costs in America today relates to exercise and nutrician, substance abuse and tobacco use," said Gregoire.  

But Dr. Stephen Wan, who attended the forum in San Diego, said the discussion left a few things out. .

"One thing that never, never seems to come to the table at all is the insurance company profit margins, and administrative costs," said Wan.

He says he'd like to see health care reform that requires insurance companies to compete directly with Medicare, which operates on 4 percent administrative overhead. Tom Fudge, KPBS News.

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