Letters to the Editor

Viewpoint: Health care reform long needed, and

Catholic Healthcare West and its local San Luis Obispo County hospitals, French Hospital Medical Center and Arroyo Grande Community Hospital, have long been strong advocates for meaningful, comprehensive health care reform.

The passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, signed into law by President Obama on March 23, addresses the real problems in our health care system: too many people without coverage and the high cost of care for all.

But the benefits from this legislation won’t happen overnight; in fact, full implementation won’t occur until 2018, and some coverage provisions for the uninsured will be years before taking effect.

With the economy still in turmoil and unemployment rates in San Luis Obispo County topping 10.6 percent, the need for health care insurance is especially urgent today. So many jobless people go without medical coverage, and some struggling businesses have had to drop coverage for their employees.

Fortunately, community hospitals like ours provide a safety net for those most in need.

During fiscal year 2009, CHW provided $1.2 billion in charity care, community benefit programming and uncompensated care. This includes more than $16 million dollars provided by French Hospital Medical Center and nearly $10 million dollars by Arroyo Grande Community Hospital.

But our efforts alone were not enough. To ensure that quality, affordable health care services are available to all, meaningful health care reform was necessary. We are pleased that the country is now on a path to providing access to health care to tens of millions more people, and making that care more affordable for all.

Now hospitals and the health care industry must meet the challenges posed by this legislation. CHW hospitals have been preparing for this change and have already taken major steps, such as investing in medical technology, electronic health records, our facilities and our staffs, to serve the increasing need for quality health care. Reform will accelerate the effort to make health care more integrated, cost effective and available. As always, CHW and our local hospitals will continue to work with our national leaders, our excellent caregivers and staff, and the communities we are so fortunate to serve to ensure that everyone has access to quality, affordable health care.

Alan Iftiniuk is president and chief executive officer of French Hospital Medical Center. Rick Castro is president and chief executive officer of Arroyo Grande Community Hospital.