California State Assemblywoman Anna Caballero talks with local residents Saturday.
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– State Assemblywoman Anna Caballero asked San Benito residents
what’s on their minds, and on Saturday, she got one resounding
answer: health care.
Hollister – State Assemblywoman Anna Caballero asked San Benito residents what’s on their minds, and on Saturday, she got one resounding answer: health care.

Caballero, who represents San Benito and part of Monterey County, warned that she doesn’t sit on the Assembly’s health committee, but that didn’t stop the locals who showed up at Main Street Bistro on Saturday morning from delivering sharp criticism of the insurance industry.

Jeanie Wallace, a Hollister resident who teaches at Sobrato High School in Morgan Hill, said many people aren’t aware of how much they’re paying for health care, because the costs are covered by their employers. However, employees still take a hit because high health care costs mean lower salaries, Wallace said.

“The profits in the insurance industry are astronomical,” she said.

County resident Natasha Wist said California needs to shift to a single-payer insurance system rather than one dominated by private insurance companies.

“We have to get insurance companies out of the health business,” Wist said.

Various health care changes have been suggested, Caballero said, but it’s hard to know what’s on the table until a bill comes to the Assembly floor. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s plan, which would have required that all Californians have health coverage, hasn’t found a sponsor in the state legislature, but Caballero said the plan itself is a positive sign.

“It shows that (Schwarzenegger) recognizes health care is an important issue,” she said.

Caballero also encouraged locals to bring their concerns to Sacramento.

“I like seeing local people up there because I’m lonely,” she said.

Leonard Caputo, a general surgeon at Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital, said he is alarmed because Blue Cross health insurance will be reducing professional fees and compensation by 25 percent statewide on June 1.

“That decrease would create an exceedingly difficult environment to continue seeing Blue Cross patients electively,” Caputo told the Free Lance on Monday. “Of course, emergency treatment and surgery would hopefully continue.”

Caputo also highlighted the difficulty in recruiting new, young physicians to San Benito County. The main reason for that difficulty is the area’s high housing costs, but decreased medical reimbursements won’t help, he said.

Health care wasn’t the only topic brought up on Saturday. Hollister resident Ruth Erickson said she’s worried about rapid development and California’s lack of support for rural counties.

“What’s going to happen when the whole state is paved over?” she said.

Caballero agreed that protecting agricultural land is a top priority She said the state will be offering more support for mixed-use planning and development, which emphasizes building in already existing areas, rather than spreading outward in urban sprawl.

“We’ve got to shift away from thinking, ‘I want my house, my land, my white picket fence and I want it cheap,'” Caballero said. “That’s got to stop.”

Anthony Ha covers local government for the Free Lance. Reach him at 831-637-5566 ext. 330 or [email protected].

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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