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Foster gets support of Provena hospital CEO for health care vote
By James Fuller | Daily Herald Staff

Provena Health President and CEO Jim Witt, left, announced his support for Congressman Bill Foster's health care vote Tuesday outside of Provena Mercy Medical Center's Emergency Room in Aurora.

 

James Fuller | Daily Herald Staff

Congressman Bill Foster in Aurora Tuesday afternoon.

 

James Fuller | Daily Herald Staff

Provena Health President and CEO Jim Witt, left, and Congressman Bill Foster.

 

James Fuller | Daily Herald Staff

Randy Hultgren

 

Dan Kairis

 

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Published: 3/31/2010 12:00 AM

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The head of one of the largest hospital systems in the area threw his support behind Congressman Bill Foster's recent health care reform vote Tuesday.

Provena Health President & CEO Jim Witt, outside Aurora's Provena Mercy Medical Center, said he supports Foster's vote because it falls in line with the hospital systems' mission to care for people in need.

Provena Health is a Catholic health system with six hospitals.

Witt said more than 33 percent of the patients the hospitals treat have no health insurance because they cannot afford it or make too much money to qualify for Medicaid. As a result, Witt said, many people use the emergency room for their medical needs because they have no primary doctor.

Though supportive of the reform, Witt said questions remain.

"I think we're all concerned with how it's funded," he said, adding he's unsure how the new laws will impact the costs of providing service.

Foster believes the impact will be positive.

"A lot fewer people will be showing up without insurance," Foster said. "By making health insurance more affordable for Americans who currently cannot access insurance these people will finally be able to see their own doctors regularly. Just as important, their doctors will be paid adequately for their work."

Foster said having more people with health insurance is good because it costs insured people about $1,200 more per year to cover the bills of the uninsured.

Foster said he voted for health care reform after listening to constituents in more than 50 meetings. Foster said additional benefits of reform include the elimination of pre-existing conditions to disqualify people from insurance, strengthening of Medicare and fueling the free-market system by creating more insurance purchasers than ever before.

Foster's opponents in the November election are not buying the message.

"What Bill Foster fails to mention is that insurance premiums are expected to rise because of this bill and that none of the provisions he highlighted will go into effect until 2014," said John Cooney, Republican Randy Hultgren's campaign manager. "Meanwhile, Illinois employers and seniors will have to start paying this bill immediately through job-killing tax increases and massive cuts to Medicare."

Cooney said Illinois companies such as Caterpillar, John Deere and Illinois Tool Works say the health care legislation will add costs of as much as $150 million for the current quarter alone.

Foster said Congress will have hearings for companies such as those to explain exactly how they are formulating those cost projections.

Green Party Candidate Dan Kairis said the new laws fail basic logic.

"If I'm in foreclosure because I can't afford to pay my monthly mortgage, and now you're going to fine me because I don't have health insurance, how does that help me?" Kairis said.

Kairis said he'd like to see discussion on possibly eliminating health insurance companies, creating some sort of health tax, and having the government run the system with lower overhead than private insurance companies have.

"People keep saying this is the government taking over the health care industry," Kairis said. "Well, hasn't the insurance lobby and the drug company lobby pretty much taken over the health care industry already?"