Secretary Karen Wingard sure is glad that, except for an occasional cold, she's been healthy for the past two years. During that time, she has worked as a secretary for an engineering consulting company without health insurance.
But she worries about what would happen if she had a car accident during her 60-mile round-trip journey from Pasadena to Upland on work days. And she wants to stop having to ride out any illnesses until she becomes eligible for Medicare, the federal health care program for the elderly.
Wingard was among the community members and doctors invited to watch President Clinton's Wednesday night address on proposed health reform. Most of those in attendance greeted Clinton's words with applause and shouts of encouragement.
Throughout Huntington Hospital in Pasadena, at nurses' stations, in patients' rooms and in a conference room of invited guests, people reacted to Clinton's call for monumental health care reform. Most embraced the idea of change.
"Without a foreseeable change, it's a question of counting the years that I don't dare get sick," said Wingard, 53, who hopes that Clinton's proposals sail through Congress without major tinkering. "That's not a comfortable way to live."
But for now: "If I get a cold, my reaction is let me go get a quart of orange juice and a book and go to bed for the day," she said.
Huntington nurse Nga Nyman caught parts of Clinton's speech while tending to patients on the orthopedics ward. On a break in the nurses' station, surrounded by mounds of paperwork, Nyman said she is excited about the prospect for change.
Under the new system, nurses would have less paperwork and more time for patients, said Nyman, 33, a nine-year nursing veteran.
"I come to work, I worry I have to bathe six patients, give medication to five patients. My whole focus is I have to do this, I have to do this," she said. "(Under reform), it goes by what's good for the patient."
Not everyone felt that way.
Huntington Memorial Hospital patient Thomas S. Billups watched President Clinton's speech on national health care reform from his hospital bed, with a bandage on his replacement left knee and an intravenous feed stuck in his arm.
Billups, a 73-year-old Altadena resident, was not so out of sorts that he couldn't grasp the bar over his hospital bed and pull himself up in excitement, about an hour after Clinton's speech. The retired carpenter knows exactly what his health plan covers now, but under the new system, he's not so sure.
"Will I get the same doctors? Will I get the same kind of care? Will everything be available to me like it is now? . . . I worry about the future a lot. It doesn't look too bright," Billups said glumly.