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120 Turn Out to Discuss Health Insurance & Shortage of Medical Clinics in Grays Harbor County Town Hall

Health care in rural Washington has its own special pains, and so it isn't too surprising that a Town Hall devoted to healthcare in August drew 120 Ocean Shores area residents to discuss the need for relief from high premiums, the high rate of uninsured, and a shortage of medical clinics. Read the Grays Harbor News Group article on the town hall here or at the end of this post.

HCFA-WA's Commentary on the Town Hall

The Cascade Care Bill passed by the 2019 Legislature was discussed at the Town Hall. Initially, Cascade Care was promoted as a "Public Option Bill", will help 200,000 people who are already on the Washington Health Care Benefits Exchange, the marketplace for Affordable Care Act (ACA) health and dental insurance in Washington state. Unfortunately, due to skyrocketing premiums since it's inception, Washingtonians are paying too much for even the Silver and Bronze health care plans. The bill, as passed, will lower premiums a bit and require insurers to provide better coverage. And those lower premiums are also designed to help some of the 500,000 people who don't have ANY insurance to perhaps afford it. Because nearly 10% of Washingtonians are affected, Health Care for All Washington lobbied in support of the Cascade Care Bill, which passed overwhelmingly in the legislature earlier this year. We are in support of efforts to cover more people. 
Cascade Care is not, however, "single-payer." Washington taxpayers are not covering the cost of this health insurance - or health care - for those who will enroll in the new, lower-cost plans. HCFA-WA has long advocated for a universal health care system that is publicly funded, publicly administered, and publicly delivered. We were instrumental in also passing legislation this year that includes the "Pathway to Universal Health Care", that moves our state in the correct direction. 

We at HCFA-WA applaud Rep. Mike Chapman for his advocacy and support of single-payer health coverage. The 24th Legislative District, like most areas of rural Washington, has a tremendously high number of Washington's uninsured and underinsured residents. Rural hospitals and clinics are also suffering the consequences, many closing doors and going bankrupt providing uncompensated care, unpaid billings, and utterly inadequate reimbursement from health plans. Constituents can thank Rep. Chapman for his leadership on healthcare by emailing him here.

We are also pleased that US Representative Derek Kilmer from the WA Congressional District 6 attended the Town Hall. We urge Rep. Derek Kilmer's constituents to ask him to co-sponsor the Medicare for All Act of 2019, H. R. 1384. Constituents may send him a quick email him using this form.
When Washingtonians have access to health care without the worry of financial ruin, they are able to live healthy, productive lives, and contribute to their communities, local businesses, and their employers.

Possible single-payer option and urgent care center discussed at Town Hall

Thu Aug 22nd, 2019 10:00 am
By Scott D. Johnston
For Grays Harbor News Group

A crowd of 120 or more filled the Ocean Shores Lions Club on Sunday afternoon for the North Beach Medical Initiative Town Hall. Among the topics discussed were a single-payer insurance option that may become available in Washington next year, and the possibility of an urgent care clinic in the new drugstore building that is nearing completion in Ocean Shores.

The meeting, which grew out of an Ocean Shores Learning Series presentation July 17 at the North Beach Senior Center, featured several people involved in aspects of rural health care, along with some area government representatives. The discussion was moderated by Ocean Shores City Council member Kathryn Sprigg and co-produced by council candidate Lori Hardin.

State Rep. Mike Chapman (D-Dist. 24) told the crowd that the Washington State Legislature has taken the initial steps toward a single-payer option.
"In essence, if you're a low-income individual or if you work for the multitudes of small businesses in this district that can't afford health care, we've taken the first step so that you can buy into the state-run health system at a reduced rate, with a reduced premium depending on how much you make," he said. "If you're a single mom with two children or you work a minimum-wage, $15-an-hour job, it is impossible, virtually, right now to afford health care in the private market.

"We can't just go from zero to 60," he said. "But by this time next year ... an option will be available for people to buy coverage based on their income."

He added that the option was intended for people who do not already have health insurance, and estimated that includes half of 24th District residents.

Also during the panel discussion, Sprigg introduced Jackie Fisher, manager of Ocean Sunset Plaza -- the retail complex on Chance a la Mer that includes the soon-to-open Ocean Sunset Drug. She told everyone that the new drugstore, which has been under construction for several months and is expected to open in September, will include space for an urgent care clinic.

Fisher said she has not yet found a medical provider to operate in the space, but she and her father, retired businessman Dick Morris, strongly believe Ocean Shores and the North Beach community need the service and they hope the available space and location will attract an urgent care practice soon.

Sprigg described the Town Hall as a first step toward finding solutions to local health service needs. Much of the afternoon's discussion centered on the myriad challenges that rural medical providers and related service providers face and possible strategies to overcome them.

Also participating in the panel discussion were Dr. John Bauscher, Grays Harbor County health officer; Rob Richards, Grays Harbor District representative for U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer; and Shawn O'Neill, legislative relations manager of the Washington State Health Care Authority.

In the first half of the meeting, presentations were made by Tiffany Rinke, the operations manager of Coastal Primary Care, and Elizabeth Tschimperle, director of Harbor Medical Group, a rural health care center and subsidiary of Grays Harbor Community Hospital.

photo credit: City of Grays Harbor

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