Everyone deserves access to affordable health care that also includes dental care and mental health care.
Let’s look at some statistics regarding healthcare in our district.
Here are the figures of uninsured for the counties in our district.
Grant County 11.5% (13.6% in Moses Lake)
Kittitas County 7.8% (12.8% in Ellensburg)
Lincoln County 6.8%
Yakima County 11.5% (the three precincts in our district)
Here are the number of people per doctor or physician assistant for the counties in our district
Grant County 1145
Kittitas County 1051
Lincoln County 1321
Yakima County 1016
Washington State average: 476
Grant County 4 (three in our district)
Yakima 4 (None in our district)
Our entire district is designated as a Health Professional Shortage Area by the Health Resources and Services Administration, a federal agency.
What do we need to do?
We need to expand health insurance coverage, especially in Grant County and Ellensburg.
We need to bring more doctors and physician assistants to our district.
We need support our local hospitals, especially the smaller ones.
How do we accomplish these goals?
Many people worry that dealing with healthcare is going to cost more money. One thing we should remember is that we’re already spending that money one way or another.
Lowering the number of uninsured people can do the following.
- Help lower the overall healthcare costs for the rest of us because the healthcare system will not have to raise the costs to insured people to cover the uninsured.
- Increase worker productivity
- Increase student success
Increasing the number of doctors will help in several ways.
- More local doctors would allow people to interact with their doctor more frequently, forming closer relationships, leading to better care.
- More local doctors would shorten the time people have to wait for medical care, saving lives.
Supporting our hospitals and keeping them healthy, especially the smaller ones, is important for a variety of reasons. Here are some:
- Rural hospitals save the lives of people who otherwise would be too far from larger hospitals in emergency situations.
- Rural hospitals should be able to maintain their independence as well as their viability and excellence.
- Rural hospitals have different reimbursement needs that other hospitals. Since our rural hospitals serve a population that tends to have less money and to not be insured, serving the non-insured is a direct hit on the hospital's operating budget.
- Rural hospitals are often one of the largest employers of a community.
- Rural hospitals are part of a community’s identity.
- If rural hospitals close, many of the patients who cannot afford to pay will simply move on to larger hospitals, causing stresses and strains there.
The next step is gathering people together and asking what we can do rather than argue over what we cannot do. Many good programs already exist to help, but we need more.
We could look at more aggressive advertising for Medicaid sign-ups or for insurance through the Washington Exchange.
We could look at universal coverage as a means to reduce insurance costs and ensure health care for all our citizens.
Unless we have honest discussions, the situation will not improve.