Tuesday, March 21, 2023
March 21, 2023

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Local View: We will all pay for health care spending cuts

The Columbian

I’ve just returned from Olympia after speaking with our legislators and representatives. I’m disappointed to hear from both parties that their hands are tied in the ability to work for the people of this state. I’ve learned that state spending per person, adjusted for inflation, is at its lowest level in 25 years.

I continue to hear that Washingtonians want a small government. And I hear our government responding by saying if the people don’t want us to help, then the burden is left for private corporations.

Here is an example:

Emergency room visits right now in Clark County are up 33 percent. If we let “private corporations fix the community problems,” our local hospitals would have to absorb the extra emergency room visits of the uninsured Washingtonian. This sounds simple, but in all honesty, it simply won’t work.

This hands-off mind-set creates a domino effect. If community health centers aren’t funded to provide primary preventative care services for the uninsured, then these low-income, uninsured Washingtonians will enter the emergency room for non-emergency visits. This equates to clogged systems and expensive visits we all end up paying for.

When our ERs are clogged, wait time increases. Can you imagine telling a person having a heart attack they’ve got to wait in line to be seen?

When our uninsured community members have no choice but to be seen at the ER, these expensive visits result eventually in reimbursement from those who do have health insurance through increased insurance rates.

Support way down

Now, if you listened to the news or talk radio, you’d think that spending was out of control. But in Washington state, that’s a myth. It’s gone up in Washington, D.C., but here in Washington state, spending and support to care for our most vulnerable community members is down.

Way down.

State spending per person is the lowest it’s been since 1986. Do you remember this era? Back in 1986, gas was 89 cents per gallon. A new car was $9,000. And state government — today — costs the same as it did in 1986.

If the people don’t distinguish between Washington, D.C., and our own backyard here in Washington state, they’ll keep pressing for more cuts that affect us. Our vulnerable community members can’t afford more cuts!

Lawmakers cut $12 billion from the state budget in the last three years. From my recent visit to Olympia, I’ve learned they’re about to cut another $4.5 billion.

That means major cuts in our health care system. And let’s face it, if you don’t have your health, it is difficult to be a productive community member or function successfully in school or at work.

State spending has been cut back to 1986 levels, and these cuts mean real devastation for our community.

It’s time for the people of Washington state to ask themselves: When is enough enough?

Carrie Vanzant of Vancouver is regional clinic manager at Sea Mar Community Health Centers (http://www.seamarchc.org.)