Tuesday, February 18, 2020
Feb. 18, 2020

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Letter: Rural hospitals, residents need help

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Growing up in rural Pennsylvania, my father was one of two doctors who would report to the emergency room to treat a patient who had Medicaid. When neighbors needed emergency care, they bartered chickens and snow shoveling. When I graduated from law school in the Great Recession, I got blood cancer. My temporary insurance was worthless. No plan would take my “pre-existing condition.” I could not continue to pay thousands of dollars out of pocket. I almost died.

The Affordable Care Act protects people like me, with pre-existing conditions. It also offers a Medicaid expansion program; I was one of the first people in a test program and that is why I am alive today.

Around 72 percent of rural hospital closures were in states that rejected the additional patient funding. However, the math just doesn’t pencil out for rural Washington hospitals, and this problem is no surprise. It’s been a slow death for rural hospitals. Rural hospitals have fixed costs, debt, obscenely expensive billing software, and, unfortunately, poor and declining populations. What happened with Yakima’s rural hospital, Astria Health, was not a surprise. There are real solutions. But elected officials are asleep at the wheel. Don’t let them get away with their negligence.

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