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May 29, 2014 at 6:02 AM

Poll: Should Gorge concertgoers pay surcharge to help Quincy hospital?

Once again, three days of intense partying at the Sasquatch! music festival led to a surge in patient visits to the little emergency room at Quincy Valley Medical Center.

Hospital Chief Executive Mehdi Merred said a preliminary count as of Thursday indicates 116 patients were admitted to the ER over the Memorial Day weekend — 56 or 57 of them came from the Gorge Amphitheatre. On an average day, the hospital sees about 10 patients. Still unknown is how many of this year’s patients skipped out on payment or lacked health insurance.

“Some say they have insurance, but it turns out they don’t,” Merred said over the phone, adding that some Sasquatch! attendees-turned-patients also come from Canada. “There needs to be some reconciling of information before we finalize the numbers.”

As The Seattle Times editorialized on May 24, many of the Gorge’s concert attendees are young adults who’ve been slow to sign up for the Affordable Care Act. Their choice to not be covered could leave local taxpayers in the Quincy area with a huge bill. Last year, the hospital reported $400,000 in uncompensated care and additional staff time. Live Nation, the operator of the Gorge, has refused to help defray the costs. Here’s a solution that should be considered by the Legislature:

State Rep. Matt Manweller, R-Ellensburg, is crafting a bill that would add a $1 surcharge per ticket for shows at the Gorge. The proceeds would be split between the Quincy hospital and the local fire department.

It’s a good idea. Live Nation should support Manweller’s plan. If Sasquatch! attendees could afford a ticket that costs more than $300 a pop, they should be able to cough up an extra buck to offset the price of partying a little too hard.

Do you agree with this idea? Vote in the poll below.

The hospital is bracing for a summer of uncertainty. KUBE 93′s Summer jam is scheduled for June 6 and 7. The Paradiso Festival follows on June 27 and 28. The latter concert worries health officials because it features electronic music and is known to attract heavy drug use. A young man died last year from dehydration and a meth overdose.

Could Obamacare make a difference this year? Maybe. It’s too soon to tell. The Washington Health Benefit Exchange had a major presence at Sasquatch! this year to increase awareness before open enrollment begins on Nov. 15, 2014. Residents who move to a new area, have a baby, get married or age out of their parents’ health plans could sign up even sooner. Those who qualify for Medicaid are allowed to enroll anytime throughout the year. (Head to the Exchange’s website for more information.)

“It won’t hurt. And I encourage that, but it’s one aspect. That’s assuming people can go on the exchange,” said Merred. “Let me summarize things: [Live Nation] is throwing big parties out there. They’re making money out of it. And they’re also paying a lot of taxes, but at some point — if you were to do the same events in a private setting or public setting, the authorities would make you responsible for the behavior in your venue, bar or restaurant. If law enforcement has to continuously go and intervene, and the local hospital has to see the consequences of behaviors in your establishment, there would be some follow-up.”

Comments | Topics: drugs, hospital, music festival

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