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Join the informed writers of The Times' editorial board in lively discussions at our blog, Opinion Northwest.

Topic: Obamacare

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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.

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Comments | Topics: drugs, hospital, music festival

March 24, 2014 at 6:49 AM

Interactive map: Where the uninsured are and life expectancy in King County

The Seattle Times’ Sunday editorial discussed how the Affordable Care Act has the potential to reduce health disparities across Washington state and King County. Below are two interactive maps that use the latest data available to show obvious differences between the northern and southern parts of the county. The map on the left side shows the…

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Comments | More in Interactives | Topics: Affordable Care Act, health, Obamacare

May 28, 2013 at 7:00 AM

No need to paint all Catholic hospitals in Washington with same broad brush

Tuesday’s editorial argues there’s a difference between health systems that merge and those that are setting up a new working relationship. I urge us all to resist painting UW Medicine‘s latest community hospital ally, PeaceHealth, with the same broad brush that many might be tempted to apply to the entire Catholic hospital system.

The UW Medicine-PeaceHealth “strategic affiliation” announced last week is more or less a referral network that is intended to serve two major purposes. First, officials say their goal is to provide patients of all backgrounds with seamless care in an age of complex health care reforms that will demand better outcomes. Second, we’re looking at an opportunity to train the next generation of doctors, nurses and hospital employees.

The public should not confuse this “strategic affiliation” with the other emerging trend in Washington state that will soon lead to half of all hospital beds being run by Catholic-affiliated hospitals. I certainly have some concerns about this, as previously expressed by Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat and tracked by MergerWatch.org. I believe patients in publicly-subsidized hospitals deserve to have access to the full range of health services — including abortion care, scientifically-proven stem-cell procedures and end-of-life services. At some point, lawmakers may have to set some parameters.

Of course, each hospital should be judged on its own merits. After spending considerable time on the phone with the key players in this “strategic affiliation,” including UW Medicine Chief Health System Officer Johnese Spisso and PeaceHealth Chief Strategy Officer Peter Adler, I don’t believe this particular alliance is an attempt by the Catholic church to take over the university’s venerable teaching hospital and limit what future doctors and nurses are trained to do.

Here’s why:

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Comments | Topics: abortion, catholic church, health care

February 22, 2013 at 6:53 AM

Another Republican governor goes for Obamacare: Rick Scott

President Obama’s Affordable Care Act had no more zealous opponent than Florida Gov. Rick Scott. Guess who now backs Medicaid expansion? Scott becomes the seventh GOP governor to move toward broader health-care coverage via the president’s plan. An estimated 1 million low-income Florida residents could become eligible for insurance, with the federal government picking up…

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Comments | Topics: Affordable Care Act, Florida, health care