Medicaid expansion would benefit community

I support the expansion of Medicaid. To use a cliché, Alaska’s refusal to insure this group of people is pennywise and pound foolish.

When I hear those who are in elected office and who have amazing medical insurance thanks to the state, say things like, “They (the uninsured) can just go to the Emergency Room,” or “They (the ERs) have to treat them,” I am confounded. This statement in that context seems to say that we have solved the issue of health care for our friends and neighbors. And on to the next issue …

We, you and I, as taxpayers in the Central Kenai Peninsula Borough, are co-owners of a valuable piece of land in Soldotna and the hospital on it. I would hope you pay attention to the financial numbers in the quarterly reports of the Central Peninsula Hospital — the hospital that sits on our property. People whose only viable access to health care is via the ER, and very often ultimately the hospital stays that follow, are creating financial havoc — both for patients and for us as a borough/community and it affects even those of us who are fortunate enough to have insurance.

More than a decade ago, I was treated for breast cancer. Obviously, I am a survivor. I had access to preventative care in the form of mammograms, and that itself led to the detection of cancer at Stage 1. We had wonderful insurance, much like you as elected officials have now. Even at that, the out of pocket costs were in excess of $20,000, with my early diagnosis. That’s my story.

I can safely say, because of my time spent as a volunteer with cancer patients, that without access to preventative care, many people are not diagnosed until their cancers become symptomatic. In most cases that would be far beyond Stage 1. Ending up in the ER for one’s first glimpse of their cancer is a nightmare for the person, as well as for the rest of us who share the burden in some way. The sad and horrific news is that often the later stage diagnosis is followed by much more drastic (i.e. expensive) treatment and the chance of death is greater. If you subtract the human suffering aspect, we, as a society/community are paying the cost of ER visits, surgeries, treatments, hospital stays … with death as a more likely result, and with much more financial output. Someone lives. Someone dies. Someone pays.

It’s magical thinking to envision the ER as a place where one goes with an emergency and emerges whole on the other side. Its function is as a critical stopgap place that should be framed with care on the preventive side and care on the follow-up side. For those we are excluding, it often becomes the only choice. It is expensive for people’s health and certainly a financial drain on the rest of us, like you and me and our hospitals. It’s the most expensive and least effective method of administering health care.

I admit that my level of concern is about the human beings in my community. Healthy people can be better workers, parents, volunteers etc. The shared reality is that people without appropriate access are costing us a fortune and I trust that for whatever reason, my state government will respond. And you know what? Those federal dollars are mine too and I want them used this way. I have no conflict of interest and nothing to gain except healthier people and communities.