Grays Harbor County voters approve Public Hospital District #2

Grays Harbor County voters have adopted a second Public Hospital District according to preliminary results from Tuesday’s Primary Election. Grays Harbor County Auditor Vern Spatz tells us with 31% voter turnout, 61% voted for the hospital, 38% against.
Running down the list of Commissioners for the newly-formed district is Mary Welch, Armando Juarez Jr., Miles Longebaugh, Andrew Bickar, Pete Scroggs, Bob Torgerson, and Ryan Farrer.

The race for Grays Harbor County Commissioner of District 3 continues to be close, with Vickie Raines holding 33.3%, Al Smith at 26.5 and Keith Olson at 25.2%.

County Assessor Rick Hole is trailing for his seat, with just under 30% of the votes, Dan Lindgren leads with 43% and Loni Hooper is a close third at 27%

Russ Skolrood is leading with 48% votes for his District 3 PUD Commissioner seat, John Straka trails with just under 27%

all levies appear to be passing except McCleary rejecting two levies to fund their police service.

Incumbent Congressman Derek Kilmer, and Incumbent State Representative Brian Blake both hold over 60% of the votes for their seats, while State Rep. Steve Tharinger is holding 55% for his District 24 seat.

The next ballot count is scheduled for Friday, results will be certified on the 19th.
Pacific County reports 38% voter turnout so far, their single levy is passing with over 74% support for Fire District #5.
Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler holds a thin lead for her District 3 seat with 48%, Bob Dingethal follows with 38%

Editorial: Greater Grays Harbor Inc. supports “Yes” vote for Public Hospital District #2

If Grays Harbor Community Hospital does not become a public hospital, our economic health will be in jeopardy. That is why the board of Greater Grays Harbor, Inc. has voted to support the formation of Grays Harbor Public Hospital District #2.

Community Hospital has struggled the past few years to balance its budget, and the primary reason it has been unable to do so is because of its “payer mix.” Today, about 80 percent of its patients rely on Medicaid or Medicare to pay for their healthcare. Unfortunately the government does not pay enough to cover the costs the hospital incurs just caring for those patients. Eight out of ten times when a patient walks in the door, the hospital is losing money just by doing what they are mandated by law to do.

In the times of economic prosperity, most of the hospital’s patients are employed and have health insurance, and they subsidized everybody else – a fact of life still at most hospitals in the U.S. And the hospital has been cutting costs. But there is no fat left to trim. And the hospital cannot expect two patients to carry their own costs and a portion of those of eight others – it is deeply unfair and fundamentally unsustainable. The hospital needs to be paid a fairer price for what it provides to all of its patients.

GHCH, along with three other rural community hospitals in much the same position, asked this fiscal fairness of the state legislature this past session, and the legislature agreed to increase the reimbursements for Medicaid patients to match the higher reimbursement rates of Medicare patients. However, the law mandates that the hospital must be owned and operated by a public entity – a hospital district.

There are benefits to being public besides recouping a greater portion of Medicaid costs. The hospital will be able to run levies to support its operations. Elected hospital commissioners will set the rate, and county commissioners are in charge of approving anything up to $0.50; anything above that to a maximum of $0.75 goes to a public vote. The average public hospital levy is $0.50, which means $4.17 for someone who owns a $100,000 home, a very small price to pay for the service (Aberdeen residents pay $6.69 per month for storm drain maintenance, for example.) Elected officials and levy votes will make GHCH accountable to the people.

Another effect of the levy process is that those patients who are costing the hospital are chipping in to pay for the cost of the services through rent and property taxes, which makes it more equitable. And no one in Grays Harbor can say they don’t use the hospital – you never know when you, or someone you care about, will need their services. It’s not like a store or a bank.

It is also worth dwelling on what will happen if the public district does not come to pass. Unfortunately, that is a murkier view. It is very likely that many of the hospital’s more than 650, mainly family-wage jobs will be lost and services cut. This alone would be devastating to local businesses, and property values would surely plunge as former medical staff move to jobs elsewhere while others are dissuaded from living in an area which does not have a full suite of medical services.

And forget persuading new industry to set up shop here. Few industrial businesses, and no large scale operations, want to open in an area where the only hospital is a critical access facility that stabilizes and ships emergencies to Olympia. Our area’s dependence on Medicaid would continue and possibly grow, further limiting the hospital.

And think about the medical transport by ambulances – it will tie up our cities’ emergency services. They will be responsible for taking emergency cases from here to Olympia – valuable time where they may be needed for emergency calls here, and a valuable chunk of our communities’ budgets.

None of this addresses what it means if, say, the Family Birthing Center closes up shop – a definite possibility. Will you or your family member need to go all the way in Olympia for routine OB care, never mind the birth? The hospital will certainly provide a lot less primary care to patients, and possibly a great deal less surgery. We have doctors who can do all manner of surgeries, from replacing knees and hips to reconstructive surgery, to cancer surgery. The Harbor stands to lose those services if the hospital district isn’t formed.

A levy is truly a small price to pay for stability, economic development, public safety and accountability. And it’s cheaper than the cost of appointments in Olympia, on the cost to the cities of transporting emergency cases to Olympia.

That is why we support the formation of the Gray Harbor Public Hospital District No. 2, and we urge you to vote Yes.

Signed,

The Board of Greater Grays Harbor, Inc.

Joan Brewster and Dennis Morrisette – proposed Public Hospital District #2

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The League of Women Voters is sponsoring a debate tonight (Wednesday, July 23rd) on the formation of a second public hospital district at the Rotary Log Pavilion in Aberdeen. It starts at 6, but video statements from commissioner candidates of the proposed district’s board will begin at 5:30. The meeting, and statements will also be airing on Eagle TV and North Beach TV.

Proposed Hospital District #2 meeting tonight in Aberdeen, and later tonight in Brady

The League of Women Voters is sponsoring a debate tonight on the formation of a second public hospital district at the Rotary Log Pavillion in Aberdeen. It starts at 6, but video statements from commissioner candidates of the proposed district’s board will begin at 5:30.

News Director for Jodesha Broadcasting Dave Haviland will be moderating, and on the proponents side we’ll have Dr. Ed Brewster president of Grays Harbor College, Lisa Smith with Imperium Renewables, Patrick Wadsworth from the GH Democrats and Dr. Anna Marie Wong. On the opponent-side we’ll have Aberdeen councilman Alan Richrod, Local Republican Jim Walsh, Claudia Woodward -Rice, and John Farra.

Hospital Administrators will be on hand to answer questions until around 6:30 when a couple will head out to a second meeting hosted by Fire District #2 on the topic that is being held at Station 32 in Brady tonight at 7.

The hospital district, and it’s board members, are on the primary election ballots – which you should have received by now, with votes being tallied on Aug. 5th.

The Vote

The Grays Harbor County Elections Department reports that the Commissioners on your ballot with the most votes from their district will become the new district’s Commissioners for the next 6 years. There will be no vote to determine commissioners in the November General election – regardless of the number of candidates in the district.

Community Hospital and Harbor Medical Group finalize managed Medicaid contracts

In addition to the Public Hospital District initiative, and other cost saving measures, Grays Harbor Community Hospital (GHCH) and Harbor Medical Group (HMG) have been working since December to find the best Managed Medicaid Insurance Carriers to support their Managed Medicaid patients.  Harbor Medical Group Executive Director, Josh Martin said, “These Managed Medicaid partners must provide exceptional service to our patients, and support the facilities and medical professionals who provide quality healthcare.”

As a result, effective August 15th, 2014, Grays Harbor Community Hospital and Harbor Medical Group will move forward with coverage for Managed Medicaid patients through Amerigroup and Molina and will no longer accept coverage from United Health Care and Coordinated Care.  Effective November 1st, 2014, GHCH and HMG Clinics will no longer accept coverage from Community Health Plan of Washington (CHPW).

“We appreciate the relationships we have had with each health plan; however, we have chosen to continue a relationship solely with Amerigroup and Molina, the two plans we believe will best support our patients and the providers who treat them at our hospital and clinics,” says Grays Harbor Community Hospital CEO, Tom Jensen.

Managed Medicaid patients are the only population affected by these changes. If you are a non-managed Medicaid customer, have Medicare with a Medicaid supplement, or if you have commercial insurance, you will not be affected.

For those Managed Medicaid patients who are currently covered by United Healthcare, Coordinated Care or Community Health Plan of Washington, Grays Harbor Community Hospital and Harbor Medical Group are prepared to help facilitate enrollment with one of our preferred partners.  “We have set up an Enrollment Center on the Grays Harbor Community Hospital East Campus first floor, which is staffed with professionals from 9:00am to noon and 1:00pm to 3:00pm, Monday through Friday,” indicates Mr. Martin.

“These are our valued patients and we very much look forward to continuing to serve them and our community for years to come,” says Mr. Jensen.

Regardless of your coverage, if you need emergency care, please go to the Grays Harbor Community Hospital Emergency Department.

For more information, please visit www.ghcares.org or the Enrollment Center.

Grays Harbor Fire District #2 to host info meetings on Hospital Districts

Grays Harbor Fire District #2 will host their second public meeting this month to discuss the proposed formation of a second Hospital District, and the proposed annexation of a couple cities into Hospital District #1 in East County.

They would like to get the word out on how both could affect their taxing authority, representatives from both hospitals will be on hand to answer questions.

• Wednesday, July 23, 2014 at 7:00 p.m. @ Station 32 in Brady

Public hospital district 1 commissioners in East County have approved an annexation plan that would ask the voters in November to put Montesano, Brady, Black Creek and Melbourne in the taxing and coverage district for Summit Pacific Medical Center in Elma.

County Commissioners shape proposed Public Hospital District #2, heads for August ballot

The Grays Harbor County Commissioners have accepted the proposed Public Hospital District’s boundaries, as it was presented by petition. With a “nay” vote from Commissioner Wes Cormier who had proposed an Aberdeen-Hoquiam-Cosmopolis district, the commissioners accepted Herb Welch’s motion to accept the originally proposed boundaries. They then adopted a resolution to put the issue on an August 5th ballot. Split 5 ways, the proposed taxing authority would have 7 elected commissioners total, two at-large.

Commissioner Frank Gordon added signup dates are the 14th through the 16th of May “so let’s get hustling and find some people.”

The county is looking for 7 candidates for the inaugural board, if the district is approved by the voters.

Tom Jensen and David Quigg – Grays Harbor Community Hospital

CEO Tom Jensen and Information Officer David Quigg with Grays Harbor Community Hospital discuss the proposed Public Hospital District #2.

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Grays Harbor County Commissioners hosting public hearings on Public Hospital District

Grays Harbor County Commissioners are holding public hearings this week on the formation of a public Hospital District. Two hearings today start at 2pm and 5:30pm in the Large Commissioner Meeting room in Montesano followed by two more at 9am and 5:30pm on May 7th, also in the meeting room.
Commissioner Wes Cormier reminds voters that “the creation of a public hospital district may only be initiated by the public through the petition process, and did not arise from the county or County Commissioners.”
The question is likely heading to the August ballot.

Joan Brewster – Director, Grays Harbor County Public Health and Social Services

Forming a strong public hospital district.

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