Affordable Health Care: a local concern by Dr. John Marrs

John Merton Marrs

    Health care is at the top of my political agenda, and I mean health care for all — not the patchwork job the Republican Party has been creating for the sake of tax cuts for their wealthy sponsors.
Health care rose to the top of my agenda when I suffered a stroke in April. I am lucky today to be alive, functioning normally and enjoying health-insurance coverage.
Technically, as an MRI later showed, I had six small strokes, five white dots lined up on the right side of my brain and one in the cerebellum. There was no other sign of an actual blood clot.
    One of my grandfathers had a stroke at my age and never recovered, dying two years later in his nursing home bed.
    On the morning of April 12, I awoke with a dead arm, somewhat slurred speech and a crooked smile. Just before 7 a.m., I walked into the emergency room at Olympic Memorial Hospital and into the urgent hands of an able staff who determined that my medications precluded chemical treatment to attack any possible clot.
    They decided I should go to Swedish. There was a problem with the weather: helicopters were not flying. What ensued was an ambulance ride to Fairchild Airport, a Lear jet flight to Seattle and another ambulance from Boeing Field to Swedish.
    At this point, I had not even been treated yet at Swedish and I could see the cash register wouldn’t be able to handle the costs. Fortunately, however, we have excellent insurance coverage so I simply let things ride, so to speak.
    I haven’t seen any bills yet, but I will be surprised if the cost for the transportation alone does not exceed $5,000.
    At Swedish, it took a while to get me a room and even longer to have a doctor actually see me. In fact, I did not see the neurologist until the next day, an oversight for which he apologized. Meanwhile, I underwent an MRI (what fun!) and a transcranial doppler exam (very weird), frequent blood pressure checks, frequent nursing visits and hand squeezes with everyone who entered my room as they tested for my left-side strength.
    The good news was that I was recovering quickly. By the next day, my smile returned to normal, my speech returned to normal and my left arm worked, though not yet normally or at full strength.
    If we did not have excellent insurance coverage, I can’t imagine what shape we would be in financially. We are blessed both by Medicare (which we pay for) and by Aetna Alaska Care, a retirement benefit.
    Before President Obama’s Affordable Care Act was passed, thousands of people commonly went into debt that cost them their homes, life savings and continuing debt because they suffered serious illness and the treatment costs that accompanied it. This has been much less common under “Obamacare,” although it has continued with some who still refused to insure or who were denied such insurance in states where Republican governors prevented the establishment of federal health-care exchanges.
    Unless the U.S. Senate acts (or has acted by the time this is published) to repair the flaws of the House Republicans’ “Trumpcare,” anyone who is not wealthy or not well covered with insurance will again be at maximum risk of financial devastation.
    If you are interested enough to want to know whom the Republican representatives are serving, if not their constituents, start by reading “Dark Money” by Jane Mayer. Her thoroughly researched work traces the funding supplied by the Koch Brothers and others among the uber wealthy to set up so-called “think tanks” (consider the Cato Institute), to finance conservative-oriented programs in university schools of business and law, and to promote euphemistic cover stories for health-care reform intended only to save money for rich people through tax breaks.
    This is all done in the name of libertarian ideals and the “freedom” to be responsible for no one but yourself.
    “Trumpcare,” in the worst cases, will make the cure as bad or worse than the illness.
    As just one recent stroke survivor, I want to ask conservatives, especially the Christians among them: How does your conscience allow you to support a proposal that will end or drastically reduce health coverage for millions of people? I want to ask Republicans in Congress: Would you exchange your own Congressional health coverage for the version recently passed by the House of Representatives?
    I thought you wanted to make America great again, and now you’re going to increase the national debt and leave more people with weak or no health insurance.
This is not looking great.

JOHN MERTON MARRS is a writer and retired editor who happily pays federal income taxes and county taxes on homes at Lake Sutherland and in Port Angeles.


  1. Brian Grad

    John Marrs I’m glad you’ve recovered well enough to share your thoughts on this subject and share your personal experience with us all. Unfortunately I see no hope of improvement in our health care system as long as Republicans hold sway in our Government. Even if we retake the House and Senate then the Republican minority would do all they can to delay, mutilate or otherwise kill any health care reform because they don’t work for the People. The only constituents they care about are those with the kind of money capable of keeping them in power and control. Part of our problem is getting all Democrats on board with single payer and committed to locking out the influence of the for profit insurers. Another part of the equation and perhaps as big a problem is convincing people that single payer is the most cost effective and efficient way to provide health care. Too many people buy into the notion that we simply cannot afford it yet they are either unwilling or incapable of comparing the cost of our current system against the projected costs of single payer. If they did then they would understand why we pay more than any of the other developed nations and get less for it. Instead they focus on the time worn misdirection of how it will drive the deficit through the roof. If we simply changed the law that allowed people to rely on the Emergency Room instead of buying insurance so that Hospitals could actually turn those away without insurance then people might finally understand and demand single payer. Yes it sounds heartless and cruel but no worse than what the AHCA will do to those who cannot afford insurance whether they get a tax credit or not. The only way to get everyone on board is if they face reality instead or artificial props to offer them some reassurance they’ll be alright without having to pay for it. That is not offering people hope or being honest with the patient about the prognosis.

  2. Neville Aitken

    Amazing! The Bill is not passed yet, not on the Senate floor, nor generally available. Somehow it’s​ a Republican plot to deprive people of health care.
    Seriously? Stop reading trashy Whodunit books by way out wannabe experts and at least wait for the final Bill before making such statements. As a Dr. Of something, you have an education. One expects better of you!

    Editor’s Note: The Bill passed by the Republican majority in the House is telling enough and Dr. Marrs read it right. The Republican-dominated House wants to take millions out of Medicare and use that to offset a tax break, of a similar amount, for the 1% richest in the country. Why wait until the deal goes down before attempting to stop it? BTW, Suggesting “Dark Money” is a “trashy whodunit” shows your education incomplete.


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