Murray in ML to praise ACA, calls for public option

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Charles H. Featherstone/Columbia Basin Herald Sen. Patty Murray and Moses Lake Community Health CEO Sheila Chilson listen to stories of patients grateful for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

MOSES LAKE — Sen Patty Murray, during a short visit Wednesday to the Moses Lake Community Health Center, said that it’s important to talk about successes — the lives saved — by the expansion of health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

“They’re not done talking about repealing the ACA,” Murray told a small group of nurses, administrators, patients and family members who say their lives were saved by that ACA’s expansion of insurance coverage.

“So, we need to show how important this is for so many people, and make it [the Affordable Care Act] more successful. I’d like to see a public option to see more competition,” Murray said.

Last month, Congress attempted to repeal the Affordable Care Act — also called Obamacare — and replace it with a Republican plan centered on tax credits rather than direct subsidies for health insurance.

The state’s senior senator, however, spent most of the hour-and-a-half at the community care clinic listening.

Miriam Alvarez, a certified medical assistant at the clinic, and her brother Victor told the story of their mother Maria, who suffered a very serious stroke on one of the worst days of winter in January, when ice and snow closed the passes.

Maria was kept alive with a borrowed breathing machine at the tiny hospital in Ephrata, Victor said, but without the subsidized insurance they’d been able to buy through the exchanges, they would never have been able to afford to have Maria taken to Wenatchee for emergency surgery, much less airlifted to Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center for further treatment and eventually the therapy she needed to recover.

Murray said the Alvarezes’ experience is a reminder that if the ACA is repealed, many small, rural hospitals like the tiny facility in Ephrata where Maria was “stabilized with a dusty machine” would be the first to go under.

“They won’t be there,” she said.

Nurse Practitioner Justin Stoltzfus told Murray of two men he saw, both in their mid-50s, both dealing with similar serious health concerns. One man had health insurance through his employer, while the other had only been able to obtain health insurance through the ACA — for the first time in his life.

“That probably saved his life,” Stoltzfus said.

After her visit to the Moses Lake Community Clinic, Murray was also scheduled to visit the Mitsubishi Aircraft test facility at the Port of Moses Lake.

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached via email at countygvt@columbiabasinherald.com.

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