Possible single-payer option and urgent care center discussed at Town Hall

A crowd of 120 or more filled the Ocean Shores Lions Club on Sunday afternoon for the North Beach Medical Initiative Town Hall.

By Scott D. Johnston

For Grays Harbor News Group

A crowd of 120 or more filled the Ocean Shores Lions Club on Sunday afternoon for the North Beach Medical Initiative Town Hall. Among the topics discussed were a single-payer insurance option that may become available in Washington next year, and the possibility of an urgent care clinic in the new drugstore building that is nearing completion in Ocean Shores.

The meeting, which grew out of an Ocean Shores Learning Series presentation July 17 at the North Beach Senior Center, featured several people involved in aspects of rural health care, along with some area government representatives. The discussion was moderated by Ocean Shores City Council member Kathryn Sprigg and co-produced by council candidate Lori Hardin.

State Rep. Mike Chapman (D-Dist. 24) told the crowd that the Washington State Legislature has taken the initial steps toward to a single-payer option.

“In essence, if you’re a low-income individual or if you work for the multitudes of small businesses in this district that can’t afford health care, we’ve taken the first step so that you can buy into the state run health system at a reduced rate, with a reduced premium depending on how much you make,” he said. “If you’re a single mom with two children or you work a minimum-wage, $15-an-hour job, it is impossible, virtually, right now to afford health care in the private market.

“We can’t just go from zero to 60,” he said. “But by this time next year … an option will be available for people to buy coverage based on their income.”

He added that the option was intended for people who do not already have health insurance, and estimated that includes half of 24th District residents.

Also during the panel discussion, Sprigg introduced Jackie Fisher, manager of Ocean Sunset Plaza — the retail complex on Chance a la Mer that includes the soon-to-open Ocean Sunset Drug. She told everyone that the new drugstore, which has been under construction for several months and is expected to open in September, will include space for an urgent care clinic.

Fisher said she has not yet found a medical provider to operate in the space, but she and her father, retired businessman Dick Morris, strongly believe Ocean Shores and the North Beach community need the service and they hope the available space and location will attract an urgent care practice soon.

Sprigg described the Town Hall as a first step toward finding solutions to local health service needs. Much of the afternoon’s discussion centered on the myriad challenges that rural medical providers and related service providers face and possible strategies to overcome them.

Also participating in the panel discussion were Dr. John Bauscher, Grays Harbor County health officer; Rob Richards, Grays Harbor District representative for U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer; and Shawn O’Neill, legislative relations manager of the Washington State Health Care Authority.

In the first half of the meeting, presentations were made by Tiffany Rinke, the operations manager of Coastal Primary Care, and Elizabeth Tschimperle, director of Harbor Medical Group, a rural health care center and subsidiary of Grays Harbor Community Hospital.