Letter to the Editor: UW Medicine on Orcas

— by Joe Cohen —

Along with 200+ other Orcas residents, I attended the UW Medicine briefing at Orcas Center of Thursday September 7th. My take away from the conversation is simply this:

As a community we have finally started down a path that will ultimately serve our collective ‘heath care’ interests.

This conclusion is based in part on the professionalism that UW Medicine has demonstrated in every interaction (meeting) with our community and in particular from the implementation transition that is underway. I came away with a deep appreciation of UW Medicine and the assembled Medical Center staff (existing and new). The experience so far is all positive.

There will of course be bumps in the road as UW Medicine assumes full responsibility for the clinic. Yet I have every confidence that things will smooth out and we will begin to enjoy a better experience for all.

To achieve the stability of this operation will require a Public Hospital Taxing District. Art Lange provided a brief overview of what this means for those who own property. A maximum rate of 75 cents per $ 1000 of property valuation is specified. For real estate valued at $500,000 the contribution to our community is $ 375. For the million dollar home owner – the contribution is $750.

What is this ‘contribution to our community’? It is the ‘tax’ we will pay to enjoy health care benefits for the entire community. Yes, it is a tax. But it is also a contribution to our community on Orcas. Think of it as a small measure of philanthropy by those who owns property for the benefit of ALL who live and visit here.

As OICF Executive Director Hilary Canty pointed out: “Our health care system at the Medical Center has been subsidized for many years by philanthropic contributions from donors who cared passionately about medical care. A public hospital district is a new (different) source for the needed funding.”

We will soon enjoy the freedom to choose and elect Commissioners for a proposed taxing district. Those chosen will represent our interests. I am both confident and grateful that there are capable and committed citizens who will step forward and serve in this very important capacity. Those chosen will devote considerable time and effort to this endeavor and deserve our thanks in advance.

One last thought. Many of us have Medicare, prescription drug and supplemental insurance plans. Combined insurance premiums may range from $ 500 to $ 1000+ per month (or more). The small tax we will contribute under the public hospital district will be (for most) less than one month of insurance premiums.

I like to think of what we will contribute as a very small insurance cost to ensure the health of our community.


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Letter to the Editor: UW Medicine on Orcas — 11 Comments

  1. Very well stated, Joe. Thanks for the summary and analysis as I was not able to attend. The community MUST move this issue forward for the benefit of everyone who lives here.

  2. May I ask if this “tax” will be distributed to all 3 medical facilities? To Dr Russel also? I am all for a tax that is distributed evenly between the 3 office’s. How ever I am not wanting to support just one facility. Not everyone uses the medical center.

  3. I agree with Melissa’s comment and question:

    If instated, would the money from the Tax be distributed in a manner consistent with patient services. The Medical Center is only one part of multiple medical services on the island. (Perhaps a larger percentage with Dr Russel moving over), but still about 50% of the patient/service load.

    If the tax is specifically aimed simply at suplimemting the loss incurred by UW for providing services then in my opinion it is a non-starter. If it is aimed at bolstering all medical serices on the island then it is something worth considering.

  4. In the past, the vote to grant access to our tax-enabled purse strings has been hampered by the history of Orcas-style governance: cronyism, kleptocracy, misinformation, hidden agendas,
    and lack of transparency.

    In this latter, the past association with corporate style healthcare inimical to our local values has severely handicapped even tainted local governance and harmed the collegiality *Imperative* to the success of such a service in a rural area with severely limited resources.

    We cannot look to UW to heal our community’s self-inflicted wounds. Just run one of the clinics.
    We cannot look to UW to create an inclusive system that respects the interests of all stakeholders. Who are OUR neighbors.
    We cannot look to UW to envision for us a future we ourselves have not learned to speak to each other about. Calmly & Forthrightly.

    We are heir to a profoundly dysfunctional system here that has ignored, even traded in on, the plight of our most vulnerable while powerful factions fought over crumbs instead of building for the future.

    So let us not think that adding a new player, or adding a new layer of governance will change US, the US we have chosen through innumerable instances of kindness and cruelty, to be.

  5. I admit to being a skeptic about the UW Medicine connection.

    I believe I’m correct in stating that UW Medicine is a stand-alone, profitable enterprise, financially independent from the University of Washington, its medical school, and its hospital.

    I would be interested to know what profit margin it strives for in the delivery of its services; surely a proforma has been prepared for operation of our clinic. How much of the annual tax revenue which UW Medicine is counting on would remain on Orcas, and how much goes off-island to support its hi-tech overhead?

    The notion of a local taxing district to support the challenges faced by ALL the local health practitioners has considerable merit…my regret is that an open, community conversation on the topic did not occur prior to the decision by a few to enter into a binding agreement which commits all of us to fund thru taxation an expensive, new model of rural health care offering the dubious advantage of a practitioner appearing as an app on a smart phone.

  6. Well. I went today and met a temp Dr. She was kind, helpful unhurried and I am looking forward to years of great medical service. It takes time to get into the stream of life here but I felt really positive. You know what? We get answers. All the questions asked seem answered. Continue to air your doubts and I think this may be a good answer.

  7. I stand corrected…”UW Medicine” is not a “stand-alone profitable enterprise”. The contract that the Orcas Medical Foundation has signed is with UW Physicians Network. UW Physicians Network is a not-for profit organization and you can review their 990 online.

  8. Melissa,
    Your question about what practices and patients will be served by the proposed district is a very important one. By law, the elected commissioners of the district are responsible for making the determination of what practices would receive funds. Therefore, it is critical that we, the voters, make certain that we elect candidates who are committed to the principle that PHD funds be directed to all the existing primary Care practices in our community. The commissioners would also be responsible for determining a formula for how funds would be distributed fairly. The Coalition for Orcas Health Care, which is the group of concerned citizens that is collecting signatures to put the measure on the ballot in April, 2018, is supportive of the PHD providing funds to all the existing primary care practices. Our goal is: to ensure that high quality primary and urgent care is available to all the members of our community in a financially sustainable and predictable manner now and for generations to come. To achieve that goal, all the primary care practices would receive funds.

    Art Lange

  9. If the goal as stated by Art Lange is to include all the primary care practices on Orcas. Has there been any conversation with
    Dr Shinstrom from members of the coalition about his partipation