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Ailing economy hurts health care

BREMERTON — The economy isn’t the only thing ailing these days, local health care officials say.

The number of people who find their way to Peninsula Health Care Services who no longer have health insurance has doubled in recent months, its executive director Barbara Malich said Monday during a town hall meeting in Bremerton.

Washington state representatives Christine Rolfes (D-Bainbridge) and Sherry Appleton (D-Poulsbo) hosted the forum at the Olympic College’s Bremer Student Center to address concerns over the local health care industry.

“There are a couple of things that have occurred over the last year that are very alarming in terms of the populations we have served,” Malich said.

In October 2008, she said, nearly 20 percent of the people seeking assistance from her organization were uninsured. In November, it was about 40 percent.

Small businesses are offering fewer insurance options because they can’t afford to provide insurance as they once could.

Some businesses that self-insured can no longer afford to do so, she said.

In addition, the state budget numbers are even more frightening for Malich, who said her program relies on state funding to survive.

“We are nearly entirely dependent on state funding for our program,” Malich said.

The economy also is having an adverse affect on Harrison Medical Center, as it is treating more uninsured patients, said its President and CEO Scott Bosch.

“In the last year, of course, the national recession and state-wide recession, has had huge impacts on health care providers, Harrison along with them,” he said. “Some of the things we’ve seen, an increase in the number of uninsured, of course, there are less jobs ... and that means people have lost their insurance.

But, that does not mean their health is any better.”

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