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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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Karen Hardy: We need leaders who will fight for our health

Karen Hardy

My daughter Amelia was diagnosed with diabetes at the tender age of 7. Suddenly, my entire focus shifted to keeping my child alive and helping her cope with an incurable disease. I immersed myself in things like making emergency plans at her school and getting her an insulin pump. But along the way, lessons I never asked for kept piling up, like a stack of kindling. Life-and-death lessons in coping with skyrocketing prescription drug costs and a terrifying thing called the pre-existing condition exclusion.

In recent years, Republicans tossed more kindling onto the pile as they began dismantling the protections of the Affordable Care Act and threatening to bring back the pre-existing condition nightmare. The stack grew bigger as I examined the voting records of my lawmakers: Sen. Shelly Short voted against preserving our state’s ACA marketplace, against preserving minimal coverage guarantees, and against insurance coverage for 3-D mammograms, which are lifesavers for certain women. Shockingly, she even voted against granting presumptive illness status to Hanford workers.

Sen. Short’s voting record prompted me to inspect the list of her contributors: Since 2008, she’s pocketed over $550,000 from large corporations, including hefty sums from the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, as well as Eli Lilly, the outfit that raised Amelia’s insulin from $20 to $400 per bottle. That discovery tossed a match onto the heap, igniting the fire that now burns in my belly.

I resolved to challenge Ms. Short for her state Senate seat because we need leaders who will hold big corporations accountable, not spoon-feed them. We all have an Amelia in our lives, someone who suffers a chronic condition. We need new leaders, at the state and federal level, to assure our loved ones can access the care they need.

Suicides are increasing in Stevens County. Last year alone, 13 of our residents took their own lives. According to the coroner, about half of these people were veterans. Their deaths are tragic and inexcusable. We have no support system for those who struggle with depression or PTSD, not a single psychiatrist in the entire district who could prescribe mental health drugs. I will work hard to remedy this problem.

In contrast, my opponent voted against a promising mental health solution. Instead, she sides with the insurance industry in its zeal to sell junk plans. (Consumers beware: so-called “AHPs and limited duration health plans” are code for someone wanting to sell you a skimpy health plan that’s riddled with red tape.)

I believe our state must defend and improve the consumer protections of the ACA, not destroy them. I will work hard to open up Apple Health and other options in counties with only one health plan, which will help families across this underserved region. I will also support our insurance commissioner’s efforts to protect consumers from surprise “out-of-network” medical bills, a common nightmare for rural families that arises when insurers impose unfairly narrow networks of doctors. I will sponsor measures to reduce red tape and shorten the distances people must drive to get the care they need.

My opponent refuses to debate me, for reasons she won’t explain. I can only surmise it’s because she doesn’t want voters to focus on her actual record or the fact we have some crystal clear choices, this election, about the future of our health care.

Karen Hardy lives in Valley and is running for the Washington state Senate to represent the 7th Legislative District, which includes Pend Oreille, Stevens, Ferry and parts of Okanogan and Spokane counties. The mother of two grown daughters, she serves on several community boards and works as a ranch manager.