Letter to the Editor: Are expensive rural hospitals a bad idea?

Dear Editor:
Despite many (or maybe most?) of the taxpayers and residents living in and around Meeker not approving of this project, the proponents of the new hospital are getting their way. The cost of their vision is so great it will likely cost every man, woman and child living here thousands of dollars every year to support.

You may have already noticed when visiting the hospital that you are more likely to be charged $1,500 to see a doctor for something like an injured finger or a cold rather then maybe $100 like you might expect? Is it because they want you to contribute to a massive and unsustainable health care project? From the issues already seen in other small-town hospitals, it is unlikely there will be enough revenue from patients (even when overcharging) or from taxpayer-supported funds and grants to finance and support the new hospital.
Hospital visits data shows that privately insured people that incur out-of-pocket costs are now opting out of visiting pricy local hospitals and seeking less expensive or a more reasonable alternative. However, it’s not surprising that hospitals are seeing more visits from (guess who?), folks that don’t pay their medical bills (like Medicaid patients).
There is no evidence to suggest that simply building a very expensive hospital in a small rural community will bring prosperity, economic benefit or even better health, to the people living there. However, small town hospitals have proved to consume tremendous resources and unsustainable amounts of money that weigh heavily on the struggling middle class taxpayers contributing to their funding. Economic growth driven by population growth is no longer a primary ingredient for success.
The United States population has grown from 272.65 million in 1999 to our current population of 319.18 million people. However, families in the U.S. are not any better off then they were 15 years ago. Even though the population in the United States as grown by a staggering 44.53 million people (about nine times the population of Colorado), there has been absolutely no benefit or gain to 99 percent of the existing U.S. population.
Average family incomes in 1999 were $51,735. Now, 15 years later, average family incomes are still under $52,000. Adjusting for inflation, average family incomes in the U.S. are percent lower then they were 15 years ago. Can you believe that? Where do hospitals think the money is going to come from to support their gigantic cost when there is no more money?
Only a very small portion of our population has gained wealth and benefited from the population explosion over the past 15 years, and that happens to be (you guessed it) the wealthiest.
If the folks here believe a $50 million hospital in Meeker is a good investment, ask the next proponent of the project how much money they are willing to invest in their great idea. A lot of bad ideas sound great when spending someone else’s money.
In the event that this project proves to cost more then expected, who will have to come up with the money to cover the shortfall? Will it be the company that manages the hospital that has steered us in this direction?
Of the important priorities and financial challenges expressed by the administrators of the hospital in the Herald Times or other advertised information, never once have I seen anything about how important it is to help the people in Meeker by keeping the cost of services reasonable and responsible.
Health care costs are out of control in this country and this issue will have a very negative effect on Meeker and America in the future if something isn’t done to fix this problem.
Have you noticed that Meeker is losing a couple more downtown businesses? For several years, this has been a trend in Meeker’s extremely weak business community. How many is that now?
While millions of dollars are being spent in Meeker on projects like the hospital and justice center, you can see that the out-of-control local taxpayer-funded spending is not effectively serving the people and local businesses.
What do you think?
Shawn Welder
PS – The income and population numbers came from Five Thirty Eight chief economic writer Ben Cassleman and the Census Bureau.