ASTORIA — U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Washington, toured Columbia Memorial Hospital on April 3 after helping continue a partnership with health insurer Premera Blue Cross to provide services in Astoria for residents in Pacific County.
Several hundred Premera customers in Washington, who had been able access essential services in Astoria when Columbia Memorial was part the health insurer’s network, this year faced having to travel more than 60 miles each way to providers Aberdeen and Longview for many general services. The health insurers’ new state-approved plan no longer included providers south of the Columbia River in its network.
Over the past four years, Columbia Memorial has served 1,108 Pacific County residents covered by Premera, for a total of 6,455 visits. More than 100 people were patients of the hospital’s pediatric clinic, making 428 visits; and 142 people were patients of the women’s center, for a total of 507 visits.
Herrera heard concerns from several residents when she was working with local crabbers on a fisheries bill, she said, and sent a letter asking Washington state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler to take immediate action.
“It’s not their fault there’s a political (state) line,” Herrera said of Pacific County residents traveling to Oregon for services.
Premera and the Columbia Memorial eventually reached an agreement allowing patients from Pacific County to continue coming for treatment. In addition to handling much of the pediatric care for the region, the hospital also provides the only dedicated coastal cancer treatment center closer than Longview.