Tragic story out of Whatcom County this week.
According to the Whatcom Sheriff's Department, on Wednesday morning, a 77-year old man living in near Ferndale called 911 and told the dispatcher, "I'm going to shoot myself." The dispatcher attempted to keep him on the line, but the man said, "We will be in the front bedroom" and then hung up.
Local deputies arrived with a crisis negotiator soon after, and upon entering the house, found the husband and the wife, aged 76, dead by apparent gun shot wounds. This is being investigated as a murder/suicide.
The sheriff's office has not released the couples' names but notes found with the bodies indicated that the wife had ongoing medical issues and they were concerned about being able to pay their bills. “It is very tragic that one of our senior citizens would find himself in such desperate circumstances where he felt murder and suicide were the only option," Sheriff Bill Elfo said in a statement. "Help is always available with a call to 9-1-1.”
9-1-1 may be there in a time of acute crisis, but emergency dispatchers certainly can't help with medical bills. It may seem odd that medical bills could bankrupt the elderly when everyone over 65 in this country is eligible for Medicare—and it is odd—but Medicare doesn't cover everything. It doesn't cover long-term care, dental care, hearing aids, and lots of other routine procedures that older people need.
This couple was certainly not alone in their financial hardship: According to a 2018 study, the rate of citizens over 65 declaring bankruptcy increased over 200 percent from 1991 to 2016. While it's unclear how much of that is due to solely to the cost of health care, the most common cause of bankruptcy in the U.S. is health care expenses, and most of the people filing are actually insured.
This is one of the richest countries on earth, and yet, people are actually going broke—and even killing themselves—because of the cost of health care. And unless something drastic changes in this country, this is only go to get worse in the next generations. There are few pension programs left, Social Security is running out of funds, the cost of health care continues to climb, and fewer people are able to buy homes, which makes them vulnerable to eviction when rents go up. A crisis of the poor elderly is coming.
Think about that when it's time to vote.