Sky-high medical bills apparently drove a 77-year-old man in Washington state to commit a murder-suicide, according to notes he left behind.
NBC News reported Friday that the elderly man in the town of Ferndale in northern Washington, near the Canadian border, called 911 on Wednesday morning and told dispatchers that he planned to commit suicide. Despite police setting up a presence along the perimeter of the man’s home and having a crisis negotiator speak to him through a loudspeaker, the man was already dead when police entered the home. His 76-year-old wife was also dead in what the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office is investigating as a murder-suicide.
“It is very tragic that one of our senior citizens would find himself in such desperate circumstances,” Sheriff Bill Elfo stated.
Authorities have not yet released the names of either the man or the woman as of this writing, though police suspect that the couple’s medical bills were the key motivator behind their deaths.
“Several notes were left citing severe ongoing medical problems with the wife and expressing concerns that the couple did not have sufficient resources to pay for medical care,” Elfo said.
Because the couple was in their seventies, it’s likely they were on Medicare. However, Medicare as its currently structured fails to account for high out-of-pocket costs of prescription drugs for seniors (Medicare Part D). Following the passage of legislation President George W. Bush signed into law in 2003, Medicare is no longer able to negotiate the prices of prescription drugs. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) recently took a group of Americans to Canada to buy insulin for a tenth of what it costs in the United States, and promises to force pharmaceutical companies to come to the negotiating table if elected president.
Medicare has also been systematically bled dry of funding due to Medicare Advantage plans offered by private insurance companies. According to a July NPR report, Medicare Advantage plans overcharged Medicare by tens of billions of dollars since 2016. Senator Kamala Harris (D-California), who is running for president, is modeling her healthcare reform plan on Medicare Advantage.
Carl Gibson is a politics contributor for Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.