LACONIA — Deaglan McEachern says a medical crisis in his family showed him a major flaw in the health care system.
It’s something the Portsmouth Democrat talks about frequently in his campaign to succeed U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter in the 1st Congressional District.
“My wife got sick in 2014 and we found out just how sharp the sharp end of the health-care stick is,” McEachern, 34, said in an interview last week. “She woke up and told me she couldn’t feel her arms or her legs.”
They had good health insurance but still had to come up with $5,000 to cover the deductible charge for treatment of her autoimmune disease.
“I put the charge on one of two credit cards I had at the time,” he said. “I certainly didn’t have a savings or checking account. Because I had a credit card, I was incredibly lucky. There are a lot of people who aren’t lucky. There’s a lot of bankruptcies that are caused by medical debt in this country.”
That’s why he supports the idea of a single-payer system, where the government covers essential health care costs.
“It’s a moral argument for me, but not one I plan to make to independents or Republicans,” Deaglan said. “That argument is that this is a business issue.”
Rising health care costs end up as a business expense and a hindrance to economic growth, he said.
Another challenge to the economy is the rising level of college debt today’s graduates face.
“We have the highest in-state tuition of anywhere in the country,” he said. “That’s a problem because we don’t have the highest-paying jobs. Graduates have to go out of state to pay off that debt.”
He would like to see a greater emphasis on regional public transportation and feels the state generally needs to do a better job of investing in itself – including in public education, where he believes computer science should be a required subject.
“We should be the ‘Live Free or Die and Code” state,” he said.
“If you don’t invest in your state, how do you expect any other company to?” he asked. “How do you expect to get jobs to come here?”
For example, he said, if the state wants more young families, it needs to do a better job of ensuring funding for preschool, kindergarten and child care.
Public investment made in strategic ways can reap huge dividends, said Deaglan, who pointed to the example of Oklahoma City.
McEachern, who is 6-foot-6, trained at state-of-the-art facilities in Oklahoma City when he was on the U.S. Rowing Team.
Boat houses were built along the Oklahoma River as part of a renaissance the city’s downtown has experienced, funded in part by a voter-approved sales tax initiative.
He also has strong feelings about gun violence.
“Our government is checked by the First Amendment,” he said. “I guess I disagree with those who feel the only check is the Second Amendment.”
He and his wife have a 2-year-old daughter.
“It will be three years before I have to talk with her about this,” he said. “Her kindergarten teacher will teach her where to hide. I’m sure he’ll do it like a game and she’ll be excited. It sickens me.
“I don’t believe we need AR-15s in society, bump stocks or high-capacity magazines.”
He wants to close loopholes in background checks, favors red flag laws to prohibit gun sales to those with domestic violence charges against them and suggests that background checks should be required for some high-velocity ammunition.
McEachern, a technology executive whose father, Paul, ran for governor in 1986 and 1988, is among a field of eight Democrats in the congressional race.
He is third in fundraising among Democrats, behind Maura Sullivan and Chris Pappas.
New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District includes all of Carroll and Strafford counties and parts of Belknap, Grafton, Hillsborough, Merrimack, and Rockingham counties. The primary is Sept. 11. Shea-Porter announced in October that she would not seek re-election.