Fifteen years ago, in the final weeks of my son’s life, I was devastated that my son really would die because doctors in Savannah, Ga., refussed to treat him. Because the Emergency Room at Memorial Health in Savannah refused to treat him.
Most people don’t know that an ER can refuse to treat you, but the fact is, they only have to stabilize you. If you show up in pain, they can give you pain meds and release you. If you have an intestinal blockage, they can give you a laxative and release you. I know this because it’s what happened to my son as he desperately tried to seek care.
Lisa Edwards, 60, went to the ER at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center in Knoxville, Tenn., on Feb. 5, saying her ankle was broken and she believed she was suffering a stroke. Doctors blew her off and told her to leave. When she begged them to listen to her, they called police.
The video (https://www.knoxnews.com/story/news/local/2023/02/23/knoxville-police-investigate-officers-after-woman-collapses-in-custody/69937224007/) shows Edwards pleading with police to listen to her, while they insist she has to leave, and finally arrest her. She collapsed in the back of the police vehicle and died a short time later.
Fifteen years and a few days ago, I had rushed to Raleigh after getting a call from my son that his cancer was back and there would be no cure. My husband and I checked into a motel near my son’s apartment and I got a call from one of my colleagues in the newsroom. A young homeless man had died after being turned out from the emergency room. Since I covered health care policy, my colleague needed some names and numbers of people to interview for a story about him.
Tommy McMahan had pneumonia and the doctors had given him antibiotics and discharged him. McMahan knew he was too sick to go back on the street, especially since the twmperature was well below freezing. But doctors refused to admit him.
Emergency Room personnel called the police, who arrested him. He died that night, alone in his cell.
Like my son, Edwards and McMahan weren’t wealthy and couldn’t pay for treatment. Like my son, the hospital disposed of them. Like my son, they died, The only difference is that my son suffered, in poverty, for three years because that’s how long it took to approve his disability. His first check came nine days after he died.
This is how we treat poor people in this country, and about 68,000 of them die each year from lack of access to care, according to a study before the pandemic hit in 2020. And it’s been estimated that up to a third of the more than one million covid deaths could have been prevented if people had sought care right away. But they didn’t because nearly half of Americans say they can’t afford a $400 suprrise bill without borrowing money.
What’s worse is that up to 14 million people could lose access to health care when the pandemic spending ends. Medicaid grew by nearly 20 million low-income people under the expanded access during the pandemic, which began in 2020. Once the spending dries up, some 14 million of them could be booted from the program as their eligibility disappears. Thousands will die from lack of access to care.
Before my son died, I promised to fight as long as I lived to get a system of universal health care in place. I thought the Affordable Care Act would do that, but I was mistaken. Big Insurance has preverted the law to benefit themselves, and we, again, lose.
The average deductible out-of-pocket costs for workers covered by an employer plan is over $6,000, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, with workers at small companies paying up to $2,000 more.
That’s not affordable.
In addition, plans with lower deductible (and Medicare “Advantage” plans) have networks so narrow that you can go bankrupt if you get sick or injured while traveling.
In the end, that’s not affordable, either.
Fifteen years ago today, we were preparing to say goodbye to my son. I was making calls to set up interviews in the Raleigh area so I wouldn;t be charged with vacation time when I took him to see his doctor and to his forst chemo appointment. I could do nothing to save his life.
Fifteen years and people are still being refused care and dying as a result. We hear about them all the time, but we still refuse to vote for people who will give is the health care system we need.
If this isn’t state-sponsored murder, I don’t know what is.
On this day 15 years ago, we had less than five weeks left with my son.