February 25, 2007, Deamonte Driver died as the result of an abscessed tooth.The infection that could have been so easily treated invaded his brain and festered until it was too late to save him. He was just 12yrs old.
Unfortunately, Deamonte is not an unusual case. Children like him suffer everyday, and many die, because they and their families either don’t qualify for free or low cost medical coverage or must fight a complex (and sometimes hostile) bureaucracy to receive the benefits to which they are entitled.
Seniors and the disabled have their own struggles with the health care system in this country. The Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit is often little help.
“Claire Rogers* is a Mount Prospect senior that currently takes 11 medications, 7 of which have no generic form. Even though she is on Illinois Cares Rx Basic, just the co-pays ($2.15 for generic drugs and $5.35 for brand names) can add up and become troubling. Claire explains, “My income is so low that every dollar is important to me.”
A few states have taken the matter into their own hands and tried to fashion solutions for the uninsured and the under-insured. Although, such programs may help some people, they are largely inadequate. For example, in Massachusetts, many residents are still struggling to afford even basic care, despite the state mandate that all Bay Staters must have insurance.
Where there are no meaningful provisions for insuring those who can’t afford insurance or are otherwise uninsurable, death rates soar.
“Six Florida adults die every day because they lack health insurance and Florida appears to have one of the highest death rates due to its uninsured population, according to a national healthcare consumer group.”
Uninsured and suffering a recurrence of cancer, Mark Windsor was so desperate for care that he “married a woman, who was simply a good friend, at least partly so he could get insured. It may be too late. His cancer has spread to his lungs.”
We’re all aware of the sad tragedy of Andrea Yates who drowned her five young children in the family bathtub. While the media concentrated on postpartum depression as the factor that led up to the horrific crime, the truth is that Mrs. Yates suffered from an extremely severe form of schizophrenia for which she received inadequate care. Unfortunately, the Yates tragedy is just one of countless tales of abuse, neglect, and murder of children by their untreated or under-treated mentally ill parents. These stories are shocking to most, but all to common to those of us who work or have worked in the field of mental health.
As the parent of an adult child with a serious mental illness, I was stunned and horrified to learn that those who suffer from a significant mental illness die an average of 25 years (Yes, YEARS, not months) sooner than the general population. This is largely due to lack of medical care or inadequate care.
I’d like to believe that the healthcare crisis in this country is going to improve as soon as Barack Obama becomes our President. But I am neither that naive nor that stupid.
Even if circumstances were ideal, it would take time, alot of time, to turn around our failing system. But current circumstances are far from ideal. The recession is getting deeper and wider with no end in sight. That means that healthcare reform is no longer the number one priority. I suspect it isn’t number two or three, either. More worrisome, is that the crisis in our healthcare system is now guaranteed to get worse.
Barack Obama is going to need a strong team to find our way out of this desperate situation we find ourselves in. He will need great minds, fresh ideas, strong personalities, and the support of all Americans to turn this around. Most of all, he must insist that Congress move ahead with a Universal Health Care bill immediately. Cost cannot be an issue that prevents a comprehensive health care package that guarantees universal coverage to all. The truth is, we can’t afford to go on as we have. The cost of that is not only far too great in monetary or societal terms, it is simply unconscionable.
1.) “THE COSTS AND CONSEQUENCES OF BEING UNINSURED”
2.) “Consequences of the Lack of Health Insurance on Health and Earnings”
Full Report in pdf:
3.) “Economic Consequences of Being Uninsured:
Uncompensated Care, Inefficient Medical Care Spending, and Foregone Earnings”
1.) Societal Costs Exceed the Cost of Medical Care
2.) Access To Health Care