There has been a lot of discussion of late about the various health reform bills and what they really mean and not all of that discussion has been positive or productive. I do believe that there are some valid concerns about these bills. No legislaton is perfect. And in all of the rhetoric currently out there it is critical to remember two things:
- Everyone has an agenda and will spin information, so always check it out yourself (check multiple sources).
- At the heart of all of this, it is about people, not process; about families, not statistics so this discussion is VERY personal to everyone and feelings will run high. Be respectful, even if we think they may be wrong.
One would assume that most people are in favor of health reform. I was quickly disabused of that notion from a recent (August 15th -17th) NBC poll on health reform.
To answer the question as to why health reform is needed, and in particular why it is needed for people with disabilities, I’m going to tell you a story. A true story. And unfortunately, it is not a story with a happy ending.
A woman in her thirties with uncontrolled diabetes and her two children lived with a relative in South Carolina. She did not qualify for Medicaid under South Carolina's guidelines because she had not yet been found disabled by the Social Security Administration. Since she had no treating physician, every time her blood sugar went too high or too low, she went to the local emergency room (ER) for treatment. She continually complained to the ER staff that she had a sore on her right foot that would not heal. No one evaluated her for this because they were concerned with getting her blood sugar under control. Every ER visit had notations of her unhealing sores but provided no treatment.
Eventually, she insisted that the doctor look at the worsening sores on her foot. Once the doctor saw her foot, she was immediately admitted and the next day her leg was amputated below the knee. The surgeon could not remove all of the leg that needed to be removed and wanted to wait a few days because it would be too much of a shock to her system. The sores were so bad that even with the amputation, osteomyelitis had set in and before the next surgery could be performed, she died.
Prior to her death, there was a record of 52 ER visits and 14 inpatient visits in 18 months! Neither the hospitals nor the surgeon will be paid for their services, because there was no Medicaid coverage before her death. Access to affordable health care would have enabled her to manage her diabetes and most likely would have saved her life. What really upset me was that the cause of death on the Death Certificate said Complications of Diabetes.
She didn’t die because of diabetes, she died because she couldn’t access affordable health care. THAT is why there needs to be a change in the system. What exactly that change is, is still up for negotiation, but the discussion must continue. If nothing happens, then we will continue to hear more stories like this. I do not want to be the one to tell that woman’s two children that we didn’t try to ensure that none else has to suffer as their family has.