Tag Archives: insurance

uninsured in america

Uninsured in America: Broken Bone Morality

Two years ago, I was uninsured in America. All my efforts to find work had failed, so medical care was closed to me. One afternoon I tripped on a porch step and broke my ankle. The pain was overwhelming, but even worse was the realization that I would have to treat it myself.

A Visit to My Parent’s House

When we left Oregon, homeless and financially broken after years of trying to find work, we began the journey that eventually brought us to Minnesota. We made a stop at my parent’s house in Missouri.

They asked us to pray for my sister who was in the hospital with a mysterious illness. She had a good job, good insurance, and good doctors, but she was getting worse. We went to her bedside and prayed. Yahweh said he would heal her. She was released two days later.

“Praise God she has insurance,” my dad said. “If she hadn’t, the hospital might have turned her away.”

In a short while, I wouldn’t be so lucky.

Broken Leg No Insurance

Two days after my sister was released, the pleasant early summer weather beckoned me outside. I decided to visit the park with my husband and son.

We didn’t make it far. I stepped into a hidden hole at the bottom of the porch step. The violent twist of my ankle shot lightning bolts of pain up my leg that left me sobbing in the grass. The cloudless sky spun in dizzying flashes around me as the pain nauseated me, overwhelmed my senses. I have sprained my ankles many times, and I have broken several bones.

I knew that pain.

I knew my ankle was broken.

My mom and dad came outside because of the commotion. My husband was kneeling down to help me. My dad stepped over and talked sharply. “Get up and walk inside. It’s probably only a little sprain.”

Frightened by his tone, and my body pumping adrenaline from pain, I clutched the strong arm of my husband and somehow found the strength to hobble inside. My parents brought me ice and pain medicine.

Uninsured in America

I thought about going to the emergency room, but the injury was not life threatening, and without insurance or a cash deposit, I knew there was little chance they would treat me.

American law only requires hospitals to stabilize life threatening conditions of the uninsured, not to treat them. This is almost certainly why Thomas Eric Duncan (ABC News) was sent home from a Dallas emergency room, stable but seriously ill. He spent two days at home, in excruciating pain, shedding infectious Ebola virus to his family and community, before being admitted to the hospital two days later where he died of his condition. Duncan was also, tragically, uninsured in America. Broken medical system, broken morality. I have written more about him here. Eric Duncan, Ebola, and lack of insurance.

I knew the hospital most likely would not treat me, and I could never pay the thousand-dollar-plus bill if they did, so I begged to go to the far more accessible urgent care. My dad said there was no need to seek medical care for a “little sprain.” My mom laughed. She said it was my fault for not having a job, for not having any money for the urgent care $150 fee.

She laughed at me for being uninsured in America. Her broken morality crushed my spirit.

Self-rehabilitating My Broken Ankle

Past walking into the house, I couldn’t bear any weight on my ankle. The slightest brush of my toe against the ground sent mind-numbing pain through my leg. Fortunately, I had crutches and a walking boot from a surgery on my other ankle several years before (when I did have insurance). I used those to immobilize my ankle and settled in for the daunting process of rehabilitating my broken leg without the help of a doctor or modern medicine.

After a couple of days on the couch, I got into a religious argument with my parents. My husband called a televangelist phone number on a television program and told the call center to stop swindling people’s money. I thought it was funny, but my parents were not amused. We argued about works versus faith and the “cheap” American gospel. They kicked us out of the house.

For the next several weeks we slept on friend’s couches and in the car, our two-year-old in his car seat, my ankle throbbing from the cramped space. After about six weeks I was able to stretch my ankle and start walking again, painfully.

We moved to Minnesota and found housing and work. We got health insurance and I had x-rays showing the (healed) fracture line. Physical therapy helped some, but even now, over two years later, I limp and have pain in that ankle. The doctor thinks I have torn ligaments or tendons and I need surgery.

Surgery that would never have been necessary if I had not been a victim of society’s broken morality to refuse to take care of the poor, the weak, the sick, the uninsured in America.

Sprained Ankle and the Affordable Care Act

This week I fell over a pothole I didn’t see in a parking lot. I sprained my ankle, again, badly enough to have to take a week off work. Doctor visit, ankle brace, crutches. Maybe physical therapy again, I’ll find out in the next few weeks of healing again.

At least this time I have medical insurance, partially thanks to the Affordable Care Act, which made my family eligible for Medicaid. This legislation is imperfect, but it has helped millions (but not all) of the uninsured in America to access treatment from broken legs to cancer.

This legislation is constantly under attack. We need more Americans with the courage and morality to stand up for the pool, the uninsured. Medical care is a human right.

I share my story of pain in hopes of change.

America, repent, seek the kingdom of holy justice, heal the broken legs and broken hearts of the oppressed. Provide medical access for the uninsured. That is exactly what Jesus did. Seek God’s face, pray for holy justice, and heal the broken morality in America.

Eric Duncan uninsured

Eric Duncan Uninsured Ebola Patient

Thomas Eric Duncan went to the hospital seeking care for a deadly, and highly contagious, disease. The hospital staff saw his race and his lack of insurance and sent him home. Eric Duncan uninsured Ebola patient, died. Now Ebola virus is spreading in the United States.

Eric Duncan Uninsured and Black with Ebola

Thomas Eric Duncan, whom friends called Eric, was a Liberian immigrant to the United States. After a recent visit to his Ebola-stricken home country, Eric came back home to America and fell sick. He must have been relieved to be covered by the world’s greatest medical system. But, tragically, unlike the other white, wealthy, insured Ebola patients who recovered in America, Eric Duncan was uninsured, so he faced closed medical doors and ultimately death in America.

This NBC-5 Dallas Fort Worth article outlines the timeline of Eric’s treatment.

It is tragic to me that Duncan is the only patient who has died of Ebola in the United States, and he is the only black patient. All the white patients received a higher standard of care. They were all hospitalized and isolated at first sign of Ebola. They all received medication, including cutting edge, experimental drugs, early in the disease process. They received blood transfusions. They all had treatments delayed or denied to Eric Duncan.

All the white patients recovered. Eric died. Racism? Not overtly, but probably a subliminal devaluing of black life versus white life. Beyond racism, though, I think there is a much clearer explanation why Duncan was not treated in a timely manner.

Thomas Eric Duncan was uninsured in America.

I have written about my personal experience of breaking my ankle while uninsured. It was horrible, but nothing compared to the hell Duncan went through. Because of his suffering, he is now a martyr at Gods’s throne, crying out for holy justice in the United States.

Standard of Care Different for the Uninsured

According to this Forbes Magazine Article, one quarter of all Texans are uninsured. These patients face closed doors and grim medical outcomes. Texas, like too many other states, has refused to expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

When Eric Duncan showed up at the Dallas hospital, the first thing nurses would have done is ask for proof of insurance. That would determine the standard of care. Imagine the scene. The nurse looks at Eric’s chart before she steps in the room.

“Uninsured.” Big strike one.

She knows he must be poor. Strike two.

She opens the door and sees Eric. Black. Strike three.

Course of action: Stabilize and release. Quickly. Efficiently. Cheaply.

She takes his temperature. Fever: high 101. She asks about his pain. Pain: high 8/10

She writes that in the chart. He says he recently came from West Africa, but she may think that is irrelevant. Stories are still conflicted whether that was written in the chart.

The doctor comes in. He knows the patient is uninsured, therefore he knows to stabilize and release. Quickly. Efficiently. Cheaply. He declares sinusitis and sends Eric home with an antibiotic.

I’m not making assumptions about the character of the doctors and nurses. Perhaps they were kind or concerned. Almost certainly they were white and from a background of privilege that would influence how they view a poor black immigrant. Even if they were not personally racist, I’m sure they assumed that he could not afford the medical bill. Whatever their personal view on insurance, they followed hospital and Texas state protocol on treating the uninsured. Stabilize and release quickly and cheaply as possible.

Uninsured Ebola Patient Dies and Disease Spreads

Two days later, Eric goes back in an ambulance with a high fever, vomiting, diarrhea. Deathly ill. Highly contagious.

He languishes in the hospital while there are delays in testing his blood, delays in treatment. There is a supposed shortage in experimental drugs. Who knows if this is true. Uninsured patients are not profitable for pharmaceutical companies and expensive drugs.

Three excruciating days later, Eric Duncan dies. His soul flies to the heavenly dimension. There is no requirement for insurance in heaven, and he is attended by the highest healing touch of the angels. His family mourns on earth and joins him in pleading with God for justice.

Holy justice.

Now we see the dread disease spreading in Dallas. One nurse, Nina Phan, is already in isolation with Ebola. She is insured and receiving the highest standard of treatment. The state is even taking care of her dog, for fear the dog might be an Ebola carrier.

The dog is being treated at a higher standard of care than Eric Duncan was. Only in America is a dog’s life valued more than an uninsured man, a black man.

Today there was news that another nurse has tested positive for Ebola, and she recently took a plane flight between Dallas and Cleveland. Every passenger on that plane was exposed, possibly spreading the disease all over the United States.

This is tragic, frightening, and just. This is holy justice. Because America has refused to offer medical care to the uninsured as a human right, the country is reaping the consequences of its heartlessness. A contagious disease is a natural consequence of refusing to treat people. Eric Duncan is a martyr, but hopefully his blood is not in vain. There is still time to repent and change our ways. We can stop this disease if we throw open the hospital doors to anyone needing treatment. Love and compassion will conquer pain and disease.

I pray our nation wakes up. Rest in peace, Eric Duncan. You are no longer uninsured and facing the heartlessness of a system set up against the poor. Enjoy heaven.