She begged the ambulance workers not to take her. She was uninsured and terrified of contracting COVID. However after two weeks of progressively getting sicker her family had finally called 911. The emergency medical technicians ultimately decided that her infection was so bad that she did not have capacity to refuse. It would be another eight weeks before she saw her family again.
This patient, like so many, fell through the cracks of our healthcare system. She required six weeks of intravenous antibiotics for rampant infection, a resource- and labor-intensive endeavor that can generally be completed from the comfort of your home. However, she was uninsured. She had never been sick before and had been preoccupied full-time acting as care-taker for her elderly parents. This meant that while the hospital social workers assisted the patient to apply for public insurance, she would have to stay in the hospital for nearly two months. Further, due to COVID restrictions, she could not leave the hospital and was not allowed to have any visitors. Due to the vagaries of health care hospital and insurance billing procedures, the cost of this ordeal will likely be astronomically higher. From the supplies, to the hospital bed, to the nursing care, the inpatient experience requires infinitely more resources to be dedicated to providing care that can be easily managed from home. Not to mention the fact that these are resources that could be deployed to counteract the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
As doctors, we are faced with this dilemma all too often. We know what our patients need to be healthy and live full, productive lives. Yet these logistical snafus and bureaucratic hurdles often stand in our way, and it is always the patient that pays the price. COVID-19 has hampered our ability but not our commitment to do right by our patients. The pandemic threatens to bring our nation’s healthcare crisis to a boiling point. Because health insurance is so tightly intertwined with employment, any economic downturn threatens both American’s livelihood and health.
It does not need to be this way. In other nations, residents are guaranteed access to high-quality, affordable healthcare. They never face the choice of sacrificing careers, livelihoods, time, or life savings for their health. Medicare For All would enroll every American in health coverage at birth and eliminate wasteful spending and our health care system’s overwhelming red tape. Representative Connolly, you can stop this insanity and keep the ruthless private insurance industry from preying on your constituents. Cosponsor the next iteration of HR.1384, the Medicare for All Act of 2019 in this new Congress, so that my patient and your constituents never have to face this impossible situation again.
Keanan McGonigle, MD MPP
PGY-1, Internal Medicine