Maybe you hailed the Affordable Care Act as the health care initiative our country has needed for decades now—or maybe you saw it as an unnecessary and unwanted move on the part of the government. Regardless of your pre-existing views on the subject, you should hear the story of Tommy Davis, a patient seen by two Kentucky-based doctors working at a clinic for destitute people.
In a new perspective published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Michael Stillman and Monalisa Tailor, both M.D.s, recount how Davis (not his real name) used enemas to treat severe abdominal pain and constipation. Why? He didn’t have the insurance to cover a medical evaluation—and he certainly didn’t have the money to pay for the tests he needed out of pocket. So he continued using enemas until his colon became fully obstructed. Davis finally wiped out his entire life savings to get an exam, lab tests, and a CT scan—along with a diagnosis of metastatic colon cancer. By that point, though, there wasn’t much Davis could do about it. Stillman and Tailor remember Davis saying, “If we’d found it sooner, it would have made a difference. But now I’m just a dead man walking.”
The worst part? Davis’ tale is hardly unique. “A 2009 study revealed a direct correlation between lack of insurance and increased mortality and suggested that nearly 45,000 American adults die each year because they have no medical coverage,” write Stillman and Tailor.
Bottom line: Tens of thousands of people die in the United States annually because they don’t have health insurance. Regardless of how you feel about the Affordable Care Act, this number is unacceptable—and we as a country should demand solutions from our elected officials.
Read the full perspective for more sobering information on the state of health care in our country—and what Stillman and Tailor suggest the medical community do about it. Then check back for our investigation into the problems the Affordable Care Act has had so far.