Incomes, Health Care Reform, Horror Stories

This has been widely reported. Census data show falling income —

Among other facts:

  • “In 2008, the median household income in the United States plummeted 3.6% from the year before, and the percentage of people living in poverty soared to an 11-year high”
  • “The data show the devastation of the recession through various economic indicators, such as the real median household income. In 2007 it was $52,163. A year later it dropped to $50,303, the lowest level since 1997.”

Medicynical Note: Meanwhile health care cost inflation is estimated at approaching 10% for 2009 by Price Waterhouse.

I don’t like anecdotes but it seems to be the currency of the debate on health care. So………

Case 1:
While at a local tumor board this week we encountered the case of a young woman with Hodgkin’s disease, a curable lymphoma. It’s curability depends in part on the stage of the disease–early is better than late. In this case the patient delayed calling attention to the mass in her neck for six months because she had no health insurance.

If Hodgkins disease is local, that is one or two lymph node areas involved, it can be treated with irradiation alone, i.e. without chemotherapy. The further advanced the disease the more extensive, expensive and toxic the treatment. Chemotherapy is necessary for most cases when the disease advances.

So this young woman went from have a disease amenable to local (extended field) irradiation to a situation where she will now require both systemic chemotherapy and irradiation. In addition to the immediate toxicity, her future fertility will likely be compromised–as well as her chance for cure. Guess who’s paying?

Case 2
This is the story of a young woman with headaches who earlier this summer delayed seeing a doctor because she had no insurance. The headaches persisted and while on a hike with a friend in the mountains, she collapsed and died. She undoubtedly had a leaking aneurysm which finally burst. Delay in seeking care in this case was fatal.

These are two cases from my personal experience in the last 3 months. Only in America would this be allowed to happen and only in America would people call such a dysfuntional non-systematic health care establishment the “best in the world.”

We need health reform to assure access to care. It’s literally killing us!

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