Reflection on Nicholas Kristof’s (NY Times) “The Body Count at Home” Column

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September 13, 2009 by D Stack

Rather than echo everything said in Kristof’s latest column, I’d heartily suggest you give it a read. In it he describes yet another case of a person, Nikki White, who developed a treatable condition, lupus erythematosus. However due to this illness she was unable to keep her job and lost her insurance. She was no longer able to get treatment for this condition. When it became critical and she collapsed, she was admitted to an emergency room. As others have pointed out in comments to my blog, hospitals cannot refuse care to people in near-death scenarios nor discharge them until they are stabilized. The hospital then performed 25 emergency surgeries on her, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on her over six months, though to no avail – she eventually died.

If she’d continued receiving treatment despite being unable to afford insurance, then she would quite likely still be alive. And quite likely at a lower cost overall. How insane is our health care system? There are approximately 18,000 Nikki’s every year. Mr. Kristof compares this to the number of innocent Americans killed on September 11, 2001:

After Al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 Americans, eight years ago on Friday, we went to war and spent hundreds of billions of dollars ensuring that this would not happen again. Yet every two months, that many people die because of our failure to provide universal insurance — and yet many members of Congress want us to do nothing?

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