Meet Tommy Davis, a self-described "dead man walking."
This uninsured man visited the ED after his intense abdominal pain and obstipation became unbearable. After spending his life savings on $10,000 worth of tests in the ED, he learned he had metastatic colon cancer.
"The year before, he'd had similar symptoms and visited a primary care physician, who had taken a cursory history, told Mr. Davis he'd need insurance to be adequately evaluated, and billed him $200 for the appointment," University of Louisville physicians, Michael Stillman, M.D., and Monalisa Tailor, M.D., wrote in a perspective article in the New England Journal of Medicine.
"Since Mr. Davis [an alias] was poor and ineligible for Kentucky Medicaid, however, he'd simply used enemas until he was unable to defecate. By the time of his emergency department evaluation, he had a fully obstructed colon and widespread disease and chose to forgo treatment."
This man will die because he lacked insurance.
Although Stillman and Tailor call Mr. Davis's situation appalling (and it is), it shouldn't come as a surprise. The uninsured Mr. Davis is certainly not alone in his inability to pay for healthcare, despite having a full-time job.
As nurses know, it's nothing new at all.