A startling news report tells of a New Jersey woman who waited until her 65th birthday (when she would become eligible for Medicare) before going to a hospital to treat a rapidly growing tumor in her body. The tumor was cancerous, and had grown in size to 51 pounds by the time of the operation to remove it. Her body weight had ballooned from her normal 120 pounds to 170 pounds while she waited until she could receive Medicare coverage.
The case illustrates why we need to make sure all Americans can have access to affordable health care insurance. Without health insurance, the lady was unwilling to seek treatment. The doctors said they would have treated her regardless of her insurance status in such a condition, but the hospital might still have gone after her to seek whatever compensation they could.
It would have made sense for all for her to have received an early treatment. Not only would her own likelihood of recovery have been better, but the expense of the operation (done earlier rather than later, before the tumor had grown to 51 pounds) would have been far less. Indeed, it would have made sense for Medicare itself to have paid for an earlier operation, if it were legally possible for it to do so. The lady would have gained, Medicare would have gained (as it subsequently covered a far higher cost), and society would have gained.
Yet we still operate in a country where over 50 million of its citizens do not have health coverage. Not only is this a human tragedy, but it is also financially foolish. It leads to postponed medical care that can often cost far more than earlier intervention would have.