Everyone should read the personal story by Kevin Zelnio, a marine biologist and blogger at EvoEcoLab, about his son’s recent medical emergency. Having a six-year-old child whose flulike symptoms turn into a struggle to breathe must be scary enough — but this family’s troubles are compounded by not having health insurance.
Zelnio is self-employed, and he and has wife have been unable to find affordable insurance for themselves and their two children. He cites uninsurance as one reason why they didn’t bring their son to an urgent care facility as soon as his fever reached 103. They did get him to an emergency room the next day, where he was diagnosed with pneumonia and admitted to the hopsital. Zelnio writes about how it could’ve gone differently:
My son could have suffocated from his pneumonia had we not sucked it up and rushed him to the hospital on Tuesday morning. If we were able to see a doctor a day earlier, he perhaps could have been treated at home as an outpatient with antibiotics. I don’t know what our final bill will be when we leave tomorrow morning, right now I don’t care. All I know is my son got better under the supervision of a wonderful team of nurses and pediatricians. My community has income-based charity care which will hopefully reduce our bill to a much more manageable sum. All minor details when the stakes are as high as your children’s lives.
David Kroll of Take as Directed has set up a PayPal account to collect donations to help Kevin Zelnio’s family. While it’s great to see friends and readers coming together to help out those in need, it’s also sickening that this kind of fundraising is necessary at all. Maryn McKenna of Superbug says it well:
I have a bias here, and I’ll declare it freely: I don’t think healthcare should be a luxury product that only a few can afford. I was born in the United States, but I grew up partly in England under the care of the National Health Service, and I spend a fair amount of time in countries where single-payer systems persist. Here’s the thing: They work. They take care of people (even people who don’t contribute to them; see Steve Silberman’s experience in London last summer for one example). They don’t permit families to be crushed, either by fear of bills, or by the thuggish actions of collection agencies.
Zelnio writes in his post that he would gladly buy insurance coverage if he could find one that seemed to offer good benefits at a reasonable cost — but as a self-employed writer, he hasn’t been able to find such coverage. This is a common problem for people who don’t get insurance through their employers, and the Affordable Care Act aims to correct it. Starting in 2014, individuals and small employers will be able to purchase insurance coverage through state-based health insurance exchanges. The plans will have to cover essential health benefits (broadly defined in the law and determined more specifically at the state level), and subsidies to help with premium costs will be available for those earning up to 400% of the poverty level. It remains to be seen how well the system will work and how affordable the coverage will end up being. The hope is that it will allow families like Zelnio’s to focus on recovering from illness, not worrying about how they’ll pay for care in a crisis.