Stories like this are disturbing, for several different reasons:
Man Dies from Toothache - Couldn't Afford Meds
Of course everyone cries, "If he would have just had insurance, he'd still be alive!"
I won't argue that it obviously would have helped him. I don't want to take up the "national healthcare vs. no national healthcare" debate. But I see deeper things within an article like this that trouble me...such as this quote:
"When people are unemployed or don't have insurance, where do they go? What do they do?" Silverstein said. "People end up dying, and these are the most treatable, preventable diseases in the world."
Wow - that struck me as an exaggeration, and a sad commentary on today's society...as if insurance is the only answer?
We personally have never had dental insurance. During my early 20's, I also struggled with wisdom teeth pain off and on for a few years. One time, when I was pretty sure it had reached the infection point and I could barely open my mouth, I called a dentist and made an appointment, knowing that we would probably just have to make arrangements to make monthly payments or something. After x-rays, the dentist said, "I'll charge $25 a piece to pull them, and we'll do all four and get it over with today." No mention of expensive dental surgery; no offer to put me on antibiotics or pain meds for a few days. I had even driven myself to his office, expecting that I would be put on some meds for a few days and then have to schedule an appointment to come back at a later date - at which point I'd have someone else drive me. However - he was making it affordable for me right now, I figured he was the expert, and so I let him go at it. He shot me up with lots of stuff, pulled all four teeth in short order, and sent me out the door with a scrip for pain meds. I couldn't even talk when I walked in the pharmacy - just handed them the scrip, feeling conspicuously like a swollen, speechless pumpkin. I drove myself home, pulling over occasionally to spit the blood out of my mouth...laid around home for about 24 hours before the bleeding finally stopped, and that was that.
Granted - that dentist was obviously rather "old school," and I was pretty miserable for a day or two. But - what if the young man in the article had visited an "old school" dentist? Why does needing wisdom teeth removed always seem to automatically mean expensive surgery nowadays? And why oh WHY aren't some health care professionals just a BIT more in-tune to their patients' needs? I'd be willing to bet money that dentist had samples of antibiotics at his office that he could have given him for free, or he probably could have set him up on a payment plan and pulled his teeth. Have we become such a "medi-quick convenience clinic" type of society that many of our health-care providers no longer need to understand some deeper issues that a patient may be dealing with (ie: he's out of work and not insured?) Have we convinced a generation of people now that unless they have insurance, they're doomed to pain, misery and in this man's case...death?
Yes, it's sad that he didn't have insurance. But what is sadder to me is that he died, NOT because he didn't have insurance, but because someone, somewhere, just didn't speak up and ask a question or two. His dentist let him walk away. What if that dentist had just taken an extra moment to ask, "I see you don't have insurance and can't afford wisdom teeth extraction. Can you afford these medications?" (but the dentist apparently didn't even offer him an antibiotic scrip?) Or what if that young man would have been honest and said, "I'm not sure I can afford a prescription right now." Drug reps hand out free samples to doctors all the time...wasn't there someone, either the dentist or the ER physicians, who could have offered him samples if they realized he was unemployed and uninsured? Or what about the young man's friends or family - if they had known, surely someone would have offered to help him buy those antibiotics?
I'm sure I'm over-simplyfiying it, but I believe some good old-fashioned communication, honesty and just a little concern and involvement could have saved this man's life. Maybe insurance would have also saved him, but that seems to be a minor side-point. Insurance will never take the place of people who genuinely care about others - whether they be care-givers, patients, friends or family members.