A 17-year-old from L.A. county, the first teen believed to die from Covid-19 in the U.S., was denied treatment at an urgent care clinic because he didn’t have health insurance, according to R. Rex Parris, the mayor of Lancaster, California. The teen went to cardiac arrest on the way to the hospital and ultimately did not make it.
“The reason this boy delayed seeing the doctor is because he didn’t have insurance,” Parris said in a phone interview to Yahoo News. “ He didn’t want to burden the family. We need to suspend that [necessity]."
And the teen is not alone. More than 27 million Americans, or 8.5% of the population, don’t have insurance. Dr. Rob Gore, an emergency physician based in Brooklyn, New York believes that the way the country views healthcare should be adjusted.
“It's kind of scary to know that people don't don't feel comfortable paying for health care or just paying for coverage in the event that they may be sick with, with coronavirus,” said Gore. “We have to make sure that healthcare coverage is a lot more accessible and a lot more cost efficient for the people that we're trying to serve in the community.”
And yet still, Dr. Gore says no insurance should not equate to death.
“We don't want more people to lose their lives and we really don't know how long this pandemic is going to last,” he said. “We want to minimize the number of deaths.”
Yet for a lot of Americans, the high cost of medical care in the country factors into whether they will seek out a doctor or primary physician. A new poll reveals that 39% of Americans would think twice about seeking medical care for coronavirus due to cost, according to healthinsurance.com.
“That's really sort of a scary statistic in the sense that if you think someone really needs medical treatment, they need to go ahead and get into the doctor's office,” Jan Dubauskas, vice president and senior counsel at healthinsurance.com told Yahoo News. “But they're held back by the cost of treatment and the cost of care.”
Telehealth is an option that can fill the gap of affordable healthcare. Telehealth is the use of electronic information and technology to support long-distance clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, public health and health administration, according to HealthIT.gov. Last week, the Trump administration announced a “historic breakthrough” by expanding telehealth services for Americans 65 and older, the demographic most at risk of severe or fatal infection in the coronavirus pandemic. Under the expansion, Medicare will now temporarily pay clinicians who give telehealth services to patients nationwide.
The $2.2T stimulus bill passed by the White House Friday includes a $200 million investment in telehealth. “People can go ahead and have those appointments over the phone,” said Dabauskas. “This is changing the face of healthcare so that people are really embracing digital options a lot more now.”
It’s a shift that in-person healthcare workers and doctors welcome as hospitals become overwhelmed with patients in this current pandemic. As of Sunday afternoon, the U.S. has more than 1025,000 confirmed coronavirus cases nationwide.
“Telehealth is an important ally that we have in helping deal with the coronavirus situation because we're trying to dissuade people who aren't exceptionally sick to come to the hospital,” said Dr. Gore. “At least you can have a face to face evaluation with a physician or a healthcare provider just using a camera itself.”
The most vulnerable communities should not suffer because they don’t have health insurance, says Parris. He believes the country needs to get a handle on this in the midst of this pandemic before it’s too late.
“The time for democracy is not during a pandemic.” Parris said. “We only need one rule. Be a human being.”
The above results were gathered through an online poll of more than 1,000 Americans between the ages of 18-64. The poll was conducted from March 20, 2020 to March 23, 2020, gleaning representative samples from each state based on population.
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