This week the 46 year-old sister of a co-worker died. She had had a treatable cancer of the uterus.
However, like most low-income citizens without health insurance, she had no medical home, and so she had waited to get medical help until her symptoms forced her to the doctor.
In March the pain became so bad that she went to a local hospital, which admitted her, not out of the goodness of their corporate heart, but because the law requires hospitals to care for those people who are suffering great pain.
With that admission, an emotional, financial, and terrifying roller coaster ride began for her and her family of whether or not she would be able to have surgery or cancer treatments. Everything depended on if she qualified for this program or that program. It turned out that she didn’t qualify for any of the programs. The doctor told the family he could do surgery if they gave him a $5000 down payment, an amount of money that they did not have, and so she was left to her fate, which was an early death.
In the end, it turns out, there was one program she did qualify for, and that was the County’s Indigent Funeral Program.
Before the funeral services, someone offered condolences to her mother, saying, “The Good Lord chose to take her to be with Him.” Her mom wailed, “God did not take her! She died because we did not have the money.”
The Gospel the family chose for the funeral was the account of Jesus coming to Bethany when his friend Lazarus died. Lazarus’ sister, Martha, said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” And that was precisely the thought I had, “Lord, where were you?” I couldn’t help but think about those who work in our broken health system, “If you had been there, our sister would not have died.”
But I also thought of our Governor, and of the Texas legislators who have done nothing to provide healthcare for all Texans, “If you had been there, our sister would not have died.” I thought of our Rio Grande Valley delegation of elected officials to the Texas legislature, who promised us that they would raise their voices this session in Austin for health care coverage for the 300,000 uninsured adults in Hidalgo County alone. Where are you?—“If you had been there, our sister would not have died.” How can you be silent?
There is nothing more depressing to me than hearing about a family offering to sell BBQ plates to “offset the costs of cancer treatment.” Ten thousand BBQ plates will not cover a cancer treatment. But it is not as if the money is not out there—it is just not to be found in raffles or car wash benefits for the sick. Indeed, the county would have had the money that would have saved this woman’s life. Had the State of Texas accepted the Federal Government’s Medicaid expansion program, $500 million dollars would have been at Hidalgo County’s disposition to use in cases such as these. These are our taxpayer dollars, dollars that now go to the states that have accepted Medicaid Expansion.
The session is in its final weeks; the legislators continue to dither about border security while so, so many families from our border region know only sadness and fear. The legislators preach about the importance of protecting religious freedom even as those of their constituents who suffer from serious illness are left to prayer because there is no medical care for them.
I think that we all could do with some prayer, but we need to season that prayer with outrage. I invite you to visit our Equal Voice webpage, www.rgvequalvoice.org, where you will find contact information for our legislators. I think that it is past time to educate them on the realities of life without medical insurance.