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Breaking News: Not Having Health Insurance Killed a Person


If you relied solely on the news media, rather than on things like common sense and logic, you would probably conclude that expanding access to health insurance kills people, and ruins the lives of those people it doesn't kill. However, aside from people who are lying to themselves and everyone else, people know that the opposite is true, that despite laws that mandate emergency care, people die from not having health insurance. What they don't know, perhaps, is how many people die from lack of health insurance, and who they are. On March 21, Charlene Dill became one of them:

Dill, who was estranged from her husband and raising three children aged 3, 7 and 9 by herself, had picked up yet another odd job. She was selling vacuums on a commission basis for Rainbow Vacuums. On that day, in order to make enough money to survive, she made two last-minute appointments. At one of those appointments, in Kissimmee, she collapsed and died on a stranger’s floor.

Dill’s death was not unpredictable, nor was it unpreventable. She had a documented heart condition for which she took medication. But she also happened to be one of the people who fall within the gap created by the 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allowed states to opt out of Medicaid expansion, which was a key part of the Affordable Care Act’s intention to make health care available to everyone.

The villains in Charlene Dill's story are the Republican governors and lawmakers who have refused to accept the Affordable Care Act's expansion of Medicaid, a refusal which leaves millions of Americans uninsured. That's tough to argue with, given the relative lack of effort and political cost it would take for them to cover people like Charlene, but I'm sure every Republican you'd ask about this would have some handy incantation to absolve themselves of this. "We all agree that people need health care," they'll say, "we just disagree about how to do it."

Let's just grant them this, that they really believe that gutting all insurance regulations and protections will magically save people like Charlene Dill, even though their last presidential candidate's campaign explicitly said the opposite. That makes them either stupid or evil, and I'm happy to go with stupid.

You know what is evil, though? Ignoring people like Charlene when you know better. There is not a reporter alive who isn't aware, for example, of the Harvard study that showed more than 44,000 deaths a year attributable to a lack of health insurance, for some fairly obvious reasons. Instead of serving the public (and serving those people) by telling those stories, our news media sought out people with false stories to tell about a program that has made serious progress in reducing the number of uninsured.

Here's a chance for them to make up for that in some small way. Charlene Dill's story has been all over the local news in Florida, but aside from a segment on Al Sharpton's PoliticsNation, has received no national attention whatsoever. When the story of the website petered out, news networks were tripping over themselves to hand a microphone to anyone who had a lie to tell about Obamacare. Let's see if they do the same with the people that Charlene Dill left behind.