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You don't need me to tell you that illness is often accompanied by pain. Uninsured Americans suffer with pain because healthcare remains a privilege not a right. And in the richest country on the planet,
we tolerate this depraved state of affairs

Overnight, we can come up with $700 billion for Wall Street, but we debate whether we can afford healthcare for all our citizens.

The Philadelphia Inquirer is running a series about uninsured Americans, the hurdles they face, and the pain they endure. Yes, dear friends, not having access to healthcare means you often live with pain, frequently unbearable suffering.

I've long wondered, how these Americans cope. Well wonder no more, it's all here.

Today, the Inquirer profiled a man named Richard Hershman.

This is Richard Hershman.

Philadelphia Inquirer

Richard has no insurance. For many years though, Hershman did have insurance through his employer. He was dropped when his healthcare needs began to drive up the costs of the insurance for his employer.

Once you read about these Americans, you'll understand why I believe President Obama will not abandon them--and us, and his campiagn pledge to make healthcare a right in the United States of America.

Now Hershman is uninsured, what follows is his story.

On Jan. 17, Hershman was out in front of his apartment, giving Blue a short walk. He slipped on the ice. His bones are as brittle as twigs because of years on the steroid prednisone to treat his diseased lungs.

His arm snapped.

An ambulance took him to the emergency room at Nazareth Hospital, where, he said, "I was in and out like a car wash."

The ER staff X-rayed his arm, stabilized it in a splint, and told him to follow up with an orthopedic surgeon, because he was going to need surgery.

He called the Rothman Institute on Holme Avenue, across from Nazareth Hospital.

"The first question they asked me was, 'Do you have insurance?'

"I said no."

"OK, bring $600. That's for your initial consultation."

"Ma'am," he says he told the woman on the phone, "I have emphysema and am borderline impoverished. I don't have $600."

She said, " 'Well, you can't come here,' " he recalled.

So Hershman did nothing because, "nobody would help".

Hershman said it took six weeks "of me being in utter agony" before he was approved for medical assistance by the state Department of Public Welfare.

He was aided in this effort by the staff of the Pennsylvania Health Law Project, which helped speed along his application for medical assistance - state-provided health insurance for the poor - effective March 1.

Then he got an appointment at Temple University Hospital with Asif M. Ilyas, assistant professor in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery.

Hershman says the doctor's first question was: "Why did you wait so long to get surgery?"

Hershman said he told the doctor he tried, but nobody would help.

Ilyas operated on March 2.

I hope you'll finish reading Richard's story.

Other uninsured Americans are also profiled. Their stories are equally heartbreaking and horrific barbaric.  Meet Iyasu Habtemicael.


Izzy drives a florist truck for $8 an hour most days and then works nights in a University of Pennsylvania parking garage.

Izzy has diabetes and is uninsured.

Because of these factors, compounded by his own belief that he couldn't get in to see a doctor, Izzy nearly died last spring when his diabetes soared out of control.

In immense pain and vomiting blood, he went by ambulance to Mercy Philadelphia Hospital, where he spent five days in intensive care. The charges came to $41,000.

The nurse practitioner who treated him said it all could have been avoided if he'd had better access to a doctor.

Here's someone else you should meet. Her name is Ruby Spencer. It would be wonderful if President-elect Obama knew about Ruby. She and millions just like her, are hanging in and counting on him to make good on his campaign pledge to bring guaranteed and affordable healthcare to the United States.


This is Ruby's story.

The "abdominal pelvic complex cystic mass," as the ultrasound report calls it, measures 32 to 35 centimeters - the size of a football - and may be malignant.

Everyone she has seen sent her somewhere else. The emergency room at Temple University Hospital referred her to a city clinic and back to a state welfare office and then sent her home.

She had no insurance.

"We got turned down from everybody I tried," she said this week, in her Logan home, six weeks after learning about the tumor inside her. "I can't wait till I'm 65 to get Medicare. I'll probably be dead by then."

Her experience shows how difficult it can be to get care without insurance. Only after an Inquirer reporter asked for explanations did public agencies involved in her case start to respond, promising help.

Richard, Izzy and Ruby are just three of the 48 million.

Originally posted to nyceve on Mon Nov 10, 2008 at 03:12 PM PST.

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