By Mildred Robertson
After a valiant fight against lung cancer, on Wednesday, May 21 at about 8 p.m. Central Standard Time, 51-year-old Dwayne C. Cox transitioned from earth to Heaven. His battle had been a long one, even though, much of the time he did not know his enemy’s nature. You see, he had no health insurance and was not diagnosed with cancer until it was too late.
He knew he was sick. He knew it was serious. He sought help, making numerous trips to the emergency room, only to be sent home with some pain meds, and a diagnosis of a pulled muscle, or no diagnosis at all.
Dwayne was one of the masses of people who make enough to live, but not to afford the luxury of a health insurance policy. He was fairly young, robust, and early on, it seemed like a good gamble to choose other expenditures over health insurance premiums.
And the system just was not that concerned about him.
Months before his death, he decided to make yet another trip to the emergency room. This time, he said, he would not leave until they told him what was wrong with him. He prayed to God to move on his behalf, and his prayer was answered. He was diagnosed with end-stage lung cancer and he finally began to get treatment.
But it was too late. They even enrolled him in a clinical trial to attempt to prolong his life—but, it was too late.
You see, I do not believe Dwayne had to die right now. Had his illness been diagnosed earlier his life most likely could have been prolonged, or perhaps even saved. Life is not something you should have to purchase. Whether you live or die should not depend upon your bank account. Treatable illnesses should not be turned into death sentences. Unnecessary pain and suffering should not have to be endured because of economic status. Help should not be withheld until the end is obvious and inevitable.
According to the Henry J. Kaiser Foundation, North Carolina is among 19 states not moving forward with Medicaid expansion. There are 27 states, including Washington D.C., that are implementing expansion and 5 states in open debate about it. Missouri, where Dwayne lived, has opted out of Medicaid expansion. Had the benefits of the Affordable Care Act been available to him, would he still be alive?In my home state of North Carolina there are 168,000 uninsured people eligible for Medicaid; 130,000 of them children. Nationwide, there are 3.6 million uninsured individuals who are eligible for Medicaid, but won’t get it because the state they live in has opted not to expand Medicaid coverage. According to a New York Times Poll, more than half the people in many of those states support the expansion.
Universal health care is not about politics. It is about people.
Dwayne was a father, a brother, a son, a nephew, a grandfather, who died too soon. That is why state legislatures that stand in the way of coverage for the nation’s most vulnerable are so insidious. That is why the expansion of Medicaid is so essential.For Dwayne, it is too late. But for millions who live without the safety of healthcare coverage, there is still time.
Raise your voice. Demand universal expansion of Medicaid coverage.