The Human Cost for Not Offering Medicare for All

An emergency medicine physician offers Congress powerful anecdotes about what it means to be underinsured.

Statistics don’t lie but there’s also something to be said for a good old-fashioned story. That’s the tack pursued by Farzon A. Nahvi, MD, when he recently testified before the House Rules Committee and writes about that testimony in an opinion piece in Newsweek.

The stories Nahvi relates are horror stories about the suffering he’s seen because patients are underinsured. Nahvi tells us about “Steve” a young man who can’t afford to pay for the CT scan to determine if a kidney stone is what’s causing his pain.

At one point, Steve asked Nahvi, who serves on the board of the New York chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program, what the chances were that Steve could die from whatever caused the severe pain.

“As we dove deeper into morbid hypotheticals and I tried to reassure him, I could not help but become upset that I was actually entertaining the statistical probability of death for a healthy young man who probably had only a simple kidney stone,” writes Nahvi.

As Nahvi relates, Steve had done everything right: went to school, got a good job, never missed paying the “hefty” insurance premiums on his ACA health plan.

“And yet, when he needed it most, Steve found himself unable to access care,” writes Nahvi. “Instead, he writhed in pain and found himself weighing the probability of death against the out-of-pocket cost of a routine CT scan.”