Sunday, September 4, 2011

They "might as well be living in 1927" (Living in the future means thinking like an sf writer, Part 2)

In talking about "living in the future" the other day, I didn't mean to imply that we are all of us living in the future. Or that every aspect of our lives is spent in the future. It's all uneven. As ABC News quoted a doctor at Vanderbilt University a couple of days ago, as far as medical resources go, a lot of people in the US "might as well be living in 1927." 
A 24-year-old Cincinnati father died from a tooth infection this week because he couldn't afford his medication, offering a sobering reminder of the importance of oral health and the number of people without access to dental or health care.

According to NBC affiliate WLWT, Kyle Willis' wisdom tooth started hurting two weeks ago. When dentists told him it needed to be pulled, he decided to forgo the procedure, because he was unemployed and had no health insurance.

When his face started swelling and his head began to ache, Willis went to the emergency room, where he received prescriptions for antibiotics and pain medications. Willis couldn't afford both, so he chose the pain medications.

The tooth infection spread, causing his brain to swell. He died Tuesday.
That was just last week. As Carrie Gann notes in the piece, it is not unusual for people in the US to die of simple-to-treat problems:
"People don't realize that dental disease can cause serious illness," said Dr. Irvin Silverstein, a dentist at the University of California at San Diego. "The problems are not just cosmetic. Many people die from dental disease."
. . . .
"When people are unemployed or don't have insurance, where do they go? What do they do?" Silverstein said. "People end up dying, and these are the most treatable, preventable diseases in the world."
This would be a very easy problem to fix, if our elected officials cared to serve anyone but the wealthy. Unlike health insurance, medicaid costs almost nothing to administer. But that's because government-brokered health insurance is a nonprofit undertaking. If Dante were alive now and writing the Inferno, insurance executives (along with proponents of torture and banksters) would no doubt be found in of his choicest circles.


Nancy Jane Moore said...

Many health insurance policies don't cover dental work at all. Medicare doesn't cover dental and I think Medicaid only covers it for children. And I don't think the health reform law includes it, either. This despite the fact that a lot of recent research indicates that dental health is related to other health conditions.

Anonymous said...

From 2007, a story I have never forgotten:

For Want of a Dentist