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Copayments can kill

Weatherford teacher dies from flu effects

By Christin Coyne and Jelani Gibson
Weatherford Democrat, February 5, 2018

A second grade teacher at Ikard Elementary School, 38-year-old Heather Holland, died Sunday due to complications of the flu.

In addition to a classroom of second graders, Holland left behind husband Frank Holland, a 10-year-old daughter, and a 7-year-old son.

Holland fell ill about a week ago and planned to pick up flu medication but felt the $116 copay was too high, her husband said.

Frank Holland bought the prescription himself when he found out, but things worsened.

“Friday night, things escalated and she ended up in the ICU,” Holland said. "The doctors got the blood cultures back and they had to put her on dialysis early Saturday.” 

Heather Holland died Sunday morning.

“I have to be strong for the kids but it’s still surreal, it hasn’t all set in,” Holland said. “We’ve been together a long time, over half my life. She’s my best friend, my soulmate, my everything.”

http://www.weatherforddemocrat.com...

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Comment:

By Don McCanne, M.D.

It is difficult to discuss policy issues in the face of tragedies such as this. Heather Holland's husband, children and students come first. A moment of silent contemplation seems appropriate here.

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We will never know whether earlier initiation of her flu medication could have improved her outcome. Evidence suggests that the medication shortens duration of symptoms, but reduction of complications is not quite so clear.

What we do know is that treatment was available, but it was delayed because of a $116 copayment. We do know that erecting financial barriers to care such as cost sharing through deductibles, copayments and coinsurance reduces access to care and can result in adverse outcomes - suffering and sometimes even death.

In this case we would have much preferred to have never heard about this tragedy because taking medication, getting well, and going back to work is not a newsworthy story. Again, we will never know for sure.

One of the most fundamental principles of a national health program such as the model supported by PNHP is that the financing of health care and the delivery of health care are totally separated. People should have health care when they need it without a need to arrange personal finances as a condition of accessing that care. Instead, the entire health care system should be financed in advance of need through equitable taxes based on ability to pay.

This concept is so simple, yet across the political spectrum voices tell us that patients need to fulfill their personal financial responsibilities before they access care. In a well designed single payer national health program they have already done that by paying their taxes. All of our policies should be oriented to helping people get the care they need when they need it. Why do we make that so complicated?

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