What is the answer?  Having insurance didn't help this patient and she lost her life, but when the ER rooms are full and busy, I don't think anybody is taking any surveys on who does and who does not have insurance.  A little technology could have also been of benefit here as some cities have ambulances set up with software that tells them where there is room and where to take patients for emergencies, and some by the nature of the emergency too.  BD

Cynthia Kline knew exactly what was happening to her when she suffered a heart attack at her home in Cambridge, Mass. She took the time to call an ambulance, popped some nitroglycerin tablets she had been prescribed in anticipation of just such an emergency, and waited for help to arrive.

On paper, everything should have gone fine. Unlike tens of millions of Americans, she had health insurance coverage. The ambulance team arrived promptly. The hospital where she had been receiving treatment for her cardiac problems, a private teaching facility affiliated with the Harvard Medical School, was just a few minutes away.

The problem was, the emergency room at the hospital, Mount Auburn, was full to overflowing. And it turned her away. The ambulance took her to another nearby hospital but the treatment she needed, an emergency catheterization, was not available there. A flurry of phone calls to other medical facilities in the Boston area came up empty. With a few hours, Kline was dead.

She died in an American city with one of the highest concentration of top-flight medical specialists in the world. And it happened largely because of America's broken health care system -- one where 50 million people are entirely without insurance coverage and tens of millions more struggle to have the treatment they need approved. As a result, medical problems go unattended until they reach crisis point. Patients then rush to emergency rooms, where by law they cannot be turned away, overwhelming the system entirely. Everyone agrees this is an insane way to run a health system.

Surviving the U.S. health care system


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