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Another Obamacare fable: No, lack of insurance didn’t kill jobless dad with tooth infection

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By Michelle Malkin  •  September 5, 2011 01:01 AM

In July, I compiled for you a handy catalog of Obamacare fables disseminated by the Left.

Nationalized health care activists use the growing list of sob stories — see here for the refresher course — as evidence of free-market failures. Hysterical media outlets hype the claims uncritically, when a simple, quick phone call and basic vetting would disprove the knee-jerk assumption that more government spending and more government intervention would have saved victims’ lives.

This weekend, a spate of MSM stories and blog posts decried the unfortunate death of unemployed 24-year-old Kyle Willis of Cincinnati, Ohio. Here’s a taste of the headlines and editorial commentary:

ABC News: Man Dies From Toothache, Couldn’t Afford Meds – Without Insurance, 24-year-old Dies of Toothache

WLTW-TV: Aunt: Unemployed Nephew Couldn’t Afford Antibiotics

Doctors at University Hospital in Cincinnati said a 24-year-old father died Wednesday from a tooth infection.

Patti Collins, wife of famed local musician Bootsy Collins, said she couldn’t believe what happened to her nephew, Kyle Willis, who left behind a 6-year-old daughter.

…Family members said Willis’ wisdom tooth started hurting two weeks ago. Dentists said it needed to be pulled, but being an unemployed single father, Willis decided to ignore the pain. Collins said her nephew was out of work and didn’t have health insurance. But when Willis started getting headaches and his face began to swell, he went to the emergency room. “The (doctors) gave him antibiotic and pain medication. But he couldn’t afford to pay for the antibiotic, so he chose the pain meds, which was not what he needed,” Collins said.

Cincinnati.com: Death after tooth infection raises questions about care options

Willis, an unemployed single father, filled the prescription for the $3 painkiller but not for a $27 antibiotic because he couldn’t afford it, his family said. Willis was the nephew of famed Cincinnati funk bassist Bootsy Collins, but Willis didn’t ask Collins or his wife, Patti, for help paying for the prescriptions because they were out of town when his tooth problems developed, Patti Collins said.

Digital Journal: Tooth infection kills uninsured nephew of Bootsy Collins

Drew Kolar, All Media NY: U.S. Health Care: When Will America Get It Right?

Health insurance is a big deal—we all know this. Unfortunately for many people, the idea of health insurance is just that: an idea.

The fate of Kyle Willis is far from an uncommon story. While an infected wisdom tooth causing swelling of the brain may be somewhat rare, lack of health insurance to cover important day-to-day issues is so common that it’s laughable that nobody has taken any action yet.

Yes, it’s a shame when a celebrity has to bring to light an issue that should have been solved decades ago. While Bootsy Collins and his wife may not be A-list, this was the situation with their nephew Kyle, who died at the young age of 24 simply because he could not afford both antibiotics and pain medication for his infected tooth (although I’d also argue that he could have suffered through the pain and taken antibiotics instead, a move that would have ultimately saved his life—but it’s impossible to know just how life-threatening an infection can be when you’re just 24).

Still, for some reason, America is still suffering from poor health care, unless you can afford it, and sometimes it takes a bigger name to make the public more aware. While it is now possible to stay under your parents’ insurance plan until you turn 26, this still seems like it is simply not enough time. When will government officials learn that they need to take care of their citizens? Without us, there would be no country to run and no money going back into the system. Keep us alive to keep yourselves paid—maybe that idea will appeal to them.

Matthew Yglesias, Think Progress: Man Dies Of Toothache

Now, clearly, this man made some sub-optimal choices here he’s not purely a victim of lack of health insurance. At the same time you have right before you a no-longer-living, no-longer-breathing example of the “push the patient to the edge of financial desperation” theory of health care cost controls. It turns out that the quality of a frightened, pain-wracked young man asked to make technical medical decisions under severe financial constraints is not very high. The social cost of 24 year-old fathers dying of eminently treatable tooth infections, by contrast, is gigantic.

Willis suffered a needless death.

But “lack of insurance” and ruthless “health care cost controls” didn’t kill him.

By all accounts, Willis made an unwise, short-sighted choice — pain meds over antibiotics. He had prescriptions for both. While media reports quote Willis’s family saying the pain meds cost $3 and the antibiotics cost $27, a quick phone call to Cincinnati-area Wal-Mart and Walgreen’s pharmacies shows that Willis could have had access to the following without health insurance:

Cincinnati Wal-Mart pharmacy – 513 351 9818 – 28 500 mg capsules of Amoxicillin. Price: $4.

Wal-Mart offers nearly a dozen similar antibiotics as part of its $4 prescription generic drug program.

Cincinnati Walgreen’s – 513 929 4316 – 28 500 mg capsules of Amoxicillin. Price: $13.36

Giant Eagle in Ohio also has a subsidized antibiotics program.

Some socialized health care zealots will argue that $4 or $13 or $27 is too high a price for antibiotics. But co-pays serve a rational economic and public health purpose. They encourage consumers to be judicious and discourage patients from demanding that doctors dispense every last drug recklessly like Pez candy. This is particularly of concern with regard to antibiotics — whose overuse is diminishing their efficacy. If a patient makes a choice to forgo needed antibiotics priced at $4 – $27, that’s a problem of misguided individual priorities that no government intervention can fix.

Willis’s aunt now plans to make a political crusade out of her nephew’s death:

Collins said she intends to write to President Obama and Congress to tell them what happened to Willis.

“We have got to make a difference with our health care,” she said. “With people losing their jobs, they’re having to make serious choices – do I eat, or do I get my medicine? It’s crazy. And this is America.”

But what more does she want Obama and Congress to do?

The state of Ohio offers RxOhio — a program that connects qualified, low-income people with discount prescription drugs, direct from the pharmaceutical manufacturer.

The Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services offers more government help:

Insurance Options
If you recently lost your employer-provided health insurance or have been uninsured for some time, the Ohio Department of Insurance can help you understand the coverage options available to you. Call 1-800-686-1526 for more information or visit www.insurance.ohio.gov.


Community Health Centers
Ohio’s community health centers are required to provide care to all patients regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay. To locate a facility in your area, click here.

Free Medical Clinics
Ohio has 41 free medical clinics serving 52 Ohio counties. For more information or to find a clinic near you, call 614-221-6494 or visit http://www.ohiofreeclinics.org/.

In Cincinnati alone, the following dental clinics offer services to Cincinnati residents who can prove low-income (full pdf of brochure is here):

Crest Smile Shoppe
612 Rockdale Ave
Cincinnati OH 45229
513-352-4072

Elm Street Clinic
1525 Elm St.
Cincinnati OH 45202
513-352-3092

Homeless Program
1525 Elm St
Cincinnati OH 45202
513-352-2902

McMicken Dental Center
40 E. McMicken Ave. 2nd
Cincinnati OH 45202
513-352-6363

Millvale at Hopple Street Health Center
2750 Beekman Street
Cincinnati OH 45225
513-352-3192

Northside Health Center
3917 Spring Grove Ave
Cincinnati OH 45223
513-357-7600

Price Hill Health Center
2136 W. 8th St
Cincinnati OH 45204
513-357-2700

And as a representative at the Dental Center at University Hospital in Cincinnati pointed out, the hospital center treats anyone whatever their insurance status is:

University Hospital spokeswoman Diana Lara said she couldn’t comment on Willis’ case because of federal privacy laws. Anyone with dental problems can receive treatment at the Dental Center at University Hospital, though, she said.

It’s unclear whether Willis knew about the dental center.

“The Dental Center is here to provide care for those who are insured, underinsured and who have no insurance,” Lara said. “No one has to go without care when they are experiencing any sort of pain. We’re here for that reason.”

To the extent that the White House had any control over how this terrible Labor Day weekend story turned out, it is worth noting that the black unemployment rate is the highest in 27 years.

Especially hard-hit by Obamanomics: The fast-food industry, where Willis worked before he lost his job. He was a former Wendy’s manager before he joined the ranks of the unemployed.

Sadly, Obamacare is not the solution. It’s part of the job-destroying problem.

As always, post-Obamacare truth is deadlier than pro-Obamacare fiction.

***

Willis leaves behind a 6-year-old daughter.

The family is raising money to support her. Donations to the Kyle Willis Memorial Fund may be made at any PNC Bank location or mailed to the PNC Bank branch at 604 Ohio Pike, Cincinnati, OH 45245-2141.

***

ABC News cites a previous Obamacare fable about a dental-related tragedy involving 12-year-old Deamonte Driver. David Hogberg of Investor’s Business Daily debunked the claims that nationalized health insurance would have prevented his death here and here.

Socialized medicine advocates complain that long lines and wait times were obstacles to Driver and Willis’s access to health care. And the Obamacare bureaucracy would make that better how?

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