The Case of Demetrius Gibbs: Why Americans need High Quality and Affordable Universal Health Care

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Demetrius Gibbs attempted to live the American Dream and lead a good life.

College educated with a white-collar profession, Mr. Gibbs found he had kidney disease while undergoing a free checkup provided for by his employer-provided health insurance.

Both of his kidneys were not functioning. Because of health reasons, no familial or voluntary kidney donors were available. Dialysis treatments were required. Because home treatment was not a good fit, Demetrius has to go to a clinic three times a week for four hours to receive dialysis. He describes the clinic as depressing because many patients have given up on the hopes of having any kind of normal life.

Demetrius wants a normal life. He wants to work. He wants to spend quality time with his family and friends. He wants to travel without having to worry about getting dialysis treatment along the way.

Unfortunately, Mr. Gibbs cannot currently lead a normal life. Over the last three years, he has spent 17, 18, and 21 days in a hospital.

Secondary ailments stemming from the Kidney Disease, including Peritonitis, Celutosis, Intestinal and excretion issues (where two feet of his small intestine was removed) and mental distress have kept him from having any semblance of a normal life. He develops cramps often and fluid buildup constrains his movements. The treatments and medication he receives hinders him from controlling his bladder or bowel movements.

The Kidney disease, treatments, and side effects have forced Demetrius onto Social Security Disability where he earns $1700 a month. Because he is on disability, he is enrolled in Medicare but because he is 48 years old, he cannot sign up for supplemental medical insurance.

Because he cannot get supplemental medical insurance, he is forced to pay the roughly 20 percent of medical expenses not covered by Medicare if he cannot get aid elsewhere. He currently receives some outside assistance from the Kidney Foundation but he has outstanding medical bills owed in the tens of thousands (and growing) of dollars.

Because he makes $1700 a month in disability, he does not qualify for food stamps or other aid because he makes too much.

He has been forced to move in with his mother and even then he can barely make ends meet.

In the event that Demetrius does receive a new kidney, he would be responsible for a portion of the $2500 in monthly prescriptions necessary to maintain the viability of the new organ. He would also be liable for the $50,000 (20 percent) portion of the $250,000 bill associated with a standard kidney transplant.

Mr. Gibbs is also worried that what will happen if pre-existing protections under the Affordable Care Act are taken away and how that would affect him if he develops any future illnesses resulting from kidney disease.

How in the United States of America can a person like Demetrius Gibbs be placed in such a desperate situation?

The American healthcare system has many features that serve the great majority of the American people.

There is the private insurance market where most Americans get insurance through their employers for themselves and their dependents.

There is Medicare where senior citizens and those on disability can access health care.

There is Medicaid where those who are impoverished at a certain level can qualify for free or reduced cost health care.

There is the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) that attempts to plug the holes in the Private Insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid Systems.

Through these four programs, the great majority of the country has access to quality and relatively affordable health insurance.

Unfortunately, despite these features, there are still gaps in the American Health Care System where some of our citizens, like Demetrius, fall through the cracks and face astronomical medical costs and constraints on their lives that put them on a never-ending cycle of poverty and despair.

There are approximately 28,000,000 people who still lack quality and affordable health insurance (Although that has dropped from 44 million with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. It is starting to rise again with the moves to sabotage the Affordable Care Act from the Trump Administration and the Republicans in Congress).

According to a Harvard Study, about 45,000 people die every year in part because they do not have adequate insurance. That is almost the sell-out capacity for an Arizona Diamondback baseball game at Chase Stadium.

How can this happen in the United States when there are so many health care options to choose from?

People should remember that:

1) Most plans purchased through employers still have out of pocket deductible costs. Depending on what is needed, some of these costs can run into many thousands of dollars.

2) Most Senior Citizens on Medicare still have to pay supplemental insurance for 20 percent of their medical bills. Unfortunately, as mentioned earlier, most people on Social Security disability, like Demetrius, do not have that option to purchase the supplemental insurance because they are not 65 yet.

3) With regards to Medicaid, enrollment qualifications depend on the state you live in. Some states have more easy criteria than others. It also matters if the state has expanded Medicaid according to the Affordable Care Act.

4) Republicans and the Trump Administration have been looking for ways to circumvent the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) including asking the courts to throw out the whole law including protections for those with Pre Existing Conditions.

Who are these Americans who have found themselves in these situations, been lost in the cracks and propelled into a never-ending cycle of poverty and despair?

These are our family, our friends, and our neighbors.

These are people that want to live the American Dream, obey our countries laws, and make life better for themselves and everyone they care about.

These are not people who are trying to mooch the system or trying to take advantage of the American taxpayer.

These are people that have caught a bad break and want very much to better their condition and situation.

These are people like Demetrius Gibbs Demetrius and others like him should not have to endure such misery in a country as rich as the United States.

They should not be forced to move back in with their parents, other family members, or friends because finances stemming from their illness dictates that only option.

They, as Americans, should not have to face the choice of whether to spend money putting food on the table or purchasing the prescriptions they need to survive.

There are many solutions to solving the health care crisis facing American citizens like Mr. Gibbs.

He and others like him probably do not care if Universal Health Care is achieved either by Medicare for All or plugging all the holes in the existing system. They just want a system where they could access high quality and affordable health care, not go bankrupt in the process, and have “peace of mind” where they can get off the never stopping “hamster wheel” of despair and lead normal hardworking and enjoyable lives with their friends and family.

That should not be too much to expect in the United States of America.

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David Gordon
Living in Arizona since his family moved to Tempe from New York in 1982, David Gordon has three degrees from Arizona State University and the University of Phoenix in History, Political Science, and Secondary School Administration. A highly qualified Social Studies instructor and Certified School Principal, Mr. Gordon owned his own charter school, Grand Canyon College Preparatory Academy from 1997-2016. The school served students in grades 6-12 in the East Valley of Maricopa County. Many of the graduates of GCP earned college credit for free while still attending high school, some completing the first year of college before graduating. Among the speakers at the school's graduations were noted figures in Arizona Politics like Harry Mitchell, David Schweikert, Juan Mendes, Andrew Sherwood, and John Huppenthal. Mr. Gordon also participated in the revisions of the Arizona History and Social Studies standards. In January 2017, Mr. Gordon started the political blog Twenty-First Century Progressive Bull Moose. It has a global following and routinely comments on the political events of the day. Mr. Gordon also helps administer the Facebook page Living Blue in Arizona. He is also currently writing a series of Young Adult science fiction novels which incorporate the themes of time travel and its impact on history. Mr. Gordon is very happy to be asked to join the Blog for Arizona team and hopes to spread the progressive word to make Arizona a better place for everyone.