KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Detroit Paper Explores Pain Of Facing Breast Cancer Without Insurance

A woman with a $7,000 annual income and $67 in the bank was diagnosed with breast cancer, leading to a week of phone calls from her surgeon to state, federal and hospital officials before a charitable agreement was struck with a medical center, the Detroit Free Press reports. Her "story helps explain the daunting task facing many uninsured people who need surgery or specialty care as well as the frustration of the increasingly fewer doctors who accept uninsured and Medicaid patients." Health overhaul proposals now in Congress attempt to address some of these issues, the Free Press writes. The proposals "will expand Medicaid, making it possible for people who earn up to 400% above federal poverty guidelines, or $88,200 for a family of four, to qualify for the program, said Alec Gerlach, regional press secretary for the Democratic National Committee, which favors reforms. Also, very poor people won't be required to buy insurance, or will get up-front subsidies or eventually a tax credit if they buy insurance, he said. Still, making insurance affordable remains a concern about the reforms, even among proponents" (Anstett, 1/10).

Another group that faces problems with access to medical care is illegal immigrants, The Boston Globe reports. A Boston-area patient with a serious heart condition needs a transplant to survive. Although "officials say it is legal for undocumented immigrants to receive organ donations," a physician at the hospital told the patient his immigration status could block him from getting the needed transplant. "Amid the heated national debates over illegal immigration and the high cost of health care, it is perhaps not unreasonable to assume that illegal immigrants -- who cannot get driver's licenses in most states, including Massachusetts -- would be ineligible to receive a donated heart, especially when more than 2,700 US citizens are on the list to receive one." No law addresses that issue, however the patient's family worries bureaucratic issues could delay a procedure until it is too late. The average cost of a heart transplant is $787,000, including drugs for the first year after the procedure (Sacchetti, 1/10).

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