In a late February Saturday afternoon, Danni Askini started feeling chest pain, shortness of breath and a terrible headache all at once. She called the oncologist who had been treating her lymphoma. Her doctor thought she might be reacting poorly to a new medication, so she sent Askini to a Boston-area emergency room. There, doctors told her it was likely pneumonia and sent her home.
However, as reported by Time Magazine, Askini saw her temperature spike and drop dangerously, and she developed a cough that gurgled because of all the liquid in her lungs. After two more trips to the ER that week, Askini was given a final test on the seventh day of her illness, and once doctors helped manage her flu and pneumonia symptoms, they again sent her home to recover. She waited another three days for a lab to process her test, and at last she had a diagnosis: COVID-19.
A few days later, Askini got the bills for her testing and treatment: $34,927.43. “I was pretty sticker-shocked,” she says. “I personally don’t know anybody who has that kind of money.”
Like 27 million other Americans, Askini was uninsured when she first entered the hospital. She and her husband had been planning to move to Washington, D.C. this month so she could take a new job, but she hadn’t started yet. Now that those plans are on hold, Askini applied for Medicaid and is hoping the program will retroactively cover her bills. If not, she’ll be on the hook.
As noted by Time Magazine, These problems aren’t coming out of the blue. Even when we’re not weathering a global pandemic, Americans face uniquely high health care costs, compared to the rest of the world, and millions have already put off medical care because of concerns about how much it’ll cost.
Now, with COVID-19 sweeping across the country, an old problem becomes increasingly urgent: many Americans could still face massive treatment bills, or seek to prevent those by avoiding testing and treatment—worsening the outbreak further.
We need Medicare for all. Now.