Why do the Left’s Stories about the Death of Charlene Dill Leave Out So Much Information?

coreg-cr-GSK_heart_medicineDavid Hogberg wrote a blog post this morning on Medicaid and the deaths of Charlene Dill and Deamonte Driver. I have a few thoughts to add.

David pointed out to stubborn leftists exploiting this poor woman’s death that Medicaid is no panacea. Even had Charlene Dill had Medicaid coverage, she may not have been able to see a doctor. He notes that in Florida, only 60% of doctors* will see new Medicaid patients. He also notes the semi-famous case of Deamonte Driver, a Maryland boy who died of an infection related to an abscessed tooth. The left has exploited Deamonte’s death in a call for government-run health care, ignoring both the fact that Deamonte’s family had Medicaid coverage, and also that countries with single-payer health care, such as Britain, have notoriously poor dental care (see my 2009 book with Ryan Balis, PDF version available free here, for stories of desperate Britons pulling out their own teeth because that country’s National Health Service never gets around to treating them).

David, however, kindly accepted the left’s version of the Charlene Dill story, but it has gaps bigger than the alleged one they decry about Medicaid. Maybe all those gaps, if filled, would make the case the leftists want to make stronger — but if so, why isn’t the left filling them?

Here’s what Think Progress — which probably did more than any other outlet to promote the Charlene Dill story after it initially was brought out by a press conference by SEIU Local 1991 (which has been campaigning for Medicaid expansion) — wrote about it:

Charlene Dill, a 32-year-old mother of three, collapsed and died on a stranger’s floor at the end of March. She was at an appointment to try to sell a vacuum cleaner, one of the three part-time jobs that she worked to try to make ends meet for her family. Her death was a result of a documented heart condition — and it could have been prevented. Dill was uninsured, and she went years without the care she needed to address her chronic conditions because she couldn’t afford it.

Under the health reform law, which seeks to expand coverage to millions of low-income Americans, Dill wasn’t supposed to lack insurance. She was supposed to have access to a public health plan through the law’s expansion of the Medicaid program. But Dill, a Florida resident, is one of the millions of Americans living in a state that has refused to accept Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion…

…Dill made about $9,000 annually by babysitting, cleaning houses, and selling vacuum cleaners…

Here are a few of the questions none of the left-wing articles and diatribes I saw addressed:

  • Dill, described as a single mother in most articles, actually was married (in fact, Dill was not her married name, but I’m sticking with “Dill” for this story for the sake of the family’s privacy). Was Dill’s reported $9,000 annual income (some stories said $11K) the family income, or hers alone? The stories imply it was hers alone.
  • If Medicaid had been expanded in Florida, would Dill have qualified, given that any income her husband earns would have been taken into consideration?
  • What was Dill’s actual, legal cause of death and why do none of the stories report it?
  • What are the unnamed medications Dill allegedly would have been taking had she had Medicaid coverage? What is the certainty that these medications would have prevented her death? Would Medicaid have covered them? What did they cost?
  • Why do many, if not all, of the stories fail to mention that the state of Florida has a program to help people who are ill and uninsured, but whose income falls above Medicaid’s eligibility levels? If Dill had a life-threatening condition that could have been fixed with medication, and could not afford to pay for the drug or drugs herself, did she apply for help from this program?
  • Pharmaceutical companies have programs to help low-income people receive medications they otherwise cannot afford. Did Dill apply for help from this source, from charities, from other family members or elsewhere?

Charlene Dill’s close friend, Kathleen Voss Woolrich, the person responsible for circulating her story to the left, blames Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) for Dill’s death. She also complains of being uninsured herself, and has said in social media, “I’m uninsured. Too much for medicaid, too little for a subsidy. I cannot get infusions I need to stay well. I could die of respiratory failure.” An interesting coincidence — though entirely possible, I concede — that two close friends, both young adults, need Medicaid for ongoing conditions to survive.

Woolrich is an SEIU organizer. The SEIU claims to be very pro-health insurance. Why isn’t the SEIU providing health insurance to Kathleen Voss Woolrich?

Tool-pliers-public-domainMany leftists yearn for health systems like those in Britain and Canada, where everyone is promised health insurance, but health care, not so much. We think these leftists would be wise to heed the admonition: Be careful what you wish for.

Which brings us to Deamonte Driver, the boy used by the left to argue for government-run health care who had Medicaid coverage but who died because he did not get medical attention in a timely manner. I agree with David Hogberg’s comments on this, although I do think two things are worth noting: 1) the temporary “lapse” in the Driver family’s Medicaid coverage reportedly occurred not because of taxpayer parsimony but because the Driver family didn’t turn in a necessary address change to Medicaid (and the lapse was rectified when the family did so); and 2) David’s reference to Deamonte’s mother’s parenting skills. I concur in his assessment overall, but remind him that no stories mention Deamonte Driver being a virgin birth — though, admittedly, I’ve never seen a story that mentions a father. It takes two to create babies, and unless Deamonte’s father was dead or genuinely incapacitated, he shares equal responsibility for what happened. The news media gives us entirely too many sob stories about single parents without explaining either that the missing parent is dead or why children are being raised by a only one of the two people who brought them into this world.

*This post was edited to reflect the fact that the correct number is 60%, as I originally wrote 40% in error, and to add the information that the SEIU originally brought the Charlene Dill story to the news media.

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