The Face of Free Government Health Care

A couple of months ago I wrote about how one percent of adults in the US get free government health care.  While the statistics in the February Pew study were very interesting (and somewhat shocking), I saw a report in a local Connecticut newspaper (The Day, June 26th) that put a face on these statistics.

The Day’s story was about Jihad Abdulshaheed, a 36-year-old man who had been incarcerated since November 2007.  The judge was prepared to sentence to a one year sentence, and since he had already served at least 50% of his time, under the Department of Corrections guidelines for nonviolent prisoners he could have been released the next day.

However, this is where the story gets very interesting.  The man asked the Judge to hold off his sentencing “because he is waiting for the Department of Correction to schedule his surgery for a groin hernia.”  The newspaper also noted that the DOC’s health care budget for its 23,000 prisoners was $99.3 million.  This works out to a little more than $4,300 per prison.  It seems that finding a way to release this man, and still pay for his hernia surgery would make more sense than keeping him locked up until the DOC can pay for the surgery……. I also wonder about his follow-up care? Where will he get it – in prison or outside?  And how will that be paid for?

This man’s situation and the Pew study illustrates how communicating the essence of a healthcare story can involve statistics, analyses, and anecdotes.  The first two provides a framework if the issue, and the anecdote puts a face on that skeleton.  Each one can be powerful, but together they create a remarkable picture that can change policies, attitudes and actions.

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