Cancer Patient Denied Care, Dies

We share stories of patients who have come to EleValle organizations seeking help. We retell these stories with their permission to shine a light on the policies and systems that create barriers to health equity.

A woman we will call Celia turned to Pathways for help with:

  • medical debt her husband had racked up at UNM Hospital; and with
  • getting him a hospital bed, a wheelchair, and an oxygen tank

He had been discharged with little hope, and no knowledge of the options UNM Hospital is supposed to provide to indigent people who cannot afford necessary medical treatment.

Pathways navigators helped her manage the debt and got a hospital bed and a wheelchair from a local charity. As they got to know the family, the navigators learned that Celia’s husband had gone to the emergency room in pain, had been admitted to the hospital, and had been scheduled for surgery to remove a tumor. But his surgery had been cancelled because he had no insurance and couldn’t come up with thousands of dollars up front.

He was discharged and his wife and daughters cared for him at home until he died a few months later. The navigators turned to help the woman and her daughters with basic necessities of food, housing and utility bills since they had lost their only breadwinner.

And they began to investigate why he hadn’t been offered the self-pay discount program or other options to pay for the care he needed.

The UNM Hospitals Financial Assistance Policy allows low-income, self-pay patients who cannot qualify for public or private health insurance to make a reasonable down payment up front and to make payments on the balance after surgery.

If a family’s household income is below the Federal Poverty Level, and they have less than $20,000 in the bank, they should have to pay no more than $25 upfront for medically-necessary care.

Can we rely on UNM Hospital to implement its own financial assistance policy with every patient, not just those who are lucky enough to find a Pathways navigator who can advocate for their rights before they die?

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