State With Highest Uninsured Rate Is The First To Find Ebola In Its Borders

Texas is the state with the highest rate of uninsured. It’s also a state that has refused to embrace the Medicaid expansion in the Affordable Care Act. It’s one of the states with the least consumer-friendly medical malpractice laws. It’s also the first state to see a hospital-grown case of Ebola.

The first U.S. borne case of the deadly disease was contracted by a healthcare worker who helped treat Thomas E. Duncan, the Liberian man who recently died in a Texas hospital from Ebola and the hospital is at least partially responsible.

According to hospital officials, the infected individual helped treat Duncan during his second trip to the emergency room, when he was seriously ill. “That health care worker is a heroic person who provided care to Mr. Duncan,” Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkin said at a news conference on Sunday morning.

The infected worker was reportedly wearing full protective gear around Duncan, so it’s not yet clear how the virus was transmitted. But, according to federal officials, the hospital failed to follow at least part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s protocol for containing Ebola. The agency has released a set of detailed guidelines for health care facilities to ensure that the virus is not transmitted further.

There has been some controversy over the care that Duncan received at Texas Health Presbyterian. First of all, it’s concerning that he was sent home after his first visit to the ER; the fact that he had a high fever and had recently traveled from Western Africa should have alerted officials to the potential Ebola risk.

Image courtesy of Flickr

Image courtesy of Flickr

According to the Associated Press, the hospital has repeatedly changed its story about what exactly medical professionals knew about Duncan’s health. Newly released documents show that some of the hospital staff may have recognized the Ebola threatwhen he was first admitted, but that didn’t translate to swifter action. The state health department is now considering a probe into the hospital to make sure it’s following health and safety laws, and the CDC is going to send additional staff to Texas.

Source: Think Progress

Duncan’s case and probably now this new case are bringing Texas’ malpractice laws to light. The state has among the strictest malpractice laws, limiting damages to $250,000. It’s not a giant leap to think that tougher malpractice penalties might lead to more careful procedures.

The fact that more than 1/4 of all Texans are uninsured, the highest percentage in the nation, carries an even greater risk. When people are uninsured, they are less likely to go to the doctor with flu-like symptoms, even if they have been exposed to Ebola.

While the Ebola “crisis” is largely overblown in the media, perhaps it’s good that it is exposing the real dangers of two of our country’s real health crises, the rate of uninsured and the fact that the medical system is hardly held accountable for its negligence.