Matthew Stewart owes $62,668.78 for drugs, surgeries, and other treatment. With both bankruptcy and possibly fatal liver failure looming, he doesn't even bother opening his bills anymore, he told The Week. "There was no point. They just upset everyone," he says.
Stewart is 29 years old, and was pursuing his Ph.D in American history at Texas Christian University until ill health forced him to withdraw. He lives in Ft. Worth, Texas, with his wife of six years, who is a junior high school teacher in a low-income district. They own their home. Before he came down with complications from cirrhosis caused by autoimmune hepatitis, he says he led a scrupulously healthy lifestyle — he does not drink or do any other non-medical drugs, he says, and was a devoted hiker before disaster struck. And he was insured — indeed, he had a gold plan from the ObamaCare exchanges, the second-best level of plan that you can get.
But now he faces imminent bankruptcy and possibly death.
The details of Stewart's story are immensely complex, but the basic reality is fairly simple. A man got very sick, and had to have a serious medical procedure, or die. That care was available, and he did get it. But the medical system then bled him of every last penny it could legally get its hands on, despite his supposedly good insurance. The immense cost wrecked his finances, but merciless means tests made it all but impossible to access the skinflint social insurance system in Texas. This is how American health care kills people