Had a date with the “widow-maker” last week, but the Lord spared me, with help from government subsidized health insurance.

The “widow-maker,” as it is known, is a massive heart attack that hits when your heart’s left anterior descending (LAD) artery gets totally or almost completely blocked. Mine was 85% blocked. But, I was able to get it fixed before it caused a heart attack. My Medicare coverage backed up by state retiree health insurance made the difference.

A month ago I experienced shortness of breath while visiting my daughter in Southaven. I visited the hospital ER, there, and was instructed to avoid physical exertion and to visit a heart doctor upon my return to Jackson. That led to an echocardiogram followed by a nuclear heart stress test. The test showed potential blockage and a heart catheterization was scheduled. Before that occurred, however, tightness in my chest along with shortness of breath sent me to the ER. With my earlier history and tests in hand, the ER sent me promptly to the cath lab where a stent was inserted into my widow-maker LAD artery.



I was fortunate. But only because I could afford all these visits and tests through my health insurance (premiums cost about $6,000 yearly). Many hard-working Mississippians who deserve good fortune much more than I are not so fortunate. These are the working poor who cannot afford health insurance premiums and do not qualify for Medicaid or Obamacare subsidized coverage.

Listen up. These are hard-working people whose only option is to hurry to ERs when heart problems get bad and hope they can get treatment before it’s too late.

Consider this: (1) Heart disease is the number one cause of death in Mississippi. (2) Heart disease is the number one reason for hospital admissions. And (3), no surprise, Mississippi leads the nation in mortality and morbidity from heart disease.

Preventive care, i.e., regular doctor check-ups, plus access to heart doctors and hospitals equipped to provide heart caths and surgeries would save many lives.

Don’t count on that happening in Mississippi. Lack of support for hospitals not only keep them from expanding, but also put many at risk of closure. Struggling hospitals have trouble keeping much less attracting new heart doctors. Communities with struggling hospitals have trouble keeping other doctors.

With no way to afford health insurance, the working poor can’t afford regular doctor check-ups much less heart tests and doctor visits.

Thirty-eight (38) states have reformed and expanded Medicaid to address these problems, but not Mississippi. It’s pretty clear that most Mississippi politicians don’t care about working poor access to healthcare or expanding hospital capacity.

Many claim the state can’t afford it. Untrue. Hospitals have presented legislators a plan to cover expansion costs.

Others claim not to want any more government subsidies for health care. But they’re okay with free, government subsidized health insurance for legislators and state officials.

Several states have taken control away from uncaring state government by passing referendums to reform and expand Medicaid. Proponents are looking to do that in Mississippi. If that happens, given our dismal heart disease stats, we should consider this a Pro Life issue.

“Share with the Lord’s people who are in need.” – Romans 12:13.

» BILL CRAWFORD is a syndicated columnist from Jackson.

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