A young patient in his early twenties went to see Dr. David Kaylie, an ear, nose and throat physician at Duke Health in North Carolina. He was an electrician, just starting his own company when he came in with hearing loss in both ears. After a lengthy wait because he was uninsured, an MRI revealed tumors in both ears. Dr. Kaylie eventually diagnosed him with Neurofibromatosis type 2, a condition in which patients develop tumors on their spine, brain and nerves. They often go deaf and have severe dizziness as a result. Although treatment is possible, it wasn’t available to this patient because he fell into the Medicaid coverage gap. Dr. Kaylie didn’t see him again for several years.
When he did return, he was gravely ill, and almost in a coma. After multiple surgeries to remove tumors that had grown unchecked, he was left completely deaf and disabled for life. He still has enormous tumors on his spine, causing him excruciating pain. Those could have been removed years earlier, when they were still small, but now the surgery would leave him a quadriplegic.
Stories like this of illness and even death abound throughout the Southern states that have not expanded Medicaid: North Carolina, Texas, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and South Carolina.