Real News. A Real Difference. In this file photo from 2016, Dorothy Hogan stands outside the room of her son Jim Connor who was in the ICU at Roper Hospital battling esophageal cancer. Lauren Sausser shared his story, shining a light on the many challenges faced by low-income people trying to get life-saving care without health insurance. Jim died Sept. 28, 2016.
By Lauren Sausser Health Editor, The Post and Courier
I met a man early last year named Jim Connor. He’d been diagnosed with advanced cancer, had no health insurance, and had recently tried to apply for Medicaid coverage in Dorchester County.
When an eligibility worker told him he wouldn’t qualify for the low-income health insurance program, she said that he should go home, research his diagnosis online and drink some green tea. Jim started crying in her office. He was desperate. A doctor told him he was going to die.
I cover health care at The Post and Courier. That means I write a lot about health care reform, insurance, Medicaid policy and hospitals. It also means I get a lot of phone calls from patients. Most of them simply need help finding a phone number or a website.
But Jim’s call caught my attention. At some point after he tried to apply for Medicaid, the eligibility office lost his paperwork and compromised all of his identifying information – a violation of federal law. Jim was mad.
I wrote a story about him – about how he would have qualified for Medicaid if South Carolina leaders expanded eligibility for the program under the Affordable Care Act, as dozens of other states had already done.
After that, we kept in touch. I wrote another story when the Medicaid agency apologized for the security breach. Jim often sent me Facebook messages with updates on his treatment. Luckily, a local hospital system offered to cover his chemo and radiation through a charity care program.
But treatment wasn’t working very well. Surgery was repeatedly postponed because Jim was too sick. In September, he died. I went to his funeral with a photographer from The Post and Courier who had come to know Jim, too. His son spoke during the ceremony. The church was filled with friends and family.
I’m the first to admit that health care is complex, and sometimes difficult to write about. In fact, many local newspapers have abandoned this beat, largely leaving health care reporting to national journalists in Washington and New York.
That’s not the case at The Post and Courier, where two of us write about health care full-time.
We understand that local coverage is tremendously important because health care decisions made by our elected leaders impact people who live right here in the Lowcountry. For some of our neighbors, those decisions spell the difference between life and death.
Listen to Lauren’s podcast (with J. Emory Parker) from the award-winning series “Stealing Hope,” an in-depth investigation into emotional adoption scams.