Medicaid Patient Dies from System Glitch

Medicaid Patient Dies from System Glitch

9-year-old Zamante couldn't get asthma medication when he didn't show up in the pharmacy computer


Want to see the consequences of a broken, corporate healthcare system in action? If the death of a child at the hands of bureaucracy isn't proof enough that healthcare in the US needs a major overhaul, I'm not sure what is. 

Zuton Lucero-Mills of Denver County, like many parents, had a child with asthma. The air quality isn't the greatest in this country. It happens. When she tried to fill his multiple prescriptions, she soon discovered Walgreens didn't think her son was eligible for Medicaid. 9-year-old Zumante did qualify for Medicaid. Paperwork from the county eventually verified what Lucero-Mills knew all along. And yet the Walgreens pharmacists insisted they couldn't bring him up in the system.

It was a computer glitch. We're living in an age when 9-year-old kids die because of a computer glitch that nobody wants to fix.

His mother made repeated phone calls to Walgreens and to Denver County Human Services to try to resolve the issue. Most weren't answered and very few were returned. She likely heard an endless string of vague assurances that the county was working to fix the problem, or maybe she was dismissed even more blatantly than that. For months she tried to get someone within the system to fix the glitch and get her son the medicine he needed, but it never happened. Zumante died in July of 2009 after fainting at home and spending a few days in the hospital. A 9-year-old kid died of asthma--an entirely treatable condition that's managed by a common prescription that his mother just couldn't get him. 

With Medicaid on the rocks, I wonder how many stories like this one we'd see if it were cut altogether. It doesn't work like it should as it is. It fails some of our most vulnerable citizens--sick kids whose parents don't make enough money to pay for prescription medicines out of pocket. How can we improve as a nation if we're content to let kids die from manageable conditions? If a parent refused to provide necessary medicine to their child, they'd probably be arrested for fatal neglect. Yet the negligence of the state does essentially the same without punishment.

We've either got to find a way to lower prescription costs or make sure the government services meant to provide lifesaving medicines actually work like they're supposed to. There's no excuse for this sort of thing. There's no reason for any sick kids to die because the government refuses them treatment. Wherever the negligence lies, be it with the county call center workers or the Walgreens pharmacists, it's got to be rooted out. It's a form of collective evil, a destructive absence of attention that doesn't come squarely from the doings any one individual--which makes it all the more dangerous. 

Lucero-Mills is currently suing the city and county of Denver for their negligence. You can't exactly punish an entire county, but at least she's attempting to fight for change, to use her son's death as an example that this country's system of healthcare is terribly broken.

It's been calculated that Americans pay the most for healthcare and yet still receive the worst quality care per dollar. Now we're seeing the ramifications of that math. Maybe when the system is letting kids die without a second glance, it's time to find a new system.