Kimberly Young

KIMBERLY YOUNG…. What a very sad story.

Kimberly Young of Oxford, Ohio, died Wednesday morning a few days short of her 23rd birthday. Hospital officials have said she appeared to have the H1N1 virus, also known as swine flu.

But here’s why Young’s death is news beyond her southwest Ohio community: people who knew her are saying she resisted treatment that could have saved her life — because she didn’t have health insurance.

And adding to the political resonance: Young’s member of Congress is Rep. John Boehner, who as the House Republican leader has led the effort against reform.

Young, a previously healthy 2008 graduate of Miami University of Ohio who lived in Oxford, was diagnosed with swine flu and pneumonia. A few days later, her roommate’s mother told a local news channel, she went to an urgent care center. But as her condition continued to worsen, she was reluctant to go to Oxford’s McCullough-Hyde Hospital to get proper treatment.

A friend of Young’s said, “That’s the most tragic part about it. If she had insurance, she would have gone to the doctor.”

Her roommate’s mother said Young worked several jobs, none of which offered insurance. She eventually went to a public hospital’s emergency room after showing signs of kidney failure and dehydration. In critical condition, she was soon after transferred to another facility, where she died.

Now, it’s worth emphasizing that Young’s illness may have been fatal whether she had insurance or not. Young’s friends’ observations have not yet been substantiated, and we don’t know with certainty that Young did not seek medical treatment because of her lack of insurance.

But at this point, that’s what it looks like. And as awful as Young’s death is, her circumstances are hardly unique. Victor Zapanta added, “According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 30 percent of 19-24 year olds are uninsured, more than any other group. Despite the conservative argument that young people are voluntarily refusing health coverage in favor of extra spending money, the reality is that high costs on the individual market put coverage out of reach. As Suzy Khimm notes at Campus Progress, young people ‘are far more likely to be working part-time or lower-paying jobs for employers who don’t offer coverage.'”

Zachary Roth concluded, “[I]f Young’s lack of insurance did contribute to her not seeking treatment sooner, it would be hard to find a starker or more compelling example of the need to fix our broken health insurance system. And the fact that she was a constituent of the man who’s leading House Republicans’ in their effort to block reform only underlines the point.”

In every modern democracy on the planet, those who get sick don’t have to put off treatment because they lack coverage. It’s time the United States join them.