A 30-year-old black man became Nashville’s youngest covid-19 victim just five days after his diagnosis, and his lack of health insurance might be the blame.
Darius Settles was a husband and father of a young son and had small business designing custom suits. He had, by all reports, a full and rich life, but as Nashville NBC affiliate News4 reports, he—like over 27 million other Americans under 65—didn’t have health insurance.
Settles reportedly told his father that he had been experiencing chest congestion, but didn’t immediately go to the emergency room. His lack of insurance might have caused the delay.
“He did like thousands of others of Tennesseans – they put it off until they just can’t take it anymore,” said David Settles, Darius’ father. “It was one of those decision where do we pay our bills, do we have a place to live, or do we go to the hospital?”
Settles’ family provided paperwork from Settles’ eventual trip to the ER at TriStar Southern Hills emergency room on June 30 and July 3. On both occasions, Settles came home afterward.
“They sent him home from the hospital with some medications with an inhaler. As if that was going to be it. I don’t understand it,” David Settles said.
In an email to News4, TriStar Southern Hills noted the following:
During his visit on July 3rd our caregivers spoke at length with Mr. Settles about the risk and benefits of admission versus outpatient management, but he ultimately chose to go home. Given the patient’s condition had improved from treatment provided in the ER, it was felt that this was reasonable.
Some of that risk could have included a hefty bill. While Congress passed protections to alleviate healthcare costs for people who contract covid-19, many elements of the bailout only apply to people with insurance, while countless loopholes have left Americans with large bills regardless. According to independent nonprofit FAIR Health, uninsured Americans could pay an average of $73,000 for a 6-day hospital stay. That kind of medical debt during an economy-busting pandemic is tough to swallow, and it’s not hard to see why many—especially a 30-year-old—would rather take their chances and hope that ample bed rest is a suitable remedy.
I won’t pretend to know Settles’s thought process, but his father told News4 that the onus is on America’s dysfunctional health care system.
“It’s not his fault,” he said. “It’s not anybody’s fault, except for the system because it’s designed... on a profit-type system.”