Kimberly "Kimi" Young's birthday was today, September 26. She would have been 23 today, but for the fact that she passed away on Wednesday, September 23 after just 22 years on earth. Kimberly graduated from Miami University in December 2008, receiving a B.A. in International Studies and a second B.A. in Fine Arts Photography in addition to minors in French and Spanish. Young was an honor student while at Miami.
She was holding down two jobs when she fell ill, one at the Kofenya Coffee Shop where she had worked for four years and the other at the Bagel & Deli where she worked for approximately three years. She stayed in Oxford, home of her alma mater Miami University, while she looked for the right opportunity: a job, pursuing a graduate degree or a nonprofit organization. One friend said she was considering a move to Philadelphia in October to become involved in the local art community. Young had traveled twice to Latin America to study human rights during her time as a student as well.
Young was diagnosed as suffering from the H1N1 “swine flu” virus as well as pneumonia. Three to four days after she really started to feel sick she sought treatment at an Urgent Care facility in nearby Hamilton, Ohio where she was given pain medication, but friends and family say that she resisted going to the hospital because she did not have health insurance and was very concerned about the high costs of a visit to the emergency room. Around the start of this week she showed signs of dehydration and kidney failure. By the time that her roommate called 911 it was a critical situation. Young was rushed to Oxford's McCullough-Hyde Hospital where she became so sick that Air Care transported her to University Hospital in Cincinnati for more specialized and intense treatment than was available at McCullough-Hyde.
Miami University requires all of its students to have medical insurance and offers medical insurance through a policy known as the “Maksin Policy” but, unfortunately, Kimberly was no longer a student and, hence, no longer eligible for a Maksin Policy.
The last days of Kimberly Young's life and her tragic death are emblematic of several wrongs with healthcare in this country. She was working two jobs and yet medical insurance coverage is not priced so that either of her employers could give her the coverage she deserved nor, apparently, could she afford to buy coverage and still afford rent, food and other necessities of life. The stratification of healthcare in this country dictated that while she was an honor student at Miami she should have a health insurance policy but once she had graduated she was no longer worthy of affordable coverage. She was no less full of potential. To the contrary, possessing two bachelors degrees and dreams of a career in which she made life better for others and was a great credit to society, that same society should have hastened to extend its protection to her because she was an American that would go on to do great work. Nor could she conquer her realistic fear that going to the emergency room would result in a bill so enormous that she could not pay when it combined with her student loans and other expenses. That it would follow her and ruin her credit, causing her to be one of the hundreds of thousands in this country who are unfairly punished and financially ruined because they had the bad fortune of getting sick while not being poor enough for Medicaid or hospital charity. These were the fears that haunted her in her last days as she became sicker and sicker, no consolation for this suffering young woman.
To paraphrase Shakespeare: “The fault, dear reader, is not in our stars, but in ourselves,” It is possible that had Kimberly Young sought treatment sooner that aggressive action could have prevented her death. It is also possible that Kimberly Young was destined to become a fatality. What remains is the unvarnished, uncomfortable and undeniable truth: regardless if medical care would have saved her life or simply offered her comfort as life ebbed away, Americans have tolerated, and some have even encouraged, the existence of a medical establishment where success is not measured in saved lives or prevented illnesses, but in the presence of black rather than red ink on the bottom line of a corporation's ledger book. Apparently the Bible was right about the love of money being the root of all evil.