"As nurses we see it all the time… people waiting too long to have something minor taken care of," Cokie Giles, BSN RN, president of the Maine State Nurses Association and a nurse at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, tells me.
Although cancer isn't minor, the authors of the NEJM piece write that, "[had] Mr. Davis been insured, he might well have been offered timely and appropriate screening for colorectal cancer, and his abdominal pain and obstipation would surely have been urgently evaluated."
Giles herself remembers caring for a young, uninsured man with diabetes who couldn't afford the supplies to manage his condition, despite working full-time. Leaving his diabetes unchecked resulted in nearly losing his foot from a bad infection and spending six weeks on IV antibiotics.
While lawmakers in Washington are still bickering over the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act, nurses in Maine are fed up. In their eyes, healthcare isn't a political issue. It's a human right.
"I think there is no other question than of course it is a human right," Giles says. That's why the Maine State Nurses Association has been working on the "Health Care as a Human Right Campaign," which aims to "change the broken way healthcare is delivered in the state." The group believes the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act doesn't go far enough in providing health insurance to all.