During the last recession, Arizona cut [insurance] coverage for tens of thousands of people. This year, the state expanded Medicaid again, although the decision faces a legal challenge.
Arizona’s on-again, off-again approach makes it a useful place to look at the impact of a program that covers more than 1 in 5 Americans.
At the University of Arizona Medical Center in Tucson, Dr. David Armstrong still sees the impact. Nearly every day, Armstrong and Dr. Joseph L. Mills, who co-direct the Southern Arizona Limb Salvage Alliance, don surgical scrubs and step into an operating room to amputate limbs or cut away diseased bones and flesh of patients with diabetes who put off seeing a doctor.
One afternoon, Armstrong’s team labored to save the black, gangrenous left foot of a 30-year-old diabetic, sawing out infected bones, stitching healthy tissue and grafting skin in a bid to spare him life in a wheelchair.
“If it was just a couple of months earlier, we probably could have stopped some of these problems,” Armstrong said. Armstrong and other researchers documented a 37% increase in hospital admissions for diabetic foot ulcers between 2006 and 2011, according to a study they published in the journal Diabetes Care.
Patients also stayed longer in the hospital with more severe outcomes, they found. Amputations, surgical complications, life-threatening infections, and deaths increased by nearly half.
“These people’s feet were literally killing them,” Armstrong said.
Source: Noam N. Levey, The Los Angeles Times [11/30/14]