Dad's Death From Toothache Is What's Wrong With America

toothacheIt started as a toothache. Two weeks later, 24-year-old father Kyle Willis was dead. Dead because he didn't have health insurance. Dead because he couldn't afford a simple antibiotic to kill the infection in his mouth. And yet there are still people in America who think the health care issue is just something President Obama made up to steal money from hard working Americans' paychecks.

All it takes is one look at Kyle Willis' life to disprove that notion. Tragically, Willis was your poster child for the American health care crisis.


He was unemployed and couldn't afford a visit to the dentist. He couldn't pay to have a wisdom tooth removed -- about $400 based on national averages for extraction costs -- because he didn't have insurance. In that sense, he was just another guy in America. One in four Americans under age 65 doesn't have dental insurance. That includes people who have regular health insurance!

But that bothersome wisdom tooth went beyond dentistry when his lack of money kept him from getting it taken care of. He went to the emergency room, but he didn't have health insurance either. Again, Kyle Willis' story is an average American story. Department of Health & Human Services statistics show one-fifth of the patients in American emergency rooms don't have any insurance.

Willis' aunt says doctors there gave him prescriptions for pain pills and antibiotics. He couldn't afford both, so he took the pain pills and skipped the antibiotics, thinking it would go away on its own. Once again, a story of the average American. He was just one of 40 million Americans who skipped necessary medical treatment because he couldn't afford it.

Unfortunately, Kyle Willis may be in the same boat as millions, but that's exactly what killed him. The infection in his tooth spread to his brain and claimed his life because he didn't have $400 or any help to get his wisdom tooth removed. 

Now his 6-year-old daughter has no father and is likely eligible for state assistance -- and will be at least until age 18 -- because she lost her dad. Willis' family may even qualify for tax-funded aid to cover his funeral because he was unemployed. And a 24-year-old father is gone because people still believe it's better to hold tight to their money than to make health care a right for all rather than a privilege for the well-off.

Still think health care is a non-issue being trumped up by one party? Or is Kyle Willis' toothache story one that should shake America into action?


Image via SuperFantastic/Flickr

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