A Failing Health Care System

Ken AshfordHealth CareLeave a Comment

To all the nay-sayers who think health care in this country is just hunky-dory:

KANSAS CITY, Missouri (AP) — A man threw his seriously ill wife four stories to her death because he could no longer afford to pay for her medical care, prosecutors said in charging him with second-degree murder.

According to court documents filed Wednesday in Jackson County Circuit Court, Stanley Reimer walked his wife to the balcony of their apartment and kissed her before throwing her over.

The body of Criste Reimer, 47, was found Tuesday night outside the apartment building, near the upscale Country Club Plaza shopping district.

Stanley Reimer, 51, was charged Wednesday. He remained jailed on $250,000 bond and was scheduled to be arraigned Thursday.

In the probable cause statement filed with the charges, police said Reimer was desperate because he could not pay the bills for his wife’s treatment for neurological problems and uterine cancer.

Investigators said that Reimer was in the apartment when they arrived. He told them, "She didn’t jump," but did not elaborate, they said.

Criste Reimer’s caregiver told police she could barely walk and would not have been able to climb over the railing of the balcony, according to the probable cause statement.

Reimer’s alleged motive emerged after several more hours of questioning, police said.

According to Jackson County Probate Court records, Criste Reimer had been in ill health for several years. Her weight had fallen to 75 pounds and she was partly blind.

According to the court records, she had no health insurance to pay for medical bills that ranged from $700 to $800 per week.

The Probate Court documents were filed in April, when Stanley Reimer petitioned to be allowed to sell personal property his wife owned in Wheeler County, Texas, for $20,000.

The documents listed her assets at approximately $6,700, with monthly income of $725 from oil royalties and Supplemental Security Income.

It was not immediately known if Stanley Reimer had an attorney.

The $6,700 in assets came from $200 in her checking account, household goods and furnishings valued at $500, an individual retirement account of $4,000, and real property valued at $2,000.

This blogger did a little research and found a message from the now-deceased Criste Reimer on an online guestbook, written in 1998:

Good Evening, It is with tears streaming down my face that I try to write this, this evening. I could ever agree more about organ donation. I have had several friends whom lives have been safed. By others who have been kind enough to donate. I would do anything if I could donate any organ that anyone needed. But, due to several brain surgeries, and bouts with paratinitis, neurofibromatosis, and hdrocephalus. I can not donate any organ. But, I would do it in an instant if I could. I am so glad that everyone has made the commitment to donate any organ that is needed. I would also like to thank everyone who has put this story out on the net. I will be back often. I have been collecting recipes for over thiry years. I started doing this when my parents were told to pull me out of school, that is when they learned that I had neurofibromatosis, and hydrocephalus. Thank goodness they didn’t listen to the doctors. They had me tested and were told that I would probably have the mentality of that of a six year old, for the rest of my life. After being tested it was discovered that I had the mentality of a nine year old. So, while I was not pulled out of school, I was allowed to do the work of that of a fourth grader. My parents were told to encourage me to do other things at home. Since I was bored in school. I had always wanted to play the violin, and take ballet lessons, as well as art lessons. So, I just started do a number of other things as well. I have been collecting recipes since 1967. And even to this day, I can not pass a cookbook by. I collect cookbooks from every place we visit. And I will be back very often. I hope that this finds you and every member of your families having a Healthy & Happy 1998. May God Bless you. Your Friend Always, Criste Reimer

I also found this, written by Criste and her husband, also in 1998:

I am hoping that there are others out there who, have been told that because of a medical condition have been told that they can’t do something. I would like to have a place here where we can help support others. I myself was told when I was seven years old that I would have the mentality of a seven year old for the rest of my life. What my teacher didn’t understand was that when she told my parents this I already had the mentality of a nine year old. So, even though I have had to battle other things in my life, I have gone on to graduate from high school, and complete a year of pre-med in college. Even when I broke my leg I was told that I would NEVER walk again. I told the doctor to just watch me. And even though I had to go to two other doctors and have four surgeries, I am walking today, and have been for three years now. Even though I did my own therapy at home. Because when someone came out to help me, I was already doing everything that they were going to help me with. And when I got burned with hot
water. I was told that I could expect to have to learn to walk again, and that I could expect to be laid up for more than a year. Well, even though I had second and third degree burns, I am already walking and have no pain to speak of. I truly believe that we can over come alot that is in our lives. I would love to talk and share with others here. I hope that this finds everyone doing fine and having a wonderful holiday season.

Your Friends,
Criste and Stan Reimer
"Cudle with your Teddy Bear
he will keep you warm and cozy"

Criste’s name also turns up on various recipe message boards.

Details are still sketchy, but this doesn’t look like murder in the malicious sense.  He kissed her, and threw her off the balcony.  She was in pain, and they simply didn’t have the insurance to help her.

This is a particularly nasty, but unequivocal, testiment to our failing health care system.  There are tons of horror stories out there.  Prominent blogger Mark Kleiman come close to dying because of the delays caused by the need to deal with insurance companies, and concludes:

the claim that replacing the current insurance mishmash with a better-integrated payment and decision-making process would mean more rationing, or even more rationing-by-queuing, is the sort of palpable falsehood that people who are perfectly honorable in real life are only too willing to utter in ideological conflict, especially if paid to do so. Under a single-payer system we’d have an idea who was waiting how long for what, while under the current system no such data are available. In all my waiting, I was never in a formal "queue," and if the cancer had gotten me before the pathologist figured out what it was no one would have counted that death as the result of rationing. But only in wingnut health-policy fantasyland is not measuring a problem the same as not having a problem.