Heart patient too sick for Medicare? A tough case three senators couldn’t solve
For the past seven months, Jim Kuhn, 53, has been in intensive care in a West Palm Beach hospital with a failing heart, watched over daily by his mom and dad in a case that raises fundamental questions about the value of life and the national push to drive down healthcare costs.
His family, his doctors and the staffs of three U.S. senators have battled without success to get him the operation he needs, pressing four hospitals, including Jackson Memorial, to install an expensive heart pump that could keep him alive.
But a combination of little-known Medicare limitations, hospital requirements and, most recently, uncertainty over Kuhn’s ability to endure the surgery have amounted to a life-or-death situation for the former truck driver. As Kuhn waits in a hospital bed, his family hopes his condition will stabilize while they and senators, including Miami’s Marco Rubio, search for a way to get him the help he needs.
His cardiologist, Steven Borzak from Atlantis, says the surgeons he contacted at other hospitals where Kuhn might undergo the operation have all been positive, but the problems begin when finances are considered. “They say the procedure is medically pretty straightforward. ‘Sure we’ll take him,’ they said. And then the clipboard people” — hospital administrators — “get involved and then it falls apart.”