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Friday, August 17, 2007

Kansas City Homicide: Media Reports U.S. Health System is to Blame

The pro-socialized medicine lobbyists like to circulate U.S. health care system horror stories, such as this one they are circulating on email lists today (and which Daily Kos editorialized about here) about a man who allegedly murdered his wife, supposedly because he couldn't afford her medical bills.

In covering this Kansas City case, the national and international press has gone along with the activists' thesis:
"Man charged with killing wife over health costs" - Reuters

"Balcony homicide blamed on medical bills" - UPI

"Drowning in medical bills, man kisses ailing wife before throwing her off balcony" - Ottawa Citizen

"US health care costs blamed for wife's murder" - The Scotsman

"Uninsured Missouri Woman Killed By Husband Unable To Pay Her Medical Bills" - AHN
Linda Young of AHN led with:
One of the nation's 45 million uninsured has been thrown to her death by her financially strapped husband who could no longer pay his wife's medical bills.
The Associated Press' lead was typical of many:
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.
Although the Kansas City Star reported Thursday that a sister of the dead woman was "scared to death" that the husband might mistreat the woman, while another sister said the alleged killer "seemed pretty unstable," few media outlets included information about a possible motive other than, or in conjunction with, health care costs.

Likewise, few readers outside of Kansas City were told that the couple had options. The wife had been living with her mother before her husband showed up to visit, the Kansas City Star reported. The husband told her family he was going to take her to dinner, but then "took her away and never came back."

If the bills were overwhelming, he could have returned her. Even divorced her; divorce being less dishonorable than murder.

The dead woman would have been eligible for a number of government and private aid health care assistance programs, especially if her savings were exhausted (the AP reports she had investments of $20,000 as recently as April, and $6,700 in assets at the time of her death). No story of the dozens I reviewed mentioned the availability of assistance.

Several stories reveal their source for the health care system-murder link was the complaint (PDF - hat tip to Crime Blog for the link) filed by the police department in which the husband was charged with Second Degree Murder. The complaint mentions financial issues only once, in this paragraph:
On 8-15-2007 at approximately 0123 hours, detectives interviewed the listed victim's husband, Stanley J. Reimer, W/M, 03-06-56. Reimer read his Miranda Rights, stated that he understood his rights, signed the Miranda Waiver, and agreed to be questioned. Reimer stated that he was in extreme financial difficulties and could not take care of his wife because of her medical condition. Reimer stated that he walked with his wife to the balcony located off of their bedroom. Reimer stated he kissed his wife, picked her up, and threw her off the balcony.
No article I reviewed told readers that the police report did not explicitly say the husband's financial difficulties were caused by, or the degree to which they were caused by, the wife's medical condition.

Addendum: The AP has a report out saying Stanley Reimer's employer, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, "offers full family insurance coverage to its employees" and adds that Reimer had worked in its finance department since 1996.

Crossposted at Newsbusters
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 4:21 PM

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