AP/Miami Herald Examines Potential Use of H1N1 Vaccine
A strain-specific vaccine for the H1N1 flu virus, also known as the swine flu, that potentially could be developed by researchers might not be as beneficial as some might hope because uninsured U.S. residents are unlikely to purchase the vaccine, the AP/Miami Herald reports. According to the AP/Herald, uninsured U.S. residents likely would be forced to choose between going to the emergency department, potentially "flooding" EDs, or self-medicating. Many uninsured U.S. residents are unaware that many community health centers and physicians' offices offer no-cost or reduced cost services for low-income patients, the AP/Herald reports.
According to the AP/Herald, untreated uninsured U.S. residents could put other U.S. residents at risk. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, said, "The person I'm most worried about is the one who decides to delay getting care, and does it in such a way that they infect others or put themselves at greater risk," adding, "To have an epidemic with millions of people who may not go to the doctor because they can't afford to pay remains one of the unique challenges of our system."
In response, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.) have introduced legislation (S 957, HR 2231) under which the government would pay for temporary medical care for uninsured U.S. residents during a public health emergency. In addition, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) has proposed a bill (S 953) that would for one year provide all U.S. residents with a no-cost flu shot.
Jeff Levi, executive director of Trust for America's Health, said, "During a public health emergency, the federal government would step in and take care of the needs of the people who are affected by that emergency," adding, "Health care providers would not be left holding the bag for people who are uninsured. It will be a 'win' for individuals because they'll be able to get the care they need" (Alonso-Zaldivar, AP/Miami Herald, 5/4).