Surgery w/o insurance


I’m trying to help a good friend of mine who isn’t doing so well. I’ll try to keep the story as short as possible. The guy, James, is about 22 or 23 years old and morbidly obese. He and his family don’t really have any assets to speak of. A few months ago, he began experiencing back pain and loss of sensation in one leg. Of course, with no insurance and no money, it took a while to get the paperwork done to see a specialist. I think the clinic doctor tried to take an X-ray, but the patient’s bulk obscured any results. Anyway, he eventually did see a specialist and got a CT scan, which showed something bad. Obviously, I’m not a doctor, but the bottom line is that in one of his lumbar vertebrae, the bone is compacted around the spinal cord with very little or no fluid space.

The specialist told him he needed immediate surgery or there was a near-certainty of paralysis. Since my best friend broke his back a couple of years ago I know that the surgery doesn’t come cheap. Fortunately for my best friend, he was in the Army at the time and they covered the cost. For James, I have absolutely no idea what to do. He got the paperwork for state assistance, but whatever person he needs to speak to is on vacation. I would like to help, but I don’t have any real assets either.

I’m not asking for some internet campaign for money. What I need is advice. This kid is one of the genuinely good people in the world, and I feel completely helpless. Does anyone have any knowledge on the subject, or is it pretty much hopeless?

He’s gotta go with whatever he can get;the state assistance is a good first option. The wait is bad, but that does seem to be the situation he’s put himself in. If it’s not life-threatining, this may his best option.

Is there any possibility of him negotiating a payment plan with the hospital, or something like a charity hospital that will take him?

I would just say that it is pretty much never completely hopeless as long as one does not give up.

Best wishes for your friend!

I would definitely have James speak with the hospital about payment plans.

My cousin is about James’ age and has no job and her parents can’t support her, and she has a disease which has put her in the hospital several times this year for weeks at a time, and she hasn’t had to pay anything.

Basically she tells them “there’s no way I can pay” and she gets a free ride (I think. 99% sure).

While I don’t agree completely with this way of doing things…you gotta do what you gotta do.

My sister-in-law had a mastectomy for free. That’s life-threatening, but there are agencies who will set you up for a free ride. Start with the state and see what that turns up.

In the state of Maryland, you can have surgery (even if it’s not for a life-threatening condition) and then make application to Social Services for emergency medical assistance. James should also check and see if there’s a charity hospital nearby.

I should add that, in this state, the surgery does have to be medically necessary; IOW, you can’t get a face lift with a promise to pay for assistance and cough up the money later. But it certainly sounds like this surgery is medically necessary.


The point of the hijack is to be aware that uninsured patients often pay more than insured patients.

Most states will provide some means of assistance. Once he gets through this, please remind him vote for candidates that support increases in public health expenditures.