Mom Says Medicaid Glitch Killed Her Son


You probably don’t need another reason to be angry about how poorly the U.S. healthcare system operates, but one particularly tragic tale has put a face on how it fails disadvantaged Americans. A Denver mother wasn’t able to fill her 9-year-old son’s prescription for asthma medication because pharmacists kept telling her he wasn’t eligible for Medicaid. She tried repeatedly to have the problem fixed, but a few months later her son fainted and died due to asthma complications.

Zuton Lucero-Mills tried to have her son Zumante’s prescription for the anti-inflammatory drug Advair filled at Walgreens, but was told he wasn’t covered by Medicaid. According to the Denver Post, she called Denver County Human Services several times a week, but none of her calls were returned. Paperwork generated automatically by Lucero-Mills’ calls and sent to her home confirmed that Zumante was eligible for Medicaid, but pharmacists said he still wasn’t in the computer system. In July 2009, Zumante told his mother he couldn’t breathe and fainted, then died a few days later in the hospital.

Now Lucero-Mills is suing the city and state of Denver and three Human Services employees. Though no one was able to take her calls for months, miraculously, the city managed to change Zumante’s eligibility status to pay for his funeral.

Earlier this year, Denver County Human Services officials called Zumante’s death a “tragic accident” and said it would review its call-center responsiveness. Attorneys representing Lucero-Mills say that Zumante’s death shows that there are serious flaws in the way Colorado manages benefits. The $243 million computer system has been plagued with problems since it was installed in 2004, and has also caused delays for other people who need food stamps and Medicaid. Lucero-Mills’ lawyer says:

“Can it really be acceptable that in government, no one answers the phone? Who is responsible for nothing happening? Is it nobody? Is it God? Is it a computer? Or is it the people who didn’t act?”

Of course, according to the majority of Denver Post commenters, Lucero-Mills should be blamed (and maybe even charged) for Zumante’s death. Obviously this is her fault for not having extra money lying around, not trying hard enough to find a second job, and having children in the first place. You can’t expect our shitty healthcare system to function properly, and Lucero-Mills should have realized that before she decided to be poor.

Mom Sues Denver, Three Workers Over Child’s Death [Denver Post]
Denver Boy, 9, Died After State-Benefits Error Denied Him Asthma Medication [Denver Post]

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