Andrew Lopez got pummeled by three teens while he was waiting for a bus in Germantown last month. The random attack was so bad doctors told Lopez said he'd need surgery to put the left side of his face back together. That's when he got hit with a more painful blow from local hospitals.
Lopez, 29, is the son of former Philadelphia Inquirer columnist, Steve Lopez, who now writes for the L.A. Times. Andrew's "disgraceful" story is covered in the Daily News by columnist Dave Davies. It's an outrageous account of how you might get treated (or mistreated) if you don't have health insurance, even when you're a victim of violence.
Andrew, who recently finished a master's program, was job hunting at the time and uninsured. The night of the beating (he thinks with brass knuckles) he went first to Chestnut Hill Hospital. They told him he needed a facial surgeon to deal with the crushed bones on the left side of his face and sent him to Temple University Hospital.
Ultimately, Temple refused to schedule the surgery Andrew needed and even told his mother that the other hospital was "irresponsible" to refer them when they knew Andrew had no insurance.
"I was absolutely shocked when he said there's nothing we can do for you," Kathy Lopez told Davies. "I just couldn't believe it."
Temple said patients who need emergency care get it, and money or lack of it, is not a factor. For "elective procedures" patients with no means get counseling on services available to help them.
Andrew finally got the surgery he needed at Penn and now has to figure out how to pay the bills. Ironically, Andrew is a big advocate and even campaigned for universal health coverage. Another irony, as Davies points out is "that at the time of his son's attack, Steve Lopez was preparing for the Hollywood premiere of The Soloist, a film drawn from Lopez's honest and compassionate writings about the realities of urban life."
When he asked Steve Lopez to weigh in on what happened to his son, he said he'd rather leave the remarks up to Andrew.
"All I'd like to say is that I'm proud of him for the way he lives his life and sees the world," Steve Lopez wrote. "Social justice drives him and he's a frightfully well-read young man with a great sense of moral outrage and even greater humility and compassion."
Remarkably, Andrew, who has nerve damage and numbness in his cheeks, lips and teeth, harbors no ill will toward his attackers.
"I'm not remotely angry at the kids who destroyed my face," he said.
But he does have another painful part of the story worth reading—the treatment he got from police when he tried to follow up with them (yeah, no one bothered to follow up with him…)