In a tragedy that captures the broken U.S. healthcare system, a New York state man died of cancer weeks after a $1 million lottery win allowed the uninsured man to finally visit the doctor.
The stage 4 cancer diagnosis he was given, Donald Savastano's mother said, "was just too late."
Fifty-one-year old Savastano bought the ticket Dec. 30 at a convenience store in Masonville. On Jan. 8, days after getting a ceremonial check, he received the lump sum of $661,800. He died January 26.
"This is going change our lives, to tell you the truth," he said after claiming the prize.
"Being a self-employed carpenter, I didn't really have a plan for retirement," he said to the New York Lottery. "The money will help with that. I don't have any other extravagant plans. I'll buy a new truck, pay off some debt, and invest for the future."
The new money would also let him afford a trip to the doctor. The New York Post reports that Savastano "had been scrounging up every penny he had for the doctor's visit, and was looking forward to finally getting an answer about the pain he was having, according to his mom, Annette Savastano."
Danielle Scott, the cashier who sold Savastano the ticket, said to WBNG, "He was self employed, he didn't have insurance, he hadn't been feeling good for a while I guess, and when he got the money he went into the doctor."
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"He had a friend come and talk to me, and they told me that he was very sick and that he had brain and lung cancer and that he was in the hospital and they didn't think he was gonna make it," she said.
He was given just a few weeks to live.
According to his obituary, Savastano "was known for his high-quality work and perfectionism. He always tried to reach out and help those he could by teaching them 'the right way to do things.'"
Millions in the U.S., like Savastano, face economic barriers to accessing healthcare.
A Gallup poll released this month revealed that 12.2 percent of Americans have no health insurance. The figure marked a 1.3 percentage point increase (an increase of 3.2 million people) from 2016.
The situation is projected to worsen under the Trump administration, as ThinkProgress reported: "The Republican tax bill repealed the individual mandate, and the Congressional Budget Office projects 4 million more people will be without insurance in 2019, and 13 million in 2027."
In a statement issued last month, Worlth Health Organization head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called universal health coverage a "solution" that "allows everyone to obtain the health services they need, when and where they need them, without facing financial hardship."