A 17-year-old boy died in Lancaster, California this week after being denied care at an urgent care center because he did not have health insurance.

His death is still under investigation, but the boy’s death was originally included in the Los Angeles coronavirus death toll.

The Case

The 17-year-old went to a Southern California urgent care center seeking treatment. The center referred him to a local hospital because he did not have health insurance. Hospitals legally cannot refuse treatment because a patient lacks insurance or the ability to pay if the case is an emergency.

The teenager went into cardiac arrest en route to the hospital for care. The paramedics revived him, and he lived for about six more hours, but by the time he got to the hospital, it was too late to save the boy’s life.

The CDC and Los Angeles County health officials are investigating the teenager’s death. If he died because of COVID-19, he would be one of the youngest victims in the United States so far. According to the mayor of Lancaster, R. Rex Parris, the boy had no pre-existing conditions and was seeking care for acute respiratory distress. The mayor posted a video statement to YouTube in an attempt to clarify the case.

The 17-year-old tested positive for COVID-19, but the results did not come back until after his death, and it is unclear when he was tested. The boy’s father, an Uber driver, is also ill, according to Mayor Parris.

The Impact

His death has sparked questions about a number of essential topics the nation is currently facing. Because of the upcoming election, a socialized healthcare system has already been on the minds of many Americans. A 17-year-old boy died because he had no insurance, and for some, his tragic passing is a perfect example of why the United States healthcare system is in desperate need of reform.

For others, such a young and otherwise healthy teenager dying from potential COVID-19 complications has reframed who is at risk during this pandemic. According to CDC reports, less than 3% of all coronavirus hospitalizations have been people under the age of 19,

Since the boy’s father is an Uber driver, this case also raises questions about protections for those in the gig economy, including health insurance and sick leave. Many Uber drivers and other gig workers are still working, even when they are at risk. They keep working because they don’t have a choice.

As a result of the boy’s death, Mayor Parris is cracking down on shelter in place. Any child found outside of their homes will be escorted back.

“We are enforcing the law in Lancaster,” said Parris. “I will not lose another child.”