Larry Brazil has been a patient at University Community Hospital for nearly 1,000 days.
He has racked up a hospital bill — in addition to his doctors' fees — of more than $1.7 million, his family says.
His mind is alert, but he can't walk or talk and must use a ventilator to breathe 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
But soon the 77-year-old retired printer and dump truck driver will be discharged under a court order, ending the hospital's unprecedented two-year effort to move him and taking his family into uncertain territory as they attempt to care for him at home.
Lengthy stays and million-dollar hospital bills are not unheard of. But Brazil's case raises serious questions about health care access and costs. How can one patient remain in the hospital for so long — likely at taxpayers' expense — at a time when millions of others struggle to get health care?
And why is it so difficult for families like the Brazils to find good options for long-term care outside the hospital?
Brazil's case "is an anomaly, but it's an expensive anomaly," said Jay Wolfson, an expert on health policy at the University of South Florida.
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Patient Runs Out of Hospital Time but Options are Slim