Shocking

Homeless Man Owes $500,000 Doctor Bill

Kenny Farnsworth has a lot of medical bills: He estimates he owes around $500,000. How does a 59-year-old homeless man end up in such a position? Farnsworth is a "frequent flier," the term paramedics and ER nurses use for patients who use 911 and emergency rooms habitually. Well-known to paramedics around Washington, D.C., Farnsworth uses 911 as his hotline for any number of ailments: a fall, a choking feeling, high blood pressure, broken bones, and other problems. The Washington Post Magazine explores Farnsworth's life, examining how the son of a bank manager became the most frequent 911 caller in the D.C. metro area. There are wider implications to Kenny's story: Farnsworth's case, it seems, is not atypical, and "frequent fliers" like him, who use E.R.s for chronic or nonurgent problems, may cost the country $32 billion a year.