My Bicycle and Socialized Medicine

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In the summer of 2007 while Shenya was in Russia visiting her mother I decided to take a ride on my bicycle through Norman. I was living on the southeast side at the time in Forest Pointe Apartments, so I had to ride a ways into central Norman. I ended up cruising through the neighborhood north of Main but south of Big Lots. I was southbound on the 200 block of Merkle Drive, cruising at a slow speed, when I crashed into the asphalt.

For this story it is important to go back two years from this point.

In 2005 I graduated law school and immediately started my own practice. My wife was working as a teacher’s aid in Norman. After I was no longer enrolled at the University of Oklahoma I had to change up our health insurance. I applied for a policy through an independent agent who tried to get me signed up through AETNA. However, AETNA would not write us a policy because my wife had not been in the United States for a full two years, so we had to get another policy. I remembered that it was supposed to have a $ 5,000.00 deductible, and covered nothing, but there was the chance that it would prevent my having to file bankruptcy if I got sick. My wife soon was hired as a teacher in Oklahoma City so she got her own policy but I kept the old high-deductible policy.

When I hit the asphalt I stretched out my left arm. I wasn’t going very fast, and I had my bike helmet on. I remember rolling a bit and then getting up. My palm was unscratched but I had blood oozing out of my left wrist. My arm felt numb and tingly; something just wasn’t right. I dug out my Nokia flip phone and called 911. The first to show up were firemen; then came the ambulance. I stood there cradling my arm. The firemen and the EMTs inspected my arm, and told me they were surprised I was standing up and wrapped me in a brace. They loaded me into the ambulance and drove me to Norman Regional Hospital.

At this time in my life I had been discussing with Shenya buying a house and having a baby. During my ride to the hospital I was terrified that this accident was going to derail my plans. I kept thinking that this was going to be the end of me financially because I would have to pay $ 5,000.00 that I didn’t have for this accident. It turned out to be worse than that.

I had emergency surgery that night. I had dislocated my wrist and broken my radius and pushed a portion of my ulna out the side of my wrist. The surgeon, Dr. Steven Schultz, Jr., cut open my arm, plated the radius back together, and pinned my wrist. I woke up the next day in pain with my arm set at a right angle with my palm up.

The next 4-5 months is a story in itself. I wore my cast, scratched itches with a bent coat hanger, had the cast removed, had the nurse drive me to tears while painfully tugging out my stitches, had to learn to turn my arm again, went to therapy, tried cases on pain pills, learned that hydrocodone should not be trifled with, and learned the cost of my accident.

I spent over ten thousand dollars on my medical bills. It turned out that Norman Regional and my physician were not in-network, so I had an out-of-network deductible of $ 10,000.00. It took me three years to pay it back to the physician’s office and to the debt collector that Norman Regional likely sold my debt to for pennies on the dollar. Further, when I applied for my new health insurance policy with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma I had to sign a waiver and exclusion for my left arm, which BCBS refused to insure because of my injury.

I told myself that I would never ride a bicycle again until we had socialized medicine. So I gave away my bicycle, and didn’t touch one again until 2011. In 2011 I realized that waiting for socialized medicine was the equivalent of waiting to go snow skiing in Hell. Congress had passed the Affordable Health Care Act, so there was hope that my left arm would not be excluded from coverage, but it was insurance reform, not healthcare reform, and I had the same two choices: (1) pay a high premium for a plan that still left my ass in the wind for $ 2,500.00 or more in deductibles and 20 % on top of that or (2) pay a higher premium every month for lower deductible, and 20 % of my charges on top of that. I made choice number 1 and continue it to this day.

I bought a Dahon folding bicycle in the Fall of 2011. I still ride it to work and back, and even around Norman. I really enjoy riding my bicycle, and am sorry that I gave it up waiting  for national healthcare. I am also sorry that I paid over $ 10,000.00 in medical bills during a time I was starting my business and starting my family. I could have used that money for investments, for fun, for savings, or to pay off student loan debt. I am not sorry that I have recovered full use of my arm despite having an ugly scar. I am glad I got treatment.

There is a good chance that had I been younger I would have been covered by my parent’s insurance when this happened. Had I been older I might have been able to afford a better policy. Had I been employed rather than self-employed then my employer’s policy may have covered me better. Had I changed plans when my wife left the policy I might have had a policy with my local hospital as in-network. Had I been going faster or slower, I might have not landed in a way to break my arm. There was a lot of factors that went into why I ended up with a broken arm and high medical bills.

I sure could have used some help in 2007. I wish my country could put into place systems that prevent the potential that a bicycle accident can cause someone financial ruin because they were unlucky. It just seems like a nobler problem to solve then how to lock people up in prison and bomb others overseas. But we won’t, and I don’t know why.

 

Evan Taylor is a traveler, lawyer, and returned Peace Corps volunteer. He is a strong believer in that we need a science of morality as comprehensive as our currently understanding of the physical world. Otherwise, he an avid listener of EDM and wants to learn to dance Bachata.