Heal tomorrow from yesterday’s sickly politics



Column by Austin Hill

Back in 2008 while riding my bike to work, a full-size Ford F-350 hit me. I was riding in the bike lane when the truck veered over and cut across my lane to turn right into a parking lot.

Braking would have put me below the front wheels. So, I attempted to ride with him cutting my handlebars in a last-minute effort, but the right side of the bed collided with my left hip. To avoid being squashed by the back end radials, I used my left arm to pull myself up onto the side of the truck yelling at the driver to stop as he obviously still had not seen me.

After a mumbling a few words under my breath, I told him to call for help. We were only two blocks from the courthouse, but a police officer did not show up until 30 minutes and two phone calls later.

I feel like I have a pretty high tolerance for pain, but my hip was swelling by the minute. The officer asked where I would like to go to have my hip checked out; I then explained I had no insurance. Since the driver of the vehicle was at fault, it would be on his dime that I would receive treatment. The officer assured me it would be fine.

As a student and a waiter, I have no benefits.  I am covered by only the basic student health plan, which allows office visits to the designated faculty, but no more than that.

I then told the police officer I couldn’t risk any problems with paperwork, because the closest hospital, which happened to be university-owned, would put a hold on my student account if my bill was not covered. The man who hit me drove me to the hospital, even put my bike in his truck. He was a nice guy, just a bad driver. The man cut me a small check to cover my missed wages for the night and told me he would be in touch.

At the hospital, I was X-rayed and given me some medication. As it turned out, due to my Wolverine-esque bone density, I had a severe bruise but would be fine. I was to follow up with my student health doctor in a couple of weeks.

The driver put the claim on his insurance and I got a cheap TV attorney, because most of the major lawyers I talked to said there was not enough to pursue a case. But I wasn’t unharmed — I sprained my Sacroiliac joint, which caused the dislocation of my spine due to a missing disc between my bottom two vertebrae. It has deteriorated over the years, due to a genetic spine disease.

I was ordered to physical therapy, the insurance paid for two rounds and the clinic would not see me initially unless I had cash up front, since I did not have benefits.

After two trips to the clinic, I was able to receive treatment. I would also need to have an MRI to show my spine alignment proving or disproving further spine damage. Scheduling an appointment with my student health doctor, who was in the clinic one day a week, took me three weeks the first time, and a month for the second. He is at another clinic in the university, but I had to wait until he punched the time clock at student health before he could see me, because I had no insurance.

The insurance company offered my attorney a deal that would have paid me $200 for a week’s worth of lost wages and no further coverage if my back messed up 10 years from now. I declined the offer because I wanted to wait for the MRI and felt it was laughable. Instead, I received a letter in the mail saying my attorney was dropping me. They would not take phone calls, and the relationship was severed when they mailed the letter.

Two weeks later, my MRI was scheduled and I knew I would now be left to defend myself against this insurance company. I gave my results to my doctor. I also received a bill for my MRI.

Apparently, when the attorney dropped me, my claim died with it. No one told me this; I was now left to pay for the test. I had to return to work early to start making money again, limping through an eight-hour shift with what felt like a knife in my back, and hobbled to school using a golf club as a cane for the 30-minute hike because I couldn’t get crutches.

I was forced to drop two classes due to absences occurring after the wreck. I will never get that money back or the time it cost me toward graduating.

I was left with a sizeable bill for an exam I would not have had if someone had not almost killed me. If I had health care, I would have received better treatment and could have met with my doctor without waiting a month. I would not have this bill that I don’t have time to dispute as I am trying to graduate. Insurance would have covered the bill, but I had none.

The bottom line is we owe people better. The health care system will not fix itself overnight, but the principle that everyone should be able to get the proper care without burden should be obtainable.

It is sickening to watch people fight over this in the name of money and politics. We as a nation should unify toward advancement for our future, and we owe it to ourselves to heal without the price tag of the past bruising us any further.