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Living Without Healthcare

Brian started a new job recently –
our choice, thankfully, and not a switch made due to a layoff
– and as is standard these days, we will spend the first
ninety days of his new employment without any work-provided health

We are not, of course, living completely without health care
– we purchased 90-day private insurance to cover anything
major that will come up. But it is, essentially, major medical
coverage, which means no “hey I think I have strep
let’s pay a little office co-pay and find out” kind of
thing. Office visits, prescription refills, all these things are
off the table until a huge deductible is met – which
hopefully it won’t be.

So we are, in essence, living without day-to-day healthcare.

We prepared as best we could: we got 90-day refills on our daily
prescriptions, made sure all our well-visits were up-to-date, that
sort of thing. So we’ve done what we can, and are generally a
healthy family and hoping we cruise through those first 90 days
relatively uneventfully.

But it does change the way we look at things.

Maddie took a reasonably bad fall on her
knee over a week ago – a Friday evening – and I took a
quick look and pronounced it internally bruised, no doctor’s
visit necessary. I should say right here that I am NOT A DOCTOR
– nor do I have any sort of formal medical training –
but I’ve worked with some pretty brilliant doctors and
specialize in sports injuries, so I’m more familiar with
anatomy and injuries than the average person. We went about our
weekend with me confident in my prognosis.

Then Maddie fell on it again on the next Tuesday – just as it
was starting to feel good enough to run a bit – and it began
to hurt even worse. By Wednesday morning I was reviewing my anatomy
and sports injury notes extensively – what could I have
missed? Is there something else going on? I did my thing, but my
Mommy guilt began rearing its ugly head: “You don’t
specialize in children! You don’t know their anatomy! What if
she’s fractured a growth plate? How would you know,
uneducated lady??”

The entire time I’m weighing the cost of an office visit -
$150 before any tests are done – against getting peace of
mind. In my heart of hearts, I believed there was nothing wrong
that the doctors could fix – that they’d say,
“Rest, wear a brace, take some anti-inflammatories and ice
it” – which is exactly what I’d been doing.

But what if I was wrong? Would Maddie end up with a permanent limp
because I was trying to be cheap and they’d missed some
window of opportunity to fix what might be an extremely rare
avulsion tear?

What would you have done?

In the end, I cheated. I emailed a colleague of mine – an
extremely well-respected pediatric orthopedist specializing in
sports injuries. I laid it out, asked if it could POSSIBLY be
anything else, and based on what was going on, should I get it
checked out. Not asking for a diagnosis, but trying to see if there
was some weird child-related thing I just didn’t know about.

He quite graciously wrote back in depth, saying all the stuff
I’d already done and completely agreeing with me. In the end
he suggested giving it the weekend and if things weren’t
better, bringing her in. He even generously offered to squeeze her
into his schedule if I needed peace of mind.

His response alone was all I needed to have faith in my instincts
and I backed off of the Worry Train. And guess what? Her
knee’s gotten better every day, and is clearly almost 100%.
Just like I’d thought it would in the beginning.

If this had been a couple months ago, I probably would have brought
Maddie to the doctor “just in case” after her second
fall. I’d have spent thirty bucks myself and a not small
amount of the insurance company’s money just for that
reassurance. And while this healthcare debate rages on, I’ve
had a teeny tiny taste of what it’s like to live without
insurance and to START to wrestle with hard decisions for your

I’m incredibly lucky; I’ve got basic medical knowledge
myself, and several friends who are pediatricians, sports
specialists, ER nurses, and so on. I have people I can bounce stuff
off of, who’ll tell me when it’s time to hit the
doc’s office. But there are millions of people out there who
don’t have that option. And as for prescriptions: I had a
sinus infection a week before we ran out of regular insurance. As I
paid the five-dollar co-pay for the antibiotic, I casually asked
how much it would have been without insurance. Wanna guess? One.
Hundred. Dollars.

A local friend of mine found out one week ago today that her
six-year-old daughter has kidney cancer. Tuesday morning, they were
operating and after a couple days in the ICU she’s in the
oncology unit waiting to find out if it’s Stage 2 or Stage 3,
and when they’ll start chemo. If she’d had sketchy
insurance – or worse, no insurance at all –
they’d have spent a couple days talking about financial
options, applying for financial assistance, and so forth. A few
precious days would’ve been wasted trying to sort out the
money side.

This health care thing is complicated, and I’m not here to
say what all is wrong and how to fix it. I’m just saying
– this is not something we can throw our hands up at and say,
“Oh well, it’s too hard, just leave it like it
is.” There are millions of people out there – many
good, hardworking people who simply aren’t lucky enough to be
working in the types of jobs that give you good coverage –
who need our help untangling the mess and getting something good

As for us, come June we’ll be back in the comfortable zone.

Two more months to go.


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