Stepping Up (And Falling Down) On The Health Care Debate

Three days ago, well, two and a half anyway, I did something that I very rarely do…and certainly never intentionally. I fell off a step ladder. Actually, I kinda think that the ladder threw me off- when my head finally cleared and I looked at it, it was all bent and stuff like it had twisted out of shape while I was on it. It was technically only a three foot ladder, but by the time my head hit the ground it had fallen eight or nine feet. Oddly, the rest of me fell even farther- there was a ditch there, so after cracking the side of face and head on the level ground and scraping my shoulder on the edge of it, I fell crosswise into that. Of course, since the ditch was about three feet wide and I’m nearly six feet long, by the time all was said and done I found myself twisted like a pretzel in the bottom of it. Not my best moment.

Although I must have scrambled up into a sitting position pretty quickly (I kinda can’t remember that part) that was it for the next ten minutes or so. My head was pounding and ringing and every time I tried to move I was washed over with a wave of nausea. From the corner of my eye I could just make out that my shoulder was bloody and full of dirt and debris; I finally reached up with my left hand (my right arm wasn’t working just yet) and felt that my ear was bloody too.

After awhile I tried to stand up, but fell right back into a sitting position on the side of the ditch. My head spun, shot with a numbing pain, I couldn’t focus and I was overcome with nausea. My only coherent thought was of that actress who earlier this year hit her head while skiing and died six or seven hours later from a brain hemorrhage or something. I was convinced that was gonna be me too.

After an hour or so, it was starting to get dark and I decided if I was going to try and drive home I’d better do it soon. I called my wife to tell her to expect me; she wanted to come and get me, but for some reason I was adamantly against that, I still don’t know why. Although I don’t much recall the five or ten minute drive, I must have done okay, cause I did make it home where she spent the next hour trying to clean out the various wounds.

But as Arlo Guthrie would say, that’s not what I want to talk about. What I want to talk about is health care. I do remember as I started the car thinking that I should drive straight to the hospital…after all, I was pretty sure I had a concussion, my shoulder wouldn’t work, my back was in agony and every time I opened my mouth something inside my ear clicked painfully. Still, I almost immediately dismissed the idea. Why? Because I have no health insurance and the ER docs would’ve wanted X-rays and MRI’s and God knows what else. By the time I was done, even if nothing was broken and they didn’t have to drill a hole in my head to relieve the pressure, I’d have owed them thousands of dollars, money I didn’t have. I just couldn’t afford to get hurt…well, I can afford to get hurt, but the getting treatment part is well out of my budget.

The only insurance I can afford is term life, so it would be a better financial move on my part to die, and as quickly as I could. It’s a screwy system when it makes more sense from an accounting standpoint to die from a massive brain hemorrhage at home than to get treatment for it and lose that home in the process.

Luckily (or, in the case of any poor soul who’s actually suffered by reading through all of this, not) I survived. It’s still hard to move and there’s that painful clicking thing going on in my ear, but the headache is finally going away. Still, I’m reminded of the criteria someone without insurance needs to use in deciding whether or not to see a doctor- If it’s not broken or bleeding and you’re still breathing, you just don’t go.

Bear in mind, I’m not particularly poor, certainly not impoverished, and I could have paid something for treatment, just not the thousands or tens of thousands that any mildly serious injury would’ve cost me. And I certainly can’t afford health coverage- the last time my wife and I had coverage it cost us between seven and eight grand for a year and by the time the existing illness clause had expired we couldn’t afford to keep paying the premiums and had to drop it. By the way, after figuring out what our actual medical bills would’ve been if we’d just paid the doctor for services rendered, we found we were more than three grand in the hole for the year in premiums. I tell ya, being healthy just isn’t worth it.