The Knee-Buckling Cost of Information

I’ve got news for you, Buckos. When we debate the contentious issues surrounding affordable heath care we aren’t just talking about people on welfare. Your average working Joes and Janes need it too. I need it. I’m hurt and I can’t go to the doctor for treatment because I can’t afford it. I make too much money to qualify for Medicaid. I make too little to afford to pay a $5300 deductible on my health insurance and this is the lowest-cost plan my employer offers. Affordable health care issues affect people like me too. My health matters too.


I fell last week while out on a run. The weather was mild, the sun was up, everything normal and natural. I turned a corner to finish my last half-mile and tripped on an uneven patch of sidewalk. I fell hard. There was blood. The bruises and scabs are gruesome. Per my training I rolled out of the fall and popped back up so that the handful of drivers and random bystanders would know I was okay. By okay I mean hurt badly enough to limp home but not so bad I needed an ambulance. I guess I should have let people rush to my aid so I could ask them for money.  I’m kidding.

A week later I am still hurt. I need an MRI to determine how badly I’m hurt. My symptoms are textbook indicators for a specific injury but I’ll spare you the graphics this time. The suspected injury usually requires arthroscopic surgery depending the location or severity. I can’t determine the location or severity without meeting my deductible, much less consider surgery. Although I might have opted to try to heal the injury without surgery anyway, I am not making an informed choice because I can’t afford to get better informed. I’m sidelined from my healthful activities and now I’m marginalized from treatment.

Do you get that, people? I have to PAY to get more information about my own body before I can decide how to treat (or not treat) my own body. I can’t afford information. This feels ludicrous to me. Even if I do come up with $3000 for an MRI just so I can be informed, I’d have to come up with $2300 to afford the option to do anything with that information. What’s worse than ludicrous? Preposterously stupid? What’s the opposite of insurance?

I’ve paid taxes every year of my life since was 18 years old. I consider it a civic responsibility to work because I am able-bodied and compelled to contribute to the society that supports me. I am not a freeloader, a deadbeat, or a sponge. What I am is stuck with the hard reality that except for routine preventative care I am paying monthly premiums for health care that is useless to me unless I can pony up an extra $5300 once per year. Every extra penny I have saved for the last five months has been has been diverted to getting out of debt. The uber-advised “emergency fund” wouldn’t even cover half.

All I can do is rest and self-treat with the standard methods known to any well-seasoned runner and hope for the best. According to the information I have been able afford, I will know the severity of my injury 4 to 6 weeks because if it is indeed severe it won’t be better. I will know the approximate location of my injury in 6 to 8 weeks because it won’t be better. An injury in certain locations of the knee cannot heal without surgery. So in two months I’ll have a better picture of how badly I am screwed. Or not screwed. It’s impossible to tell from week two.

Runners suffer from a unique reversal of perspective when it comes to things we consider hard. Non-runners think running is hard. Runners know that not running is much harder. Even when we know we are injured we want to run again as soon as the pain goes away. The runner’s brain interprets lack of pain as the green light to run on. Over time the runner’s brain interprets mild pain as the green light to run on if it goes away while running. Severe pain means stop until it hurts less and then run on. I have no defense or rationalization for this.

Runners notoriously push injuries because we can’t stand not to run if everything feels good (or at least, good enough to run on it). It frustrates us to feel no discomfort and still be advised not to run. In my case, there aren’t many nerves or blood vessels involved in my injury. It doesn’t hurt much. I can’t use pain as an indicator of improvement (or lack thereof). Without that MRI I also don’t know how badly I’m not injured. The not-knowing is an enormous tease as  much as a liability. It’s maddening.

This is also the work of wellness. This is when the stipulation that wellness is not simply the measure of fitness becomes relevant. How fit am I going to be in six to eight weeks without my normal activities? I will be less fit. But will I be less well? I don’t have to be, but I will still have to work at it. And it won’t be as easy as going for a run.

— Mercy

One Comment Add yours

  1. mishedup says:

    I’m so sorry…..
    what a mess!
    I have a friend who goes to doctors whenever it’s needed. He has no health insurance. He researches the amount that they would receive for each procedure (IE…maybe an MRI would cost you $2300, but they accept the insurance price of $1000) and then offers to pay it in cash for the insurance price.
    He gets dental care this way too…and so far has been successful, altho not every time he tries.
    There was an article in the NYT recently about medical “vacations”….going to another country, getting a procedure done and spending time vacationing for well under what the person would have paid here.
    I pay a large fee monthly for my own insurance because I don’t have employer insurance…the coverage is good, but the monthly went up almost $200 from last year to this year.
    And a bunch of very rich, entrenched and well-covered men are debating our right to health care this minute.


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