Monday night I was at a club run with Steve of NYCRuns.com, who asked me “Hey, how come you weren’t at the Verazzano Half last weekend?”
“Oh, you know, I didn’t really train for it…and my knee feels weird…I have this little injury that keeps coming back…”
I shouldn’t even have brought it up–I hate talking about it because I hate thinking about it. But oh, my poor knee! It twinges on the outside, a slight but sharp tug that tells me something is still wrong after five months. Every time it happens I want to cry a little bit from the stress of not knowing what it is, of worrying that it will give out, that I’ll strain it too much, that I could maybe never run again.
You might think I should see a doctor. Well, I’d like to. But I don’t have health insurance.
Diagnosing a knee injury like mine starts with a visit to a physician ($$), who will likely refer me to a specialist ($$$). The process will probably include an MRI ($$$$), but you can’t be sure the results will be conclusive without further testing (potentially endless $$$). It gets scary if they find something bad, like a meniscus tear. At the very least I’d be looking at physical therapy (weekly $ for who knows how long) and a long time away from running. At the worst? Surgery ($#*!), which offers no guarantee I’d ever be able to run again (and it’s $$$$$). Not to mention the $ I’d be losing since I couldn’t work–there’s no paid leave for freelancers unless it’s mandated by the government, like FMLA or worker’s comp.
Instead of going that route, I went to a sports medicine clinic way back when I originally hurt my knee. I took a day off work to go to a beautiful office in SoHo where I was seen by a fantastic doctor (a runner himself) who specializes in ART and other therapies for athletes. I was unpaid for the day I took off and the visit cost me two days’ work. And when I told them I could really only come in again on Saturday or Sunday they suggested I wasn’t serious about healing.
What the heck?
As a freelancer it’s easy to fall through the cracks of a system that’s built around people with steady jobs that have nice, normal benefits like sick pay or the ability to take a couple hours away to visit a doctor. That’s not my life, so I need different options – but does that really make me somehow less entitled to care than someone in a more traditional situation?
As for insurance, sure I guess I could get my own…if I could afford it. My rent is pretty cheap by New York standards, but even then my tiny artist budget can’t even stretch to accommodate the cheapest plan at the Freelancer’s Union (Even if it could, the deductible is $10,000! How the heck does that even help me??). Even so, I make a lot more annually than someone who could qualify for public health care plans. Frankly with the system the way it is I’m sometimes shocked that anyone even buys into it. I have these crazy fantasies about a world with no health insurance, a world where anyone can walk into a hospital with his guts falling out and receive help without fear that his children’s children will be bankrupted by the resulting medical assistance.
I call this world Canada.
The whole situation is really frustrating, to the point that I just want to turn on an episode of Degrassi High and forget about it.
But seriously, since I want to be running well into my masters years I know I’ve got to take care of my body…so what’s a girl to do?
I found another ART therapist, who’s not familiar with distance running but at least she works weekends. I used RICE and MEAT in conjunction with the ART, and eventually when the acute issue was manageable I switched my focus to the overlaying problem (which likely caused the knee issue to begin with), my tight tight hamstrings and butt. I began an intense series of massage therapy and I now fully comprehend what it means to say “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Eventually I’ll be eligible to join a union, which means health benefits, and my rate of pay will increase, which means not panicking about the cost of physical therapies like massage and ART (and the dentist, and the optometrist, and the gynocologist). And remember, it’s really just two short years until ObamaCare forces me to buy into the health insurance system one way or another anyway (I’m inclined to feel positively about it but it seems so fascist). So I know there’s a future for me that won’t include a giant ball of financial stress every time I feel a twitch in my ankle but in the meantime I’m racking up credit card charges, because I don’t seem to have any other choice.
I know I can’t be the only one out there who’s running uninsured. Are you?