David Post: Luckily, my son survived … and has insurance

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 13, 2012

By David Post

“Don’t worry, Dad. I’m OK,” my son slurred into my phone.
I was at lunch with a friend. It was THE call every parent fears.
“What’s wrong, Ari? Where are you?”
“I can’t talk,” he mumbled. “Here’s Mom. Your bike’s OK.”
“My bike?”
“Ari was hit by a car while riding his bike to work about two hours ago,” Fiona said. “We’re in the trauma unit at George Washington Hospital.”
“Huh?” I stammered.
“His helmet saved his life. There’s a spot on his brain. He’ll have another MRI in six hours. The doctors think it’s just a bruise and not brain damage. His upper jaw is crushed, and he lost all his front teeth. He’s got years of dental problems. But he’s alive.”
Ari was a hit-and-run victim on a street with a marked bike lane. He dragged himself onto grass, found his cell, called 911 and memorized the car’s tag as it drove away. A nearby taxi did the same.
A spot on his brain, a crushed jaw, four to six front teeth gone? I was numb.
I excused myself from lunch and headed to Washington.
For the next 375 miles, my mind was a jumble of thoughts. My son? What if the spot on his brain doesn’t go away? What if he’s brain damaged? Will he have headaches forever? How do you fix a crushed palate? Can he chew? How are teeth attached to a crushed palate? What else is broken? What’s he going to look like? What will he look like when it’s over? How much pain is he in? How’s he going to eat? How long will he be in the hospital? Have the police been notified? Have they found the driver?
By the time I arrived, the second MRI showed no spot. No brain damage. He’s alive. All else was irrelevant. Either of those would have changed his life, and mine, irreparably for the worse forever.
Ari was released that night. Immediate attention by the trauma dentist was recommended. The next day, with incredible skill and an array of unimaginable technology, Dr. Singer reconstructed a temporary palate with bone tissue from a cow and six temporary teeth within two hours. It’s not as pretty as thousands of dollars of orthodontia, but it’s better than no front teeth.
The dental bill that day: $15,000. Cash. Money Ari didn’t have. (My bank floated me an immediate loan.) The estimated cost to finish his oral reconstruction: another $30,000 to $80,000.
I’ve not seen the bill for the ambulance, 14 hours in the trauma unit at George Washington University Hospital, two MRIs, several ER docs, X-rays, readings and exams by a radiologist, neurologist, orthopedist and trauma dentist, and a gaggle of IVs, wires and tubes.
Certainly, not cheap. Call his mom and me poor health care consumers, but it never occurred to us to enter “the market” to shop for the right — best or cheapest or most convenient or other market factor — hospital, ambulance, trauma unit, specialty doctors and so on.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court was preparing to issue its opinion on Obamacare. Ari will be 26 in a few months. Suddenly, Obamacare became very personal.
If the court threw out Obamacare, would it be retroactive? Would Ari, who is on his mother’s health care plan, suddenly have no insurance?
Would Ari suddenly be saddled with more than $100,000 in medical bills?
Is this now a pre-existing condition? When he turns 26 in a few months, would he be able to get health insurance? At what cost?
Will his insurance company be allowed to cancel his insurance? Will his insurance have a maximum coverage limit?
Ironically, opponents of Obamacare support those key provisions. A number of Congressmen who voted against and openly oppose Obamacare use it to cover their children between ages 21 and 26.
Obamacare was the brainchild of conservative Republicans who opposed President Clinton’s health care plan. Insurance companies bought in. Then-Gov. Mitt Romney proposed and adopted it in Massachusetts. President Obama decided that the only way to reform health care for the nation was to follow the Republican approach. Most parents embrace their children, but because Republicans oppose Obama, they now oppose the health care solution they conceived.
If the Supreme Court upheld Obamacare, my son was OK. If it didn’t, he wasn’t.
Thank you, John Roberts. My son is covered. I have peace of mind.
No parent wants their child to be in my son’s situation without the provisions in Obamacare.
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David Post lives in Salisbury.