Yesterday, I fell and twisted my ankle while hiking. After I got through the intense pain and failing to not swear in front of my children, I had the same thoughts that I think everyone has. Unfortunately, a lot of these thoughts are based on insurance coverage. Because my family doesn’t use much in the way of healthcare, and because I have the luxury of more direct access to healthcare, we have chosen a high deductible plan. That means we have to pay a lot out of pocket before the insurance company picks up anything.
So, after I twisted my ankle over a mile from our car and it swelled up instantaneously, I had a decision to make. Do I risk walking out on a potentially fractured foot, or do I call for emergency help and face a ludicrously high ambulance/rescue bill? This decision was further complicated because several years prior my wife had fallen while hiking and was able to walk out almost two miles. If she could do it, then certainly so could I! Of course, the next day we found out her ankle was broken.
With these thoughts floating around in my head, I hesitantly decided to try to walk out. We fortunately had walking sticks, so I at least had some support for the slow, slow walk out. Every step of the way hurt and I kept asking myself: Can I do this? Will I make it? Am I being completely stupid? I lost track of time, but maybe 1.5 hours later, we arrived at the car with a well swollen ankle, exhausted family and seriously inane sense of accomplishment.
After spending the next day RICEing my foot and waking up hurting more than the day before, I decided I probably ought to get an X-ray. Now, your average citizen doesn’t have access to this at the drop of hat. They need to go see their doctor or go into the urgent care/emergency department costing them plenty of money. In fact, I make my patients come see me before getting an X-ray because sometimes they just aren’t necessary. I, however, get to write myself a script and go into radiology and get it done, then read my films myself. I will have to pay for this, but considering I could’ve had a $5000 bill for a rescue team and emergency room bill, this small X-ray bill is worth the peace of mind.
Lucky for me, it’s not broken. But this whole escapade has once again reinforced how broken our healthcare system is when we have to make important decisions based on how much they are going to cost us.