I had a similar medical issue as well in college. Lucky for me a former Professor lost his tenure and was practicing law. He drafted a letter for which some how stopped the bills and contacts from continuing.
It stemmed from an office visit I had to have after my back surgery. i called before hand to see if the doctor was on scheduled or not and his receptionist said yes. I had a class to get to. I got there 15 mins. before my appt which was 10 mins after I called them. About an hour and 45 mins. I was seen. I asked the doctor if he always overbooked? He looked at me like I was from mars. I told him that my time lost was just as valuable as his time. That I should not have to pay for the office visit today. He just smiled. Well I billed him for my time lost and the class lecture I missed. I documented everything I did that day and when I got my phone bill it showed when I called I got a copy of my appt time. I won because I never paid the bill. Funny thing is whenever I saw him again his office made sure I went in right away. To this day I am wondering what my professor had said to the office;-)
Now there is a lot of peer pressure to wear helmets. Many groups won't let you ride with them without a helmet. Even the macho riders in the Tour de France wear helmets now. Helmets today are highly protective while being light and comfortable enough that you hardly know you are wearing them. It wasn't always that way.
When I started racing helmets were encouraged but entirely optional on training rides and while national amateur races required helmets there were no standards; anything you could strap on your head was acceptable. Professional cyclists almost never wore helmets back then and amateurs didn't either in international events. Some of the popular helmets of the time were woefully inadequate by today's standards. The maker of one of the worst helmets: SkidLid went to great lengths to defend their lousy design and fought against helmet standards that would have prevented more head and brain injuries but also would have rendered their helmet illegal. Eventually SkidLid went out of business because of lawsuits from cyclists who were suffered avoidable brain injuries because their SkidLid didn't protect them.
When I bought my first helmet I got one of the few bike helmets that was reasonably protective, the Bell Biker. This was a nerdy looking helmet and was basically a lighter and ventilated version of their motorcycle helmet. I wore this in my first races but almost everyone else wore thin Brancale helmets or padded leather helmets affectionately refered to as "hairnets." The Brancale helmets afforded some protection; they split in two on most impacts but they still dissipated some of the impact. Hairnets afforded little protection other than cosmetic.
There was an ongoing battle to require bicycle racers to wear real helmets and a great deal of resistance from riders and manufacturers of inadequate helmets. We all knew it was only a mater of time before real helmets would be required. Bell started selling the V1-Pro which was a real helmet that was styled somewhat like the hairnet helmets and some racers started wearing them.
After years of debate the USCF was finally going to require real helmets for the next season. Everyone selling hairnet helmets was almost giving them away since the next year they would be useless. My boss Alan asked me if I wanted a $6 hairnet. $6? Wow, too cheap to pass up! Now I had been racing for a while and crashed several times but now I felt like I knew how to fall and I had never once hit my head in any of my crashes. Ironically, I was wearing a real helmet long before most racers and now that everyone would soon to have to real helmets I switched to a hairnet.
One weekend I showed up for a criterium at Brookhaven college. So far I hadn't had a very good record at Brookhaven; I crashed 3 of the 5 times I raced there. Unfortunately my luck would not improve that day. I was riding pretty well with the peloton. I wasn't the greatest pack sprinter around but I wasn't bad; I could usually at least place when a race finished in a big sprint but I still preferred break away finishes. Three laps from the end I heard the familiar fiss-fiss-fiss of a flat but I made it to start-finish where Larry from the bike shop quickly gave me another wheel. The referee already said that the free lap rule was suspended for this race (what else is new?) so with the flat I was out of contention but I decided to ride out the last 3 laps. On one of the corners I rolled the tire on the lovely wheel just loaned to me. My bike slid out from under me and I went down faster than I ever knew possible (sorry Galileo but I must have fallen faster than 32ft/sec!). I hit the back of my head on the curb.
There was blood all over the place and I was dazed; someone must have helped me off the course and picked up my bike but I don't remember that part. A policewoman in her police car that was parked to keep cars from driving onto the course ran to my assistance. She put my arm around her shoulders and walked me to her police car. She opened the passenger side door for me and I told her I didn't want to bleed all over her seat. She grabbed a blanket from the trunk and threw it over the seat and I got in. She drove me to the emergency room. Everyone at the ER was nice, they even put 2 hospital gowns on me with one on backward so I wouldn't moon everyone and they apologized for having to shave the back of my head My scalp had a horseshoe shaped tear that needed 18 stitches to close up. They asked me if I had a roomate and I told them I lived with my girlfriend. They told me I couldn't take asprin for the pain and gave me a prescription for something I could take if the pain got bad and that it was important that my GF make sure I can wake up every two hours and if she couldn't wake me up to call for an ambulence. Then they sent me on my way.
I gave the ER $50 I had on me and signed a note promising to pay another $180. I was warned that they always have a second doctor evaluate X-ray films to make sure the first doctor didn't miss anything and that this would be an entirely seperate $60 charge that I would also have to pay. When I got home I sent them a check for $180. A little later I got a bill for $120. I was told the 2nd doctor's bill would be $60 so I was a little bummed but as soon as I could afford it I mailed a check for $120. Then I got a bill for $60. I called the ER and told them I already paid for the 2nd doctor. She looked through my file and told me that the $120 wasn't for the 2nd doctor but was because they undercharged me for the ER visit. Instead of $230 they should have charged me $350 and the $120 was the difference. I objected saying that what I signed I agreed to pay $180 which I already did and she noted that what I signed said estimate and it turned out the estimate was wrong but I still had to pay the whole amount. I sent in the check for $60 and figured that was the end of that. Later I got another bill for $120. I called to straighten this out. They told me that the $120 was because they previously undercharged me. I told her I already sent the $120 and she replied that the $120 was because they discovered out that even at $350 I was undercharged and that my visit should have cost $470. Mind you I was a poor college student working my way through school and I made less than $10k/year at the bike shop so this was a lot of money to me. By this point I was convinced that as long as I kept sending them payments they would keep charging me more. I told her that I wasn't going to pay any more; she warned me that if I didn't pay that they would ruin my credit and would have trouble getting car loans and mortgages in the future.
One of my teammates GF was a nurse and I asked her about it. She thought I was getting gouged. She said that insurance companies have negotiated prices they pay providers to just over cost so when they get a patient without insurance that can afford to pay they charge them several times as much to make up for the profits lost elsewhere. She also said that disputes with medical providers are so common that outstanding bills have little effect on credit ratings. I got more bills for $120 in the mail that I ignored. Then I got a letter informing me that my bill was turned over to a collection agency. First I got form letters saying that I would have to pay $120 or face dire consequences. Then I got letters from a "legal firm" threatening to sue me for not paying my bill. Then I started to get phone calls asking for the money. Every time I explained that I felt I already paid enough but they continued to bill me. Eventually the letters and phone call stopped. The next time I visited my parents I learned that they received a $120 medical bill that they paid because they assumed that I was in a bind and couldn't afford to. I was 25 years old and they send my bill to my parents?! Surely that violated some privacy rules even before HIPPA!
Of course if I was wearing a real helmet I probably would have been laughing it about after the crash instead of being driven to the ER. In retrospect my $6 helmet ended up being very expensive.
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