Mike Learns About His Disability

At age 42, Mike was a sports reporter at a local newspaper. He had always dreamed of covering the Diamondbacks, but his job wasn’t that glamorous — he worked at a community newspaper, the kind of paper that ran pictures of lost pets. He made about $42,000 per year, which wasn’t a lot, but he wasn’t married and had no kids, so it paid the bills.

One of the perks of his job was that he had employer-sponsored health coverage, but last year during open enrollment, Mike noticed that the health insurance options had changed some and the out-of-pocket expenses for employees were higher than they used to be. He talked to the paper’s Human Resources manager, Kelly, and asked her why things had changed.

Kelly replied, “Mike, the options we are able to offer each year can change, depending on how much insurers want to charge. Since our newspaper is in tough financial shape, we can’t contribute more to the monthly premium. We’ve tried really hard to offer a set of insurance options for employees to choose from, depending on their situations. Look over this information about the plans offered through our company to see which makes the most sense for you financially. You may also want to check in with your doctors to see what insurance they take.”

Kelly motioned at the paperwork, “Some of these plans are cheaper than others, but not all doctors are on any given plan. Also, their copayments and deductibles vary, so depending on how often you go to the doctor, you may want to choose one plan or another. You’ll have to decide what is important to you and balance some things.”

Mike followed Kelly’s advice. Open enrollment lasted for a couple of weeks, so he took his time to compare the 3 plans his job offered. He noticed that the Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) plan his job offered was the cheapest and that sounded good to him. Then he checked with his doctor at the time, whom he liked and trusted. The doctor’s office threw him a curveball — the doctor didn’t take HMO customers. The only coverage offered by Mike’s employer that his doctor accepted was the Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plan.

Mike decided he wanted the cheaper plan, so he went ahead and signed up for the HMO. Even though he’d have to find new doctors, he wasn’t too worried, because he didn’t go to the doctor often and didn’t care that much if he had to change doctors. Over the following months, his work went well enough — he covered whatever his editors told him to write about, be that field hockey, soccer, or high school football. It wasn’t exactly his dream job, but it was an honest living. And, if he kept it up, maybe someday he’d be able to get a job at a big city paper.

Then, Mike began feeling a weird, persistent numbness on his left side. At first, he thought it was just the aches and pains of aging, but after a couple of weeks, he realized it was something more and that it was getting worse, so he went to his new doctor. The doctor didn’t have good news for Mike: tests showed that he had brain lesions, an early indicator of multiple sclerosis (MS). MS is a gradually debilitating neurological disorder that causes people to shake and lose mobility.

The doctor did offer Mike hope. He didn’t think Mike’s condition would be so bad that the writer would need to completely stop working, but he did think that Mike would have to make some changes in his life. In addition to beginning physical therapy, the doctor also suggested that Mike get in touch with a support group that could help him adjust to his new status as a person with a disability.