My friend Patrick Elkins, who I often mention here on the site, has been dealing with some relatively serious health issues these past several years. As I suspect many of you already know, he’s got something called DVT, or Deep Vein Thrombosis, which essentially means that, in the absence of medical intervention, extremely painful, and potentially life-threatening blood clots form in his legs. Thankfully, given our proximity to the University of Michigan hospital, he’s been able to get treatment as needed, but, were that not the case, one of these clots could easily move from his legs to his lungs, causing pulmonary embolism, and death. Unfortunately, the treatment that he’s received isn’t cheap. Over the course of the past few years, Patrick has had to visit the emergency room on several occasions, which is an extremely costly proposition for someone who, like Pat, works full time, but yet doesn’t have health insurance. This, of course, is especially true in instances where he has to be admitted and kept overnight for observation, as just happened a few weeks ago. The good news is, working with U-M’s Anticoagulation Clinic, Patrick seems to have found a treatment regimen that’s helping, but the blood thinners and other medications that he’s now taking don’t come cheap.
As of today, Patrick owes $9,839.00. I know the amount because he’s shown me the letters he’s been receiving from collection agencies. There are five individual bills, stemming from two episodes last year that required hospital visits. And, unfortunately, that’s not the worst of it. These bills do not reflect Patrick’s most recent overnight hospital stay, which, one imagines, will more than double his outstanding debt to the University of Michigan Health System.
It’s worth reiterating, I think, that that Patrick has a full-time job, which he’s held for the past several years. He’s not by any means a slacker looking to take advantage of the system. Unfortunately, the company that he works for made the decision some time ago to stop hiring full-time employees in his department, as they’d done for years, and instead rely on “contract” employees… which essentially means that they hire people to do the exact same work as they always did, but without having to give them health insurance or other benefits. Fortunately, Patrick has reason to believe that things may be changing on that front, and that his company may be moving him to a full-time, non-contract position. This, of course, would be awesome, as the new position would give Patrick access to health insurance, but, unfortunately, it doesn’t help with the outstanding debt he’s accumulated thus far.
I should also add that Patrick, given that he works full-time, and earns a wage that puts him somewhat above the poverty level, is ineligible for government assistance through programs like Medicaid. So, he’s essentially stuck in the middle… unable to pay, but, at the same time, unable to get help through the state or federal government.
Someone else, if confronted by these same circumstances, might quit his job in order to qualify for government health insurance, but Patrick doesn’t want to go that route. And he also doesn’t want to declare bankruptcy. He wants make good on his debts, which I find admirable… Unfortunately, collections agencies are now involved, and things are getting serious. And, it’s with that in mind that I write this today.
Knowing that all of this is going on, several of Patrick’s friends have started brainstorming as to how we might help him get this debt taken care of, so he can just focus on getting better. We met with him a few days ago, and here are some of the more promising ideas that we came up with. If anything on this list sounds like something that you might be able to help with, let me know… Also, I should add that Patrick is supportive of these efforts, and signed off on this post. So, it’s not like we’re just running off on our own and doing this behind his back.
THE LEGFEST BENEFIT CONCERT… Given Patrick’s standing in the local music scene, this is an obvious way to go, although I’m uncertain as to how much money we might be able to raise. I’d love to have it be an outdoor event, over the course of a day or two, sometime in the fall, but I’m not sure that’s doable, given the fact that we’d like to sell beer, and I can’t figure out a way to do that within the boundaries of the law. (Beer sales, I think, will be necessary if we want to raise more than just a few thousand dollars.) I’m certain that we could put together one hell of a lineup, and sell 200 or so tickets at $10 a piece, but, even so, that’s just $2,000. Beer, though, if we could figure out a way to sell it legally, could more than double that. And that’s what we’ve been puzzling over these past few days… But maybe it doesn’t have to be outside. Maybe all we need is to find a friendly bar that would give us a cut of their beer sales for a night or two… However we decide to do it, I’m sure this will happen. Pat’s friends want to help, and this would be a great way for folks to show their support, either on-stage, or through the purchase of tickets and beer.
ROB EVERYONE WHO COMES TO THE BENEFIT… We discarded this idea pretty quickly, but I do kind of like the idea of holding a benefit, and, then, once everyone’s there, robbing them to pay Pat’s hospital bills. Of course, the folks who come to Pat’s benefit likely wouldn’t be folks with a ton money, which, admittedly, kind of defeats the purpose. If we really wanted to do it right, I’m thinking, we’d promote some big, fake, black-tie event in Ann Arbor… like a blind, lesbian string quartet from Kenya performing songs written by a Chinese political prisoner… and then rob all the rich folks when they showed up.
“WE LOVE PAT’S LEG” SINGLE… In addition to having a benefit of some kind, we’re also kicking around the idea of recording a single, like “We Are the World”, featuring a veritable who’s-who of local musicians and celebrities, all singing with great sincerity about what Pat’s leg means to them… Who wouldn’t pay $.99 to download a sweeping anthem about the importance of Patrick’s leg, right? All we need is to find someone to donate a little studio time. The song, I think, would pretty much write itself… Leg. Beg. Bipedal. Hemp nettle…
WE NEED TO RENEGOTIATE PATRICK’S DEBT… Once we find out the total of what Patrick owes, we need to determine whether or not there might be an opportunity to renegotiate his debt, structure a payment plan, etc. I have no idea how such things are done, but I imagine that there are people who have done this kind of thing before, and know how to navigate the system. Given the number of people in this country who are going broke due to medical debt, I suspect that there are now quite a few people with experience in this area, and my hope is, that through this campaign, we might be able to meet some of them, and help Pat figure out a way forward.
WE NEED TO CHANGE THE SYSTEM… It’s unconscionable, in a country as rich as ours, that people who work full-time, and play by the rules, are forced by health care bills into bankruptcy. It’s absolutely insane, and Patrick’s situation, I think, illustrates very well why health care reform is so vitally important to the future of our country.
DINNER WITH PATRICK… There was some talk of having a private dinner with Patrick that people could bid on. Patrick, I’m guessing, would make pancakes, and let you see his swollen, veiny, discolored leg.
REVISING DREAMLAND TONIGHT… Granted, it won’t pull in much money, as we never sold a ton of tickets, but I think it might be time to bring back our neighborhood, puppet-hosted talk show, and to do it for Patrick. I’m envisioning a whole leg-themed show, with us interviewing Pat’s leg, calling up Leggz in Portland, talking about the old strip club Legs on Michigan Avenue, and any number of other things.
PATRICK NEEDS INSURANCE… If, on the off chance, things fall through with Patrick’s employer, we need to find a way to get him insured, so that, the next time there’s an issue, this doesn’t happen again… Are you a single person with good insurance who would like to marry a heavily-bearded puppeteer? If so, let me know and I’ll set up a date.
A SITE WHERE PEOPLE CAN DONATE ONLINE… We haven’t done anything toward this end yet, but we know we also need to do something like a Kickstarter campaign. The first challenge is to find a platform with a name that doesn’t bring to mind kicking, or other things done with healthy legs.
I will continue to share information over the coming weeks, but I just wanted to give you a heads-up and let you know that planning is underway. If you have thoughts, please leave a comment. Or, if you’d like to help, drop me an email. I know, at the very least, we’ll need bands, a venue, an artist or two, some web people, and some folks to help with the marketing of this whole thing. Any and all assistance would be greatly appreciated.
Lastly, just a few words about Patrick, for those of you who don’t know him.
There are a lot of people in this world who do good and interesting things. Very few of them, however, actually make things happen. Patrick is one of those people. I’m reminded of the quote by Reggie Jackson, in which he referred to himself as, “the straw that stirs the drink.” I think that’s kind of what Patrick is. He’s one of those people who, for whatever reason, kind of serves as a catalyst, bringing people together, and making positive things happen. He’s the kind of guy that a community needs, and we’re damn lucky to have him. And now it’s our chance to show him how much we appreciate his work… So, what do you say Ypsi/Arbor?
[And, yes, I know it's technically both legs that are giving Patrick problems, but "Legfest" sounds a lot better than "Legsfest", so we decided to just pretend that the issue is only half as serious as it really is.]