You may or may not remember Micah Bowie, who pitched partial seasons for the Braves, Cubs and Rockies and a couple of seasons each for the A’s and Nats. He saw his last big league action in 2008, retired and opened up a baseball academy with his wife in his home state of Texas.
Today we learn from this wrenching story in the Washington Post that Bowie is experiencing life-threatening medical problems, is in constant, debilitating pain and that he’s getting far less help than you might expect he would given the circumstances.
The circumstances: after retiring, he sought medical treatment for chronic back pain which developed during his playing career. He received a medical implant that was supposed to deal with it, but it malfunctioned and damaged his lungs and ruptured his diaphragm, making it impossible for him to breathe without massive amounts of supplemental oxygen. Each breath he takes could be his last and, meanwhile, he suffers near constant excruciating pain.
Compounding it: (a) Texas’ doctor-friendly medical malpractice laws foreclose him from suing; (b) surgery to fix his problems is so risky that no doctor will do it; and (c) the disability plan administered by Major League Baseball and the Players Union has denied him benefits because he didn’t get enough service time to vest for blanket coverage and they denied coverage under the baseball injury exception that would otherwise apply because, they say, his issues were caused by medical malpractice, not baseball.
Bowie actually has health insurance, but his bills have been so massive — around half a million dollars — that he still owes $25,000-30,000 a year in copays and uncovered treatments. His family has had to sell their business and drain the kids’ college funds. It’s a state of affairs in which many, many families find themselves due to the nature of the healthcare system in this country. It’s somewhat shocking, though, to be reminded that it can even happen to someone who is only 44 years-old, has made a decent living and actually has health insurance.
There is some hope offered at the end of the article, with the suggestion that Bowie is beginning to get some help from the Baseball Assistance Team, which reaches out to ex-players in need, but his situation remains dire. Here’s hoping he can find sufficient health, both medical and financial, before it’s too late.