By the end of the preseason, it had become clear that Still — who was hobbled by injuries last season — was neither physically nor mentally in a position to compete at the professional level. He was too distracted, and it was clear that as a team, the Bengals could not keep the 25-year-old former All-American. On August 30th, the Bengals placed Still and 12 others on waivers.
On August 31st, Still received news that the Bengals had named him to the team’s 10-man practice squad. As a result, Still will able to keep his health insurance, and will make a salary of $6,300 a week. Best of all, he won’t have to travel as often as he would had he been on the active roster, giving him more time with Leah.
“I completely understand where the Bengals were coming from when they cut me because I couldn’t give football 100,” Still told ABC News. “They could have washed their hands with me and said they didn’t care about what I was going through off the field. It’s like a blessing in disguise for me.”
It’s expected that the cost of Leah’s treatment will reach seven figures, but as a result of the Bengals’ gesture, it will all be covered by insurance.
Still’s situation highlights a struggle faced by hundreds of thousands of Americans every year. What happens when you or a relative get sick? As health insurance is often tied to employment, many Americans find themselves working through the illness of themselves or family members in hopes of staying insured, being able to pay deductibles and co-payments, and just generally, to be able to have income on the other side of this struggle.
The Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 is one of the few safety nets in place for individuals in these types of situations, though even that is imperfect. While the FMLA grants any employee the ability to take 12 unpaid weeks off work in order to care for themselves or a family member, the question remains: what happens after 12 weeks? Leaving a job remains a risky option as there’s no guarantee that one will find work after the dust of their medical emergency has settled. Mired in debt and jobless, these individuals often find themselves forced to file for bankruptcy. It’s this system — even with FMLA and the Affordable Care Act to ease the pain — that still enables medical debt to wreak such havoc on the financial standing of working class Americans, being the leading cause of all bankruptcies.
What the Bengals did for Devon Still and his family is an amazing, gracious gesture. What we need to remember is that so many others are tossed aside as Still feared he would be.
Let us not forget the hurdles in healthcare that remain post-ACA, and let us never stop pushing for a world in which we can all breathe the sigh of relief Still was able to. For him, for his daughter, now begins the real fight. Shouldn’t that be the only one?