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Facing financial calamity after fateful collision, Marilyn Hayward forges ahead

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on December 13th, 2013 at 11:14 am

Coventry Cycle Works-3
Coventry Cycle Works owner Marilyn Hayward outside her shop on SE Hawthorne Blvd.
(Photos by J. Maus/BikePortland)

On August 8th of last year, Marilyn Hayward was riding her bike westbound on North Adair Street in Cornelius (a small town about 20 miles west of downtown Portland). As she approached the intersection of 10th Avenue, she was involved in a collision with Garold Howe, who was driving his car (a Toyota Prius) southbound on 10th. Hayward hit the left front quarter-panel of Howe's car, then according to the police report, "made one or two flips" before landing back on the road.

The impact broke Hayward's collarbone and knocked her unconscious. She was rushed to the intensive care unit at Legacy Emanuel Hospital where she spent 30 days before being released. Hayward racked up $160,000 in medical bills. And to "add insult to injury" as she says, Howe's insurance company sent her a bill for $4,600 to pay for the dent her body made in his car.

Hayward, who turns 65 in January, is the owner of Coventry Cycle Works, a recumbent and specialty bike dealer in southeast Portland. She bought that store in 2009 and then expanded with a second store in Beaverton back in February.

You'd think that a successful business owner who's well known in the community could rebound from an unfortunate situation like this; but there's more to this story than you've heard. Yes, friends and family raised $40,000 for Hayward in a fundraising campaign right after the collision, but it wasn't nearly enough.

Hayward didn't have health insurance. An avid bike rider who rarely got sick or used the hospital, she cancelled her policy to free up some cash when she bought Coventry Cycles in 2009, and never got around to signing back up ("I was just so caught up in running the shop," she said). And, since the Cornelius Police Department found her at-fault in the collision (a decision Hayward vehemently disagrees with), she received no recompense from Howe's car insurance. To make matters worse, she seriously over-extended her finances to open the second store in Beaverton and it never performed as expected.

Coventry Cycle Works-2 Coventry Cycle Works-1
Coventry employees like Adam Amundsen (L) and Jonathan Garcia are committed to the shop's success.

I've known Hayward from local bike circles and from pedaling together on Cycle Oregon in 2006 and 2007. She was always smiling and a joy to be around; the type of person who emanated warmth. When she called and wanted to get together a month ago, I didn't suspect anything other than a chat about business and bikes. When she told me she was on the brink of financial ruin, facing depression and uncertain about her future, I wasn't sure how to respond. At that point, she hadn't told anyone about how bad things had gotten and she carried the immense weight of the situation completely alone.

The person on the other side of the table that day wasn't the Marilyn I knew. Scared, anxious, and far from a smile, she needed help, and it had to come fast. Thankfully, the hospital had settled on her bills; but payments were coming due on several high-interest loans she (regrettably) took out this past fall in order to keep the Beaverton store afloat. The thought of losing her business, her home, and her personal pride for something she feels was no fault of her own was overwhelming.

Since we met, she's closed the Beaverton store for good and filed bankruptcy in order to protect the Portland store and her other remaining assets.

None of this should have happened to Marilyn Hayward. She's a confident, successful woman who repeatedly told me that prior to this year she had never been late on a bill since she was 18. "Never!" she added for emphasis. The display cabinet in her bike shop features a plaque from one of her suppliers proclaiming Coventry as "Vendor of the Year." Now, due to the bankruptcy, Coventry Cycles is on cash-only terms with all suppliers.

"I've lost everything all because a guy hit me. Through no fault of my own. And the police didn't do justice. They assumed I was "just" a bicyclist and that I was a red-light running yahoo."

So what happened? How did things go so wrong?

Hayward says she suffered a brain injury in the collision last August that is only now beginning to fully heal. She says the injury impacted her judgment and caused her to make bad decisions.

Hayward had dreamed about opening a second store in Beaverton for years, but explained to me recently that after being released from the hospital she became manic about it. "I had to have that shop!", she recalled. She also described being extremely emotional, having fits of rage and losing her temper with her employees — all personality traits common to brain injuries but foreign to her. "I went into the Beaverton store deal as a nutcase, I signed lease papers without reading them, borrowed on credit cards... I was clueless that anything was wrong at the time... The old me would have never done that."

The way Hayward handled the Beaverton move was all-the-more strange given her previous career as a budget manager in the corporate finance division of the Fred Meyer Corporation where she was responsible for a $3.8 billion budget and 132 stores.

With the bankruptcy filing, the Hawthorne store (one of Portland's oldest) now has at least a fighting chance at survival. It has to survive for at least four more years, says Hayward, because that's how long it will take to pay back her debts through the bankruptcy proceedings. Lucky for her she has an excellent staff, all of whom are supportive and committed to making it through this tough time.

Coventry employee Jonathan Garcia says the loyalty of their customer base has never been more important than it is now.

I met with Hayward again last week to get an update on things. She was still somber and uncertain about the future — but I sensed a glimmer of hope in her voice and body language that wasn't there a month before. Instead of being fixated on what felt like impending doom, she'd regained a bit of her fighting spirit.

"It's only time for us to forge ahead," she said.

What keeps her going is her bike shop. Coventry isn't like any other shop around. In addition to deep expertise and connections in the recumbent world, they also serve customers with special needs. Three-wheelers, four-wheelers, hand-cycles, Coventry's mechanics are experienced around people who face physical challenges and the bikes that offer them a lifeline. (We profiled Coventry Cycles and the important niche they fill back in 2010.)

While Hayward can finally look forward with hope, she still harbors anger and resentment about the fateful collision on August 8th, 2012. The most animated part of our recent meeting came when I asked her what aspect of these past 16 months weighs most heavily on her mind. Without hesitation she answered, "I've lost everything all because a guy hit me. Through no fault of my own. And the police didn't do justice. They assumed I was "just" a bicyclist and that I was a red-light running yahoo." Then, wiping away tears, she continued, "and that's just wrong."

Hayward contends that the Cornelius PD officers that investigated her collision went out of their way to absolve Mr. Howe. Their own police report contains conflicting witness accounts about who had the green light. But, Hayward says, the police didn't use two witness statements that supported her innocence. One of them said Howe was driving "like a bat out of hell" and another witness said Hayward had the green light — but police said he was under 18 and therefore declined to use his statement.

Hayward even went so far as to work through a lawyer and pay $500 to an accident reconstruction crew. Their findings support Hayward's innocence and she'd love to bring the case back to court in hopes of finding at least some fault on the part of the driver. That finding could trigger financial compensation from his insurance company. Unfortunately, Hayward would have to come up with $4,000 in legal costs just to move the case forward.

That option is still on the table, but it comes with risks. Not only could Hayward possibly lose the appeal, but because of where she and Howe lived at the time of the collision, the case would be heard in a Washington County court — which is likely to be a lot less kind to a bicycle rider than a Multnomah County court.

At this point, Hayward is resolved to keep on fighting. And now that everyone knows what happened, she isn't facing it alone.

The way forward goes through Coventry Cycle Works, a shop that has been a valuable part of our community for decades. If the shop succeeds, Hayward can pay her debts and dig out of this hole. If everyone who reads this stops by the shop for one purchase a month (and tells all their friends to do the same), we can help Marilyn, help Coventry, and ultimately help ourselves.

Coventry is located at 2025 SE Hawthorne (corner Hawthorne and 20th). Check out CoventryCycle.com to see what they carry and take note of their winter hours below:

    Wednesday - Saturday: 10am - 6pm
    Sunday: 12pm - 4pm
    Monday & Tuesday: Closed

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Comments
  • Esther December 13, 2013 at 11:27 am

    Thank you for this great article Jonathan. I have always enjoyed great customer service at Coventry and look forward to continuing to take our tandem there for service (and maybe, hopefully, someday buying a Hase Pino there too). I am also thankful for your in depth look at her brain injury. The more we know about brain injuries, the more they are destigmatized and people will understand some of the behaviors caused by brain injuries.

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  • Dave December 13, 2013 at 11:53 am

    Two things stand out: 1. Capitalism and medicine do not mix, not at all.
    Medicine should be as close to 100% socialized as possible.
    2. Motor vehicle operators have grossly excessive legal and civil rights especially in collision (not "accident") situations. Drivers in collisions with smaller entities should be considered guilty under the law until proven innocent.

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    • Alan 1.0 December 13, 2013 at 7:55 pm

      Capitalism and medicine do not mix

      It seems to have some shortfalls in the justice system, too.

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    • q`Tzal December 15, 2013 at 9:47 pm

      Been thinking we, as a nation, need to separate necessary services like health care from employment.
      Sure your employer may offer to cover some of your health plan but it shouldn't be tied to a particular employer nor should the employer have any input as to the benefits of the plan that a private individual pays for (ie Hobby Lobby trying to refuse women's reproductive options).
      It may even be wise to take every possible leverage away from an employer other than wage/salary; as long as it is cheaper to employ 2 people on 12 hour shifts rather than 3 people on 8 hour shifts we will see our employment patterns shift towards China's Foxconn 60+ hour shifts. Require the option to employ more people for lesser hours and we might just lower unemployment for the next few decades... until robots can do all our jobs.

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  • Granpa December 13, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    I know where I will buy my next pair of tires.

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  • Dan Morrison December 13, 2013 at 12:24 pm

    Could you post the insurance company, name of the person who sent the letter that she should pay for the car, and the phone number to reach the claims specialist?

    If community outrage can sway Specialized Bikes from being litigious bullies, maybe we can also intimidate insurance companies. It's doubtful but worth a try.

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  • GlowBoy December 13, 2013 at 12:38 pm

    Wow, so sad to hear this. There but for the grace of [insert deity or random event generator of your belief] go any of us.

    I'm with Dave on socialized medical insurance. But since we apparently can't have that, once we get to near-universal private coverage it ought to be no-fault. Then, necessary medical care is covered by an individual's own insurance and we don't all have to sue each other and attempt to prove who's "to blame" all the time. I suppose the lawyers will never let us have that though.

    I hope she keeps getting better, and that the shop does well. It sure would be great if someone in the community with deeper pockets could step forward and help with her file the lawsuit she needs to make things right. I've been to Coventry a couple of times and it is a great place indeed.

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  • Paul in the 'couve December 13, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    A very sad story. The difficulties of judgement following a brain injury have been demonstrated in my family. It is hard as even as a family member to recognize that someone's judgement is out of whack and figure out how to help them. I hope Marilynn succeeds with Coventry and that she gets financial help from the drivers insurance and justice.

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  • Trek 3900 December 13, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    A few things stand out for me:

    1) This is a most unfortunate thing to happen to an apparently good person and I'll go buy something at Coventry Cycles to help out. Maybe they will have a donation box and I'll drop in a 20. (Please empty the box frequently so it isn't a big loss if it's stolen!!!) Jonathan, let us know if there is a donation box.
    2) Apparently our courts are corrupt if you have a better chance in one location than another.
    3) I do question the decision that it was her fault, but there are few particulars (her speed, his speed, unclear who had the green, time of day, day or night, bike lights or not, high-viz clothing worn or not, etc) given here so there is no way to judge. SO IF YOU GO TO COURT, have a better story - the one above isn't going to cut it.
    4) Apparently the cycle shop isn't that profitable or else she would have been able to afford health insurance. Health insurance is kind of important and this story shows why it is important.
    5) Under Obama-care she would now be paying fines for failure to have health insurance. That's going to help her, right? NOT!
    6) Currently about 5,000,000 people have had or soon will have medical insurance dropped because of Obama-care. Then, right after the 2014 elections (was before elections but was slyly changed to after a couple weeks ago) many 10's of millions more will lose health insurance because there employer plans do not qualify, or because it is advantageous for employers to drop them. THEN those people will be forced to buy expensive plans that they don't want or else pay fines to the IRS - that's going to help them, right? NOT!
    7) Comment above about socialized medicine is wrong. I can spend my health insurance dollars far more efficiently than a bloated Federal bureaucracy.

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    • Alan Love December 13, 2013 at 1:08 pm

      I invested in a helmet cam to help reduce the possibility of something like this happening. As someone who bikes the same way he drives, responsibly and following the rules at least as well any other driver, I refuse to be found at fault simply because "those bike riders are always the ones running red lights." Assuming the camera survives (and me too, I hope) the collision, video evidence trumps heresay.

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      • Paul Atkinson December 13, 2013 at 2:13 pm

        I've done exactly the same, for the same reason. One thing I've noticed is that the camera (it's quite visible) seems to make drivers act more considerate in my immediate vicinity...even stowing their phones when they see me see them.

        Of course wearing a helmet cam necessitates wearing a helmet, so that might not work for everyone here.

        And to anyone still without health insurance, please let some good come of this sad story: now would be a great time to sign up.

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        • Bill Walters December 13, 2013 at 4:42 pm

          Agreed: A helmet does zero to prevent collisions, but it's the most effective mount for my mirror and cam.

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    • Scott December 13, 2013 at 2:22 pm

      Why should you spend any money on health costs? Health as a for profit industry is a bad idea. There is a person armed with a dictionary of Latin terms and the more of them said person applies to each case, the more the money goes up. Reinforce all this with giant medical corporations for whom the fines they may face for encouraging doctors to prescribe their drugs usually equal about 8 hours of total revenue and you have a recipe for disaster.

      Socializing is a bad word for what needs to happen to healthcare because it brings up ancient Cold War feelings. The USSR is not trying to take over America through medicine. The USSR no longer even exists. Just think about taking unchecked profit out of healthcare.

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    • Oliver December 13, 2013 at 2:25 pm

      "I can spend my health insurance dollars more efficiently"

      No, you can't. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, administrative costs in Medicare are only about 2 percent of operating expenditures. Defenders of the insurance industry estimate administrative costs as 17 percent of revenue, and that figure excludes marketing costs and profits from their calculation of administrative costs.

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    • Alex Reed December 13, 2013 at 2:47 pm

      BikePortland moderators, thanks for deleting my earlier response to this comment - it wasn't welcoming; I'm sorry!

      Point 6) is pretty shaky in my opinion. Just because insurers are claiming that Obamacare is the reason they are dropping people's policies doesn't mean that's actually the case. For-profit companies have been known to lie or tell half-truths pretty frequently when it's in their financial interest to do so.

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    • Alan 1.0 December 13, 2013 at 8:45 pm

      If you're interested in comparing health care systems and their respective costs, a good starting point with lots of references is The Healing of America by T. R. Reid. In case you're worried that I'm shoving some pinko-commie pro-Obama stuff down your throat, here's a quote:

      "But the sad truth is that, even with this [PPACA] ambitious reform, the United States will still have the most complicated, the most expensive, and the most inequitable health care system of any developed nation."

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    • Kristen December 16, 2013 at 12:57 pm

      "5) Under Obama-care she would now be paying fines for failure to have health insurance. That's going to help her, right? NOT!"

      Actually, because Coventry is so small (2 employees and the owner-- not sure of the entity status of Coventry, so don't know if the owner is considered an employee as well), they aren't required to provide health insurance. The fines only apply to businesses with 50 or more full time equivalent employees. Plus, the fines have been put off until at least 2015 if not further.

      Actually, if Cover Oregon would get their heads out of their butts, as a small employer she may qualify for a tax credit if she provides health insurance to her employees. She would need to talk with her CPA to figure out how much it would be-- however, to get the credit she would need to go through the state exchange. Which isn't working-- I know because I've tried, and my insurance broker has tried. He's even more frustrated than I am.

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  • Joe December 13, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    no way :( get well soon, wrong the system seems to back the drivers these days, plus you can't hear those cars behind you anyway seems unsafe to me when they creep up on me.

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    • Paul Worden December 16, 2013 at 2:39 pm

      They won't be able to creep up if you fit and use a mirror.

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  • nuovorecord December 13, 2013 at 1:07 pm

    I'm sure I need something for my bikes that I can get at Coventry. Think I'll mosey over there tomorrow.

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  • andrew burke December 13, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    As a committed bicyclist, I've always been impressed by Coventry, starting back when Sherman was the owner, and now too. It's a good shop, they know their business, and they do good work. And, gosh darnit, I think my Catrike needs some maintenance....

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  • CaptainKarma December 13, 2013 at 3:18 pm

    Wow, sending some extra love to balance out the political commentary more appropriate to AM talk radio. I love the community spirit here and will beat feet down to Coventry with my business. Thanks BP for putting out the word. 'Tis the season for compassion, no?

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  • Portland's One-Stop Electric Bicycle Shop December 13, 2013 at 4:27 pm

    Buy Coventry Gift Cards for folks on your list this year!

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  • esther c December 13, 2013 at 7:07 pm

    As we baby boomers age more of us will need what Coventry offers. I hope she is able to stay in business.

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  • nancybee December 13, 2013 at 7:20 pm

    I am planning to buy a trike from Coventry. And now I feel even more determined to pull it off!

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  • Cory Poole December 13, 2013 at 8:57 pm

    I think they have the best selection of bike flags. Looks like we might need some new accessories!

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  • Trek 3900 December 13, 2013 at 9:36 pm

    "No, you can't. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, administrative costs in Medicare are only about 2 percent of operating expenditures. Defenders of the insurance industry estimate administrative costs as 17 percent of revenue, and that figure excludes marketing costs and profits from their calculation of administrative costs."

    Yes, we can. (The irony, eh?) Obama-care isn't medicare. Obama-care forces many people to buy coverage they will never use, so even if the administrative costs were 0, their premiums will be 30% higher than the premiums of a policy that better fits their needs. Right off the bat you are behind 13%, but administrative costs for Obama-care will be astronomical simply because it is so complex. Many of the costs will be indirect - they will be costs associated with less hiring, higher unemployment, an army of IRS bureaucrats to enforce the fines, the intangible costs of loss of your freedom to do as you wish with the money you earn, invasion of privacy with the medical records requirements, and finally loss of your freedom to breath as the nation that allows you to exist crumbles into mediocrity (we're there now), and finally total economic collapse (soon to follow).

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    • q`Tzal December 15, 2013 at 9:57 pm

      The new system is definitely worse than "single payer" health care like other civilized nations but for now we're stuck with this kludge.
      If bakes in corporate profits but it does so at the cost of more government oversight and restrictions than the health insurance industry has ever had to deal with.
      Ignoring the bungling of the federal enrollment website, which was predictable, (they should have put the NSA in charge of it: those are some people that know how to store and secure vast amounts of personal data) the ACA has the potential to be a stepping stone to actual health insurance business practice transparency. With such transparency comes the public horror at seeing how "the sausage factory works" and the political will to push for a real health care system.

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  • Whyat December 14, 2013 at 12:38 pm

    Coventry is a fantastic shop whether you ride recumbent or not. Their service department is top notch (recumbent or not) and they are one of the nicest groups of bike employees you will meet in Portland. They always went well out of their way to help me with any of my biking needs. I REALLY hope they can make it.

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  • Bill Stites December 14, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    Thank you, Jonathan, for writing this story.
    Respectfully, your description of Marilyn's injuries is woefully inadequate. She sustained a SERIOUS BRAIN INJURY, not simply "knocked her unconscious". My understanding is that she almost died.
    I appreciate that you're coming from a wonderful place with this story, just want folks who are not yet familiar with the story to understand the true gravity of her injuries.

    I, too, am Coventry-bound. Someone mentioned gift cards - great idea.

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  • Andrea McB December 14, 2013 at 2:37 pm

    I can personally attest to Marilyn's former financial savvy. When I first met her she had only just acquired Coventry Cycles, Hawthorne. I was trying to motivate her to spend extra advertising dollars, earlier than she had planned. She politely declined saying she needed to wait until she had this specific opportunity in the budget.
    Aaron and I support you Marilyn. As a WashCo residents, we pledge $200 towards attorney fees and your appeal. WashCo is looking for ways to be more bike friendly, lets start here.

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  • Alex Reed December 14, 2013 at 5:47 pm

    Inspired by this article, I went to Coventry today. What a great shop, packed with cool stuff and friendly employees. I found plenty to interest me and my wallet despite being recumbent-less. They have a great selection of racks and I ended up finding a good front rack for my purposes out of 5+ choices!

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  • Triker Tom December 14, 2013 at 5:59 pm

    I too would like to see an investigation take a closer look at what really happened. Marilyn has always been highly visible on her Bacchetta and she has always been a very aware cyclist. The single claim she ran a light just doesn't sound like what many of us know about Marilyn.

    As for health insurance; now that I have been working with Cover Oregon since the opening day, I can honestly tell you, what a mess! It is highly possible that for the 1st time in 54 years I will not be covered come January 1st regardless of the promises and commitments made to me by Cover Oregon. If you are working with Cover Oregon and are awaiting information, call them!

    And I will add to this that lights do help! I depend on my front lights more than the rear. All too often I see the deer in the headlight look when someone locks the binders when they notice me at the last minute before they are about to run a stop from a side street. A very bright, annoying strobe will be seen in daylight. And that could be the difference between riding another day or having your life turned upside down. Maybe you can go to Coventry and tell them to fix you up with the brightest headlight they have.

    We do love you Marilyn. All the best!

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  • Trek 3900 December 14, 2013 at 8:34 pm

    Alan, Paul, and Bill above:
    The helmet cam idea sounds like a good one. What make/model of helmet cam do you recommend?????

    I think I'll just drop my donation in the mail. Looks like the address is:
    Marilyn Hayward
    Coventry Cycle Works
    2025 SE Hawthorne
    Portland, OR 97214

    Liberal Warren Buffett says scrap Obamacare and start over:
    http://moneymorning.com/ob-article/obamacare-buffett.php?code=t-oc-buffett

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    • q`Tzal December 15, 2013 at 10:05 pm

      Scraping the ACA without an improvement over the old system is a regression.
      The ACA is a copy the Republican response to single payer health care that was implemented on the state level by a Republican governor in Massachusetts. It was pushed by this administration most likely because both parties enjoy fraudulent kickbacks from corporate donors.

      Sadly the old system sucks more. We definitely need something better than state mandated health insurance graft.

      PS: only on a conservative website is Warren Buffet a liberal.

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    • Bill Walters December 16, 2013 at 1:17 pm

      I have a GoPro Hero 2. It's good except the mini-USB port wears out -- so eventually you'll need to remove the battery and memory card whenever you charge and download. The 3 is out now, but I've never used it. Both have the boxy "yes, this is a camera -- not a light" shape.

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      • dr2chase December 17, 2013 at 2:15 pm

        Not sure you want the Hero 3 for a bike camera -- my wife specifically told me that I was NOT getting the latest GoPro for Christmas, because they adjust the focus to make it more appropriate for taking selfies.

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  • Mike Quigley December 15, 2013 at 6:14 am

    Ahem.... Single payer anyone? Medicare for all? Hello. Anybody out there? I guess not.....

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    • Opus the Poet December 15, 2013 at 8:32 pm

      Works for me except I live in Texas and we won't get any kind of "socialized" medicine. Hell I qualify for Medicaid in most states but not in TX because I have more than $100 in savings.

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  • Dave December 16, 2013 at 9:13 pm

    Some of this story is confusing and contradictory. I'm gonna get flamed for this, but here I go...

    This article says Marilyn was a healthy person who decided to go without health insurance for a while because she didn't need it. Earlier stories mentioned she's a cancer survivor who couldn't afford insurance because of her previous medical history - that was part of the appeal for the fund raising activities after the accident.

    This story also mentions her medical bills, how much the fund raisers brought in, and that the hospital settled. Don't know if that means they took what her friends could scrape together or arranged other terms - but "settled" sounds to me like medical bills are not the primary concern of the moment.

    What I'm inferring from the story is that her current financial straits are almost entirely from being over-extended from money she sunk into the Beaverton store. Not the accident itself or medical expenses. Though she's claiming the poor judgement as a result of a brain injury from the accident - I can't see how that is an indictment of medial insurance system, courts, accident investigations, insurance companies, or anything else being implied by the article and the follow-up commentary.

    I don't mean to be at all critical of Marilyn - it's just the way this article is written doesn't make sense to me. I wish her the best and will continue to spend my money at Coventry - that's the best way to help.

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