On Buying Health Insurance

There are more choices than there are distinctions. It’s impossible to see what’s different between various policies without being a statistician and actuary. I’m pretty math savvy and my head is swimming!

In the past we depended on insurance to help beginning with dollar one. Now, I’m wondering how important ‘dollar one’ really is.

obamacareSince I left FoxCT I have been insured through COBRA, the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. All that means is no employer subsidy. I’m paying 100%.

Insurance is expensive. You probably already knew that.

Eighteen months have passed. I’m forced to get coverage on my own. This is among the most confusing things I’ve ever done!

First the good news. Under the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, I can buy insurance! How that would have worked out before, considering my back surgery two summers ago and my age? All I know is, I’m insurable.

My beef with Obamacare is it doesn’t go far enough. Why do we bother with private insurance? Why must we confuse everyone? The rest of the world seems to prefer a single payer system. Seniors seem happy with Medicare.

There are too many choices.

Let me refine that. There are more choices than there are distinctions. It’s impossible to see what’s different between various policies without being a statistician or actuary. I’m pretty math savvy and my head is swimming!

In the past we depended on insurance to help beginning with dollar one. Now, I’m wondering how important ‘dollar one’ really is. Are we better off ‘self insuring’ for common medical problems and letting insurance kick in at big dollar amounts? How much out-of-pocket can I take?

Within the next day or two we will reach a decision. I wish it was a more educated decision.

How To Get Connecticut Snowfall Totals

Doppler Versus Snow

This time of year there’s a steady barrage of incoming messages looking for Connecticut snowfall totals. Some folks are curious. Others want to make sure their plow contractor isn’t overcharging, or they’re plow contractors who’d like to charge more!

The info isn’t easily obtained, especially for smaller towns. If you’re looking for Connecticut snowfall totals, here’s where I go.

The most complete source is the Connecticut Department of Transportation Weather Roundup. These are collected every two hours at DOT yards across Connecticut. Because of the methodology used the cumulative snowfall total is always more than what’s actually settled on the ground.

The National Weather Service splits Connecticut between three Weather Service Forecast Offices. That makes things more difficult. You’ll have to look at all three Public Information Statements to put the info together.

Shoreline counties: National Weather Service Forecast Office, Upton, NY.

Hartford, Tolland and Windham Counties: National Weather Service Forecast Office, Taunton, MA.

Litchfield County: National Weather Service Forecast Office, Albany, NY.

Snowfall and other weather data is often critical in accidents and contract disputes. For those more exacting cases when just numbers on paper (or a screen) aren’t enough I provide forensic meteorological services for attorneys and insurance companies.

Back To Work

I’ve had two epidurals, an MRI, countless x-rays, blood tests, EKGs a few days in the hospital and full fledged back surgery. My insurance policy has a maximum yearly out-of-pocket which I’ll surely reach.

Since August 16 I haven’t worn real shoes. Until this past Friday I hadn’t even driven a car.

I return to work Monday. It’s my first time on-the-job since Thursday, August 16. That’s 53 days spent mostly on my side and definitely off my feet!

I’ve had two epidurals, an MRI, countless x-rays, blood tests, EKGs a few days in the hospital and full fledged back surgery.

My insurance policy has a maximum yearly out-of-pocket which I’ll surely reach.

Since August 16 I haven’t worn real shoes. Until this past Friday I hadn’t even driven a car.

Helaine and I began walking Friday. There’s very little discomfort, but also diminished stamina. That’s to be expected. Walking will begin my physical comeback.

My sleeping schedule has been wildly erratic. I went to bed early (for me) last night–around 4:00 AM. Even though I slept nearly nine hours I still took a nap before dinner. In that regard I’m spoiled.

Is there a way to do that at work? Probably not.

I’ve already written and recorded the audio track for tomorrow’s science story on MRIs! Report what you know, right?

My plan is to get to work a little early tomorrow. There are people to see and forms to deliver. I have learned extended time away is loaded with paperwork!

I also understand Short Term Disability. I’ve seen it on my check for decades. Until now I had no clue exactly what it was.

Helaine has baked! Just like my first day at FoxCT/Hartford Courant, my first day back brings chocolate chip cookies for my co-workers.

I’m not supposed to lift. Hopefully I can find someone who will help me carry my load from the car. Extra cookies for whoever does!

Today’s Word: Subrogation

If you’re insured it’s a cost without a benefit.

For those wondering, I’m not cured yet. I am still hobbled by pain in my leg caused by a pinched nerve. It is being pinched by a herniated disk.

Sounds (and is) complex!

The busted parts are in my back. The pain is in my leg. I’m still having difficulty coming to grips with that.

I’ve seen three doctors, had an X-ray and an MRI. I’ve also had two epidurals–all the fun getting an injection in your spine should be!

My journey has not ended.

The medical bills have started to dribble in. I will have a significant responsibility just with my co-pays and deductibles.

Without insurance… well I just can’t imagine.

I am appreciative of my employer’s insurance plan, but this is just one more reason we need a national single payer insurance system&#185.

Costs from an illness like mine can easily grow beyond anyone’s ability to pay. How many thousands of dollars have you put away for a random rainy day? I am thankful this will not be my problem, but I get it.

My main concern is getting better. As I’ve discovered, pain is no fun.

I am hoping my insurance company wants me well too, but I know that’s not their only concern. For instance it would be great for them if they didn’t have to pay my claim. That’s the reason for the letter I got today.

The letter has my insurance company’s name and logo on the top. They didn’t send it. It comes from “a leading independent provider of outsourced insurance subrogation, claims recovery and cost containment solutions for the healthcare payor and property and casualty industries.”

“Subrogation,” that’s the operative word. Subrogation means my insurance company would like to find someone else responsible for paying my bill. If my pain was caused by an auto injury or some on-the-job accident the cost wouldn’t be their responsibility.

I cannot blame insurance companies for exploring this option. No one… no company wants to pay a cent more than they owe! Mitt Romney’s, “I pay all the taxes owed. And not a penny more,” works here too.

Here’s the problem, subrogation isn’t free. Sure individual insurance companies will save money on individual claims, but subrogation itself costs. Subrogation doesn’t reduce how much money is paid, only who pays it. It could save my insurance companies money.

Oh, cmon, who’s kidding whom? My boss and I pay for subrogation. It’s part of my insurance bill and it provides no coverage or care.

If you’re insured it’s a cost without a benefit.

I called the subrogation company tonight. “Unusually high call volume,” so I tried their website. I went back to the phone after I realized all the options on their webform were aimed at finding my pain was caused by an accident or injury someone else could pay for. The questions were written in a way that made it difficult for me to answer honestly.

My phone call lasted under five minutes. Case for subrogation closed.

I wish the woman on the other side would have said, “I hope you feel better,” as we parted. It isn’t part of her concern.

I’ve come to the conclusion most people opposing single payer healthcare have had little interaction with today’s for profit system. If we had national healthcare this defensive cost would disappear and the money could be spent on getting people well… or lower premiums.

&#185 – Go ahead, call it socialized medicine. That’s fine with me.

My Thoughts While Filling Out Insurance Forms

As I considered my future and the thought of taking a chance and starting a business my thoughts kept coming back to insurance.

My unemployment didn’t last that long. Though I didn’t work for three months I was still paid for two. Not too awful. I spent a lot of time on my butt on the sofa thinking about my future and what I wanted to do.

One suspicion I had before unemployment was reinforced during it. It concerns insurance.

I was thinking about this because I spent a great part of last night and this morning filling out insurance forms online. As a new employee I qualify as of May 1.

I know this is a controversial subject. People are worried about “Death Panels” and government mandated care. Can we divorce this post from that for a moment?

As I considered my future and the thought of taking a chance and starting a business my thoughts kept coming back to insurance. Without it everything I own would be at stake. I’m not talking about luxuries. Everything is at stake! Get sick, get wiped out.

Doesn’t that make starting a business too much of a risk for anyone with a family?

Without insurance starting a business is daunting! Not just for a start-up either. A close relative once told me she feared moving her small business out-of-state because she might not be able to obtain insurance after the move.

If we’re a nation that values entrepreneurs and small businesses doesn’t universal healthcare insurance encourage that?

Phone Heaven/Phone Hell

I knew I was in trouble when the voice prompt asked if I wanted more information about my prescription. “No, said I. The disembodied computer voice told me anyway!

A few weeks ago I wrote about my trouble getting Stef’s Connecticut registration properly off-the-books. After a little phone tree hell I spoke with Jackie–my guardian angel at the DMV. Today I met her equally angelic co-worker Ann.

As it turns out there was still paperwork to be processed and a few hoops to jump before we could be straightened out.

“Don’t worry,” said Ann.

You know what? I won’t!

For my end of the deal I cajoled Stef to take a photo of her current insurance card and email it to me. I then forwarded the photo to Ann.

I so want this journey to be over, but this is the DMV. Its evil might be more powerful than the combined goodness of Jackie and Ann.

As long as I was trying my luck on the phone I rang up my insurance company to renew a prescription. They make it cheaper to get the drugs by mail but then make you jump through hoops!

Insurance companies and other users of voice driven systems try their best to reduce their employees time on the phone. Unfortunately, they are free and easy with mine. It’s almost as though they don’t care.

OK–not almost. They really don’t care about my time. Do they?

I knew I was in trouble when the voice prompt asked if I wanted more information about my prescription. “No,” said I. The disembodied computer voice told me anyway!

After any yes/no question was answered by me the automated voice waited three or four seconds before giving an acknowledgment. It was a demeaning experience. Truth is we’ve democratized this type of experience to the point where everyone is uniformly treated like crap!

The low point came when my order had been entered. I was told my cost would be $70. The voice then asked if I still wanted to get the prescription filled!

If you want to know what’s wrong with our insurance system there’s a perfect example. No one should ever have to answer that question. No one should deprive themselves of needed medication because it’s expensive. I can afford the drugs, but I’m sure people hear that $70 prompt every day and are forced to say “No.”

In the end every part of my prescription experience was cold, uninviting and devoid of human compassion. Maybe the idea of the insurance company is to discourage me from spending their money. Ya’ think?

If Ann and Jackie could handle all my calls for help the world would be a much better place!