Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Insurance Coverage....

When I was a kid I didn't think about insurance coverage.  My dad worked for Ford, a decent factory job.  His union negotiated things like a 40 hour work week, paid sick and vacation time, health care coverage and retirement.  Until he died last summer he was still on Ford's health care plan, and he'd been retired for over 20 years.  So when I was hospitalized with kidney disease as a child and needed what was essentially experimental treatment to avoid major surgery, we were covered.  And as a result, I still have healthy kidneys.

When I was 18, my coverage under my dad's plan ended.  I paid a nominal fee for campus insurance for the next three years, and then got a job with excellent health and dental benefits (my teeth still have many of the fillings paid for by that insurance - I'd likely be close to toothless without it).  During medical school I was covered at the school clinic, but not for dental (I lost a tooth during that time). Since then, I've been lucky enough to be employed in jobs that provided reasonably affordable group health insurance.

I am very lucky.  I never had any substantial gaps in coverage, and never had any significant illnesses when I did.

Let's move down a generation.

Before Affordable Healthcare, kids could be covered under their parent's insurance if they were full-time students up to (I think) age 26.  That was fine, but as everyone knows, college costs have skyrocketed, so for lower middle class kids (or anyone!) there are gaps where they take a year off to work for money for the next year.  This is what happened to my nephew.  At the ripe old age of about 20 he was diagnosed with high blood pressure (it's a family thing. It sucks, but it is what it is, you know?).  During a gap year, he was working at Walmart for just under full time. He had no coverage, and didn't have the $75 to pay for a doctor visit he needed to keep his prescription going.  That's 10 hours of work at minimum wage, right? BEFORE taxes. So he ran out of his $4 medication.  And then his pressure when up.  And then he suddenly lost the vision in part of one eye, ended up in the ER ($500) with a CT scan ($300), with follow up with an ophthomologist ($200) and so on and so on and so on.  (At minimum wage this is over 130 hours of labor, more than a month's work at a less-than-full-time no-benefits job.) This is medical care for the poor without health care.  It is endlessly costly, and they can't pay it, and the hospitals and doctors end up eating the costs and charging everybody else more to make up for it.

One of the benefits of the Affordable Healthcare Act is that kids can stay on their parents' insurance to age 26 whether or not they are attending school.  Another is that pre-existing conditions and gender cannot be held against you. For Ana, this is EVERYTHING.  As it stands now, she can stay on my insurance until she is 26, and by then I was hoping that the Affordable Healthcare Act would offer some truly affordable options.

As it was before, her insurance would have ended when she finished school.  We are barely able to manage high school, and she is enrolled on line at this point.  She is not going to graduate at 18, so we have a little more time than my head usually screams, but by 20 at the latest she'll be done.  And then....

If Affordable Healthcare is repealed in its entirety, she will have no healthcare coverage.

She is a kidney transplant patient.

Her transplant medications alone run over $7000/month.  Add in her headache medications.  Add in quarterly doctor visits ($600).  Add in quarterly Botox injections ($1500).  Add in quarterly labs ($1000 - $10000 depending on what they need).  She hasn't been hospitalized this year, but we just finished paying off what we owed from 2015.

Here's the bottom line:  We can sell our home and try to find a cheap two bedroom appartment (and if we do it will be in PA where the insurance coverage is better!) and we can cash in our retirement.  The sum total of that plus my salary would keep her going for about two years.  Maybe a bit longer. We would, of course, use some of that money to purchase a health care plan for her, but there would be a pre-existing condition clause that would exclude ALL of what is wrong with her for the first year or two, so we'd essentially be paying a lot of money for nothing for a while because that is how it used to work.

If we're lucky, we'd bridge the gap somehow and survive retirement on Social Security and part time work.  If not....the transplanted kidney would fail.  She has already said she will refuse further dialysis, so....she will die.

I am incredibly grateful for insurance coverage.  I am more than a little afraid, this morning, that we won't always have it.


Thursday, November 3, 2016

Physical Strength....

Gratitude for our bodies is something we frown upon in this country.  It's odd. We are the most narcissistic people on Earth: Snapping selfies, wishing for thigh gaps, fishing for complements on today's outfit.  But we are not supposed to appreciate ourselves, ourselves.

In 2004 I went on my first mission trip with the church.  I was morbidly obese and horridly out of shape, but young enough to get by on grit and stubborn stupidity.  At one point on a rainy afternoon (they were ALL rainy that year if I recall correctly) I stepped up about 18 inches onto the porch we were building.  Because I wasn't strong enough to lift myself up with my arms, my mud-caked boot slipped along the porch and the other shin slammed right into the front edge, with all, oh, let's be honest, 260+ pounds of me right on top of it.

I won the 'Biggest Bruise' contest that year.  I'm sure I cracked the surface of my tibia (you can still feel the callous on the front of the bone!), and bones just bleed and bleed....

It was a sentinal moment for me.

I'd already developed hypertension and was on medication.  But denial is a funny thing.  Sometimes it takes a good, solid CRACK to open your eyes.  If my body was the Temple of the Holy Spirit, well, I'm surprised she was willing to hang out there at all.  But Grace is like that.  God isn't waiting for our bodies to be better temples.  He's waiting for us to ask for help to become what he wants us to be.

I started getting in better shape.

This morning before work (I start at noon on Thursdays so don't get TOO impressed) I got up at five, walked three miles with the dogs, prepped a small bedroom for painting (cleaned out the closet, washed down the walls and woodwork following Hubby's patch-and-spackle repairs), and painted.  Up and down the ladder, trimmed around all the bookshelves, up and down two flights of stairs, and .... done. Well, there's still the woodwork, but that is Satan's own part of painting, don't you think?

If I hadn't slipped...would I be in good enough shape to do this?


Wednesday, November 2, 2016


November is gratitude month, and I already missed the first day.  Such is life, I suppose.

I've set a personal record on Blog Silence, and there is a reason:  Babygirl is growing up.  Not too long after my last post we were discussing some random thing, and she made a comment about whether or not I was going to blog about it.

Don't get me wrong. It's not as if I didn't know she knew about the blog.  But the blog's been here for over five years and it was the first time I could recall hearing her mention it.  And there was something in the WAY she mentioned it that made me wonder:  Does she mind?

You have to understand there there are hundreds of intimate details of our lives that never make it into the blog.  I DO have a filter of sorts.  But there are details that perhaps, now, need a better filter.  A more mature eye.  A gentler hand.

Today I am grateful for maturity.  I am grateful that Babygirl and I have survived five and a half years of chronic kidney disease together, and that she has had the chance to grow into a young adult in my home. But she is a different person than I am, quieter and more private.  More SnapChat and less Facebook, if you will.

So, the first 699 posts were Kid.  This is post #700. We have the kidney.  Maybe time for things to shift.