Friday, January 08, 2010

A Fun Day and a Mini Rant!

This is the view from my bedroom window. Everyone morning there are people trudging through the bitter cold, slowly wearing a path in the fresh snow as the head towards jobs and school. Most nights there is a loud bang and a continual ruckus as they scrape the parking lot of the gas station behind us. This gas station is oddly empty 95% of the time, and I wonder how they manage to do enough business to support such a new location.

Today we had a good visit. We worked on the alphabet a little and determined the girls know the alphabet song and Angela firmly knows all the letters while Olesya knows most of them. However they do not know the sounds of them. We used tiles to spell our names and Angela made little flash cards of Cyrillic letters, then we placed the equivalent letter in English with the sound next to the Cyrrillic letter. It is confusing when a letter looks like an English letter and yet makes a totally different sound!

We also went over some of our family rules today and travel safety. If you get one answer from mom, don't go to dad to get an answer you like better. Food is not an issue, so don't make it can eat what and when you like but please don't hide it in your room and simply ask before you take anything and 99% of the time you will be told yes unless a meal is soon. Honesty at all times because Mommy DOES catch you (as Kenny grinned and testified! Haha!). A few others such as that. We also went over travel issues such as wearing seat belts on planes, staying with Mommy and Daddy, when they will finally be somewhere where Russian is no longer spoken and what to do if lost, etc. Hopefully some of it will stick :-)!

This afternoon we went over the Oborn's and then we all hung out, and later we had an online adventure as we Skyped Joshie and Kenny's classes back in Montrose! It was cool and not without it's technical glitches, but the kids got a kick out of it. It was nice to hear familiar voices and least for a few minutes...familiar faces!

And now...for my Mini Rant...and no, you are not listening to CSPAN...

I stewed and fretted over this one all night, not only because it scared us a little but because it happens to be one of the political hot buttons I feel passionately about.

Thursday the Oborn's, Yagers and I were sitting around the table talking about this very care and health insurance. Yesterday Dominick informed me that while we were gone we got a rate increase on our health insurance plan with Blue Cross Blue Shield. We have a high deductible individual Health Savings Account plan, as it was the least expensive we could find. Our premium went up from a couple of bucks below $500 per month to $680 per month. Yes, you read that right...a $180 per month increase in one fell swoop. NO, that is NOT for adding the girls, that will be an additional $110 per month which we totally had planned for.

Tell me how this is possible? How can it go up that much at one time? This is not an age increase, as we already passed our annual contract period for that. This is an across the board increase for all their customers in Colorado. That is approaching a 50% increase in premium for our family!! And get this...that is for an $8000 out of pocket plan per year...and no RX covered until you meet your deductible.

Don't tell me we don't need health care reform of some sort. When the average middle class family is paying as much (if not more in some cases) for their health insurance as they are for their MORTGAGE, there is clearly something amiss. We are quickly approaching a time in America where the middle class will start dropping policies like hot potatoes as they will be priced out of the market for it, and when that happens the entire system will collapse. I am sorry, but having the "best health care in the world" as some people think we have is absolutely pointless if no one can afford that care.

One time a few years back, I did a little research, as this truly has been one an area of concern for me for years, and I checked out the cost of advertising in the Reader's Digest which has all but become a book of drug ads anyway. It was over $125,000 per page, per issue. Drug ads are usually 3 pages in length...$375,000 for one drug advertised in one magazine for one month.

And how many magazines do you see any particular drug advertised in during any given month? And how many times a year do you see those same ads? And that does not include TV, bill boards and other forms of advertising.

No wonder we are paying hundreds of dollars for prescription drugs that are pennies to manufacture...and the sadder fact is that those ads would not be placed if they didn't pay off in higher revenues for the drug companies. So what kind of profit IS there in the manufacturing and selling of drugs?? I am not against profit or capitalism at all, but it has gone too far.

And it trickles down to our monthly premiums as we all have to pay for it one way or the other.

Why did it cost $700+ for 30 seconds in the ER to remove a Lego from Joshua's nose? Don't ask the details of HOW it got up there, but do question why something so simple cost so much. Oh...don't will cover it. No, it won't as our deductible AND premiums are so high we might as well BUY the hospital ourselves!!!

When an entire industry of "Medical Vacations" has doubled and quadrupled in popularity over the past few years and people are willing to travel to India and Singapore to have their hip replacement surgery done or other procedures, and even with travel costs thrown in they save enormous amounts of money...something has to be fixed. Note I am not commenting on the quality of care, because the fact doesn't matter how good the health care is if you can not access it.

So like millions of Americans, we will go back home and look at our plan, and see how much higher our deductible can go and what it might save us. We will sweat it out realizing that the deductible is now so high we couldn't possible cover it without remortgaging our house and our premium will still be too high to allow us to put any "savings" in our HSA account. Like many, we can't simply "shop it" for a lower premium as we are stuck where we are because of pre-existing conditions such as Kenny's cleft...or something as simple as my history of allergy issues. And as many are discovering, working for a good employer doesn't mean you can afford health coverage either these days as often the plans are even more costly because they cover more and employers are passing on those costs to the employees and not covering famlies much anymore.

We are not the only family this is happening to. My only question is, how much longer can we all continue this way? I don't know what the answer it a broad sweeping change as in "out with the old, in with the new", or is it incremental change that will test the waters and change specific problem areas, hopefully with good results. Do we go with socialized medicine as in Canada? That has its pros and cons as well, as we debated on Thursday. Do we come up with some hybrid plan? I am not sure what the answer is. All I know is we can't live with it, and we sure don't dare live without it. The problem is, how much longer CAN we live with it before it becomes a matter of food on the table or health insurance??? Millions of us would love an answer to that one...

OK. Rant over. Thanks for listening :-)


Cindy LaJoy said...

I moved this to the correct post:

Kelly and Sne has left a new comment on your post "Merry Christmas Again!":

The view outside of your windows looks a lot like what we have in the southern midwest -which is highly unusual and about 30-40 degrees below normal. So you aren't missing anything at home!

I will second your rant about health care and I am actually one of the lucky ones that has affordable insurance through my job. Our company changed providers and went to a high deductible plan a couple of years ago and I have had to spend many many hours fighting the company to pay for stuff that should have been covered. And we had an ER visit this past year - 45 min with a Dr. cost $3,200 and that was after the insurance adjustment. Well, that pretty much ate up our deductible in one fell swoop. Amazing. Talk about incenting you NOT to visit the Dr.

I am sick and disgusted that the fear mongers essentially watered down the health care bill so it will actually cost us taxpayers MORE than real reform and a public option would have (taxpayers will subsidize COBRA and private payments which motivates insurance companies to continue to gouge us). So, rant away! MOre people need to hear the story!

. said...

Totally agreed, Cindy. We had the EXACT same thing happen w/our HSA account AND had my hubby by some crazy fluke need doctor's care for 4 days in a row RIGHT over the cross to the New Year - sooooo much for maybe meeting the deductible at least! There are no easy answers but I think you're absolutely right about what will happen if something isn't done soon. I'm glad you are expanding your family anyway and not letting fear keep you from what the Lord has called you to. Thankfully His resources are limitless, huh?!
Shan in CO

Anonymous said...

Hi Cindy,

There are other health systems that work better.

We live in the UK.

Had 3 kids, including premature twins born by c-section, spent almost 2 weeks in hospital with them, later the kids turned out to be intolerant to powdered baby milk, had to change them to a different milk for over 1 year.
Paid nothing. A smile and a thank you to the team was enough.
Medical appointments are free and all prescribed medicines are free for children up to 16 years old and for Senior citizens. We adults pay a tiny tax of the equivalent of 11 or 12 USD for medicines only.
Until now I still haven't spent any money directly from our pockets on our kid's health, vacines, doctors, medicines, visits to ER, etc..

- About 1/3 of our income disapears in taxes every month.
- All drugs have to be approved to be prescribed and sometimes people want to take drugs not available through the NHS (national health service) and end up having to take it to court to get the right to be given that specific medicine.

For us, it does work well, not perfect, but we do not need an insurance to see a doctor that same day if a kid gets will, or needs to go to hospital or whatever.

Insurance companies are not charities, they are in it for profit so there is no winning with them.

I read there was a huge NO in the American society regarding Obama's plan to create a national health system over there.

I know no details.

But just wanted to say that we have one, it is not perfect, but it does work for the majority of time.

We are paying taxes citizens, we have the right to decent roads, good free state schools for our children to attend, and free quality health care.


Anonymous said...

Cindy we must have the exact same Blue Sheild HSA plan! About 4 years ago we opened it at $420 a month for a family of four,next month it goes to $710.
And we also can not change as to "pre-existing" conditions.
Something has got to change!

Anonymous said...

Amen sister!! I have good insurance through my job, but had to have a sinus CT - $600 after son's one dose of Tylenol at the hospital - $45..."the Greatest Nation" and yet we let people die because they don't have insurance.
You keep ranting -

Karen said...

Unhealthy and uneducated. What civilized country wants its citizens to be either OR both?

I don't get us, sometimes.

In scripture, we're reminded countless times that God judges us by how we care for the last and the least (who are quickly growing in number). We've got some explaining to do.

D and A said...

Preach on, Cindy! Thank you for articulating this problem so well. Maybe you should start another blog. I'm pleased and surprised to see so many positive responses to your comments. I'm frustrated by how many people believe that because THEY have good insurance, everyone does. My husband and I have excellent insurance because he has a good employer, but I am so frustrated for those (like my parents) who do not. Insurance companies are trying to make a profit, and that is the bottom line. We call ourselves a Christian nation, yet so many feel that they have no responsibility to care for their fellow man (let alone the widows and orphans). I would love to see more comments from all the other industrialized nations that provide health care, because too many Americans blindly believe that our system is the best. We need to be better informed!

Anonymous said...

Hear, hear! Right on, Sister! I'm one of the fortunate ones with good insurance care (Medicare and Part D), and I hear people everywhere who don't support health care reform because "adding that many people will make it harder for me to get the medical care I am getting now". Excuse me! I have a right to convenience and health while someone--anyone--else does not. Do people even listen to themselves anymore? Okay, my rant is over.

I talked to Mrs. Weber today about when I can get Josh's homework (Monday) and happened to call at the time they were skyping with Josh. She said there were a few glitches, but they were having fun. Didn't keep her long so that she could enjoy the fun.


Chris said...

I agree with your rant, but since I'm feeling a bit punchy tonight my first thought really was: maybe you'd better translate for those girls one more family rule about not putting any legos up their noses!
Chris J in Golden

Dee said...

I am in total agreement with you about affordable insurance. Something MUST be done. I am out of work and paying nearly $300/month for me and the kids. It will go up tremendously in May, so I have to have a job by then. I was turned down for Medicaid. I don't understand why we can't just FIX Medicaid, or go to a system like England has.

Cathy Hartt said...

Cindy - I am blessed with a great health plan that allows lower rates because I participate in our employee wellness program and get good scores. My rates have not changed - but my labs now cost more and I don't qualify for out of network. I could have kept the out of network and paid 1,500 a year deductable. I decided I would take my chances that I would not run up a 1,500 bill when I am out of town.

My main issues with the current health system are: 1. People need to be held accountable for their own wellness. People who eat at Mickey Ds 6 times a week should not have the same rates as someone who watches diet/exercise. The fast food industry needs to be tweaked as part of the plan. 2. Insurance should not be tied to employment so much. I am my sole support - I get sick, can't work and loose my insurance. Go figure.

And one more thing - the nurses are not getting rich off of all of this and I don't think the docs are as much now. We have a huge nursing shortage facing us so if that is not fixed it won't matter if we have the best plan in town. Without enough nurses, we all suffer!

Gavin said...

As someone with epilepsy, I have exactly one choice for my insurance company. Yes one, doesn't matter what state I am in, Blue Cross is the only insurance company in the US that will privately insure me.
And only via their catastrophy plan, which costs $1,200/year, and has a $4,500 deductible. it also does not cover any vision, dental or psychiatric services. In addition they deny coverage for a lot of necessary things claiming they are elective - ie if its determined that I need brain surgery, they will not cover the EEG that tells the doctors where to operate because that's an "elective procedure."

My medicine is $4,000/month and they won't cover it. (then people get mad at me because i'm on medicaid, How many people do you know that get an extra $4,000 each month. Of them, how many cannot stay awake 40 hours most weeks? I've failed 11 of the other 12 medicines available to me. And both medicaid and blue cross deny coverage for the 12 (Even though its much cheaper)

If I got specially tinted lenses, there is a good chance I could return to work - maybe even full time as I'd no longer be assaulted by flourescent lighting whenever I left my house. But they are a few thousands dollars too, and neither medicaid nor blue cross will cover them. In addition, medicaid rules prohibit me from accepting them through charity or saving money for them. (For the same reason I'm forced to keep making payments on a car I can't drive - if I sell it, I get kicked off medicaid, even though the profit wouldn't cover one month of medication.) Can't send it back either, because that would destroy my credit, and obviously, if I ever return to work, I'm going to have to take out a massive loan to get my medication until the company insurance policy kicks. Medicaid stops covering me as soon as I make $200 in a month, regardless. I could work one day make $200, have a bad seizure, be in the the hospital for the next 3 weeks, and I would be ineligible for any government aid during that time. (Last year it was actually more than $56/month and they would kick me off)

Is it any surprise most people on medicaid don't try to go back to the work? The government makes it impossible. Right now I have to choose between getting medication that enables me to have enough energy to chew my food or sit up in bed, and trying to work. If I work, I lose all access to the medicine that enables me to function well enough to work. So obviously I don't work.
I'm bored out my mind, frustrated, and am sure I could work a few hours a week even though I have no way of knowing if I can be awake at any moment. But the government doesn't allow me to work. And so, for the sake of staying alive, I have no choice but to not work. And it sucks. Two years ago I was working three jobs. Paid my college tuition entirely on my own - earned two degress with straight A's. But all I hear about is how I'm lazy, unwilling to work hard etc, because I'm medicaid and not out working a full time job that requires working more hours a week than I've been able to stay awake for since March of 2008

Gavin said...


There is a problem with your philosophy, though I see where you are coming from. You say people who exercise and watch what they eat should have different rates.
In other words people who take care of their health, but what about....

People like me who can't excercise because any deep breathing, hyperventilating, or changes in heart rate bring on seizures (and any seizure can be fatal?). In addition, what I eat, while specifically tailored for maximum health, is considered unhealthy by most people. My diet is 80% fat with no fruits - fruit is very bad when you are controlling seizures through diet. Heavy creams, lots of cheese, butter and oil are the best possible things. Its not an unhealthy diet either - if you have a heart attack and are at risk for another, you'll be put on the same diet as it significantly lowers your risk of a repeat and even more so of dying from a second heart attack. Yet, the average person claims this diet is unhealthy and bad for the heart (its also used in treatment of certain lung conditions).
The only downside of my diet is a slight rise in LDL cholestoral and that goes back to normal after 2-3 years of being on the diet.(you also have to be careful that you don't lose too much weight on it, or too quickly, but the doctors monitor your weight loss and lessen your fat intake to make sure that doesn't happen)
With all the intricacies of different health problems and body chemistries out there, you can't make a generalization that any one thing is healthy for everyone. And making individual decisions could quickly get very expensive for everyone involved because who is going to make the decision? agree that it needs to be changed? etc. Just deciding that something is healthy for someone could require multiple doctor's appointments - I see three doctors just to make sure my diet is in check with my entire body.

So I don't excercise, avoid fruits and quite a few common vegetables, but am still living in the most healthy way possible. Excercising and eating fruit are harmful to me.

What I am saying here, is that with people's unique health conditions, making requirements based on diet means that some people would be punished for an unhealthy lifestyle solely because they are living a healthy lifestyle rather than doing things that are extremely harmful to them

Anonymous said...

I think you are being very niave. The US is going broke very rapidly- how is the government supposed to pay for excellent health care for everyone?? Those of us against government run healthcare are not denying that there is a problem that needs to be fixed- just that things can be fixed without a government takeover.

Gavin said...

Its the government's lack of involvement in health care that makes it so expensive. I didn't mention - my $4,000 medicine, is only $1,200 USD if mail ordered from Canada (and not much more than that if mail ordered from Australia). Because those countries don't let the pharmaceutical industry grossly inflate prices for no other reason than people have to buy from them, the way the US permits it. - Neither medicaid nor blue cross will allow me to mail order my medication internationally though. Health care in America is solely expensive because US laws cause it to be a monopoly that people can't live without. Thats why the US is behind 2nd world countries when it comes to its citizens having health care - we are 32 in the world for adaquate health care system. Do you really think a system that puts it behind every single country with socialized health care when it comes to the average citizen having access to life saving medical treatment is better than socialized health care? Perhaps, you do. I for one don't. For I believe if it were better, a) health care would be affordable to those who didn't make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year and B) the US wouldn't be anywhere near 32 on the list of countries where the average citizen can get adaquate health care for treatment and prevention

Cathy Hartt said...

Galvin - The wellness plans would need to be customized to each person's needs based on their health status and historn and not generic. It is hard to do but our own health plan is getting better at it with tools like the Healthways survey.