Friday, September 25, 2009

Health Insurance and Other Stuff Update

I wasn't planning on updating this anymore, but @planetmoney retweeted a post from a couple of years ago that touched on my dealings with insurance and the health care system in general. I've gotten a couple of questions as to where I am now, so here's the update:

I'm still sick. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic condition; there is no cure--you just manage the symptoms. So I still have routine visits to the doctor and lots of blood-drawing.

But, I'm doing better. Some time towards the end of 2008, some of the medication I'd been taken for years (methotrexate) suddenly started working; it wasn't as if I suddenly could hop up and down stairs, but it helped, and it was an opportunity to start moving a little again. Luckily, methotrexate isn't one of the thousand-plus-per-dose medications that I'd tried; I just take ten pills once a week, and no trips to the hospital (and the costs that come with them) are required.

A little bit before this happened, my mobility and balance had deteriorated to the point where I was barely moving much at all, even when the arthritis wasn't flaring up more than usual. This, combined with some terrible stress at work, spurred me to drag my sorry ass to the gym to try to get a little activity. Exercise was difficult in and of itself, and it's a long story--maybe for another post, if I start posting irregularly again--but the combination of methotrexate kicking in, and being able to move again did wonders. I got on antidepressants again. I lost 80 pounds in a year. I still have terrible days, but it's not the norm. I'm still in pain, but it's much less distracting.

The insurance situation is about the same. A little better, as my current set of medications are cheaper than the alternatives. A little worse, as my workplace decided to axe the plan I was on, and the only remaining plan available to us is a "consumer-driven" high-deductible plan which tripled our copays/deductible and reduced the percentage of services covered. And since my husband and I work for the same employer, we're not allowed to cover each other as dependents, as spouses often do.

Thanks for asking.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

The foreign policy issue

Since the McCain campaign has not yet heeded my call for a McCain/Cake ticket for 2008, I thought I would propose yet another alternative: McCain/Me. After seeing the Facebook group "I have more Foreign Policy Experience than Sarah Palin" grow to thirty-five thousand strong, I find that I can no longer stand on the sidelines while the GOP's choice is smeared. It is time for me to throw my hat in the ring.

Following the stringent standards used the Republican Party and Sarah Palin's own spokeswoman in this Washington Post piece, I give you the Sporks Foreign Policy Resume Highlights:

  • Lived in over ten cities in three (3) different countries
  • Have visited five (5) additional countries, and many other states within the US
  • Have eaten food from over THIRTY (30) different countries, as well as fusion cuisine, exemplifying my willingness to reach across the aisle
  • Have met people from at least eleven (11) different countries
Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I have included below a map of my foreign policy experience which details how I'm uniquely qualified to deal and reach out to each of these countries. Click on each marker for more details.

View Larger Map

Now, I realize that, technically, I'm not legally allowed to run for Vice President, since I'm not from the US. But, if Mitt Romney can claim that we need "change from a liberal Washington [...] throw out the big government liberals!", I'm sure the party can come up with something for me. After all, reality has never been an obstacle for the GOP.

Vote McCain/Sporks in 2008!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

An alternative Republican ticket for 2008

all links safe for work except on first paragraph.

Since Mr. McCain appears to think that all it will take to sway female voters is a vagina on the ticket, may I suggest an alternative pick for the VP spot: this delicious vagina cake [NSFW] from The Erotic Bakery [NSFW] in Seattle.

The McCain/Cake ticket would offer voters:

Additionally, Ms. Cake offers the following advantages over the current pick:

Sure, Ms. Cake may not know how to field-dress a moose, but I believe the American public would be willing to overlook this shortcoming, even though it's a crucial part of the Vice Presidential duties, because, as Joe Lieberman reminds us, these are no ordinary times. And Vagina Cake is no ordinary VP pick.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sunday morning, part two

This is the more pleasant side of my Sunday mornings. We use this recipe from the Seattle Times (though our cooking time is a lot shorter); here he's already drizzled the pancake with clarified butter. He usually eats his portion with maple syrup; I put fruit or jam on mine.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Brave new...something

I got a phone call from a collections agency today; they were demanding (because collections agencies are not huge on the nice) that I pay them right-now-exclamation-mark for a medical bill I'd either already paid about half a year ago, or was new enough that the hospital hadn't even billed me yet (both transactions had similar balances, and figuring out which it was was part of the problem).

That's not very interesting. What's interesting, at least to me, is how much of my life is online.

Because this phone call was a complete out-of-the-blue surprise, I didn't have any documentation of dates of service or previous bills or any other paperwork with me. But I was able to gather all these things by just looking at a few places online.

I was able to get dates and amounts already paid from Mint, and further details on specific transactions through my banks' online sites. I got dates of doctor's appointments from Google Calendar, and further details on the timing of my MRI from Twitter. I was able to narrow down the end of my Orencia treatments and rheumatologist visits from this blog.

What's ironic, though, is that the hospital's online billing site, the insurance carrier's site, and the collection agency's payment site were all completely useless. They are annoying to use, their data is outdated, and they have no useful searching to speak of. They frequently error or time out, and the interfaces look dated; you're generally better off calling these companies, even considering how terrible most over-the-phone customer service (both in terms of competency, and, you know, service) is. These companies would do well to learn a thing or two from these flexible (and free) services.

In the end, we figured out where exactly the bill was coming from, and everything ended well. But that's not very interesting, either.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Buying an iPhone, rheumatoid arthritis edition

The point of this post is not to complain about stuff hurting, but just to give people an idea of how my rheumatoid arthritis affects all kinds of little things.

I got an iPhone a bit over a week ago. I figured I'd held off long enough (over a month), so it wouldn't be too bad of a crowd. There was still something of a wait--45 minutes to maybe an hour, which wasn't too horrible, except that it was warm, which makes my hands and feet swell up until they feel like inflated baseball mitts.

So, I sat outside and waited until it felt like I had balloons for hands and feet; eventually, a young employee in a brightly colored t-shirt called out my name. My husband, who had wandered off to the bookstore while I waited (I can't walk around the bookstore--well, I can't walk around the anything for more than 15 minutes), had returned by then, so he walked with me into the store to get the phone and get it activated.

The Apple Store, unlike most retail places, actually has some seating--there are some tall stools around the counters that someone might use while test-driving a computer. Unfortunately the stools were too tall for me--they would require me to stand on my tiptoes and l wiggle my butt onto them, and you try doing that on balloon feet. But, I am a nerd and the power of shiny new gadgets compelled me, so I persevered. The counters were high enough that I could lean on them somewhat comfortably.

Getting set up with AT&T took a bit longer than for most people--I have an unusual name, so the credit check involves more back-and-forth than normal. After that was all done, the employee handed me the box, cut the plastic shrink wrap on one side, and told me to get it out--I guess so I could bond with it.

I can't get the box to come open. I struggle with it for a while, but instead of offering help, the employee runs off to get a car charger. I give up and my husband opens the box for me. A similar struggle ensues when I try to get the damn thing out of the box. I know people wax poetic about Apple's packaging (seriously, this is why people hate Mac fanboys), but for someone with hand problems, it's just frustrating. The sales guy returns, and we walk a few tortuous steps to the counter across the way to plug it into a laptop and turn it on for the first time and activate it. There, sales guy asks me to plug it into the USB adapter, where another hilarious episode of "Sausage Hands Vs Things That Require Dexterity" takes place. I fumble for a while and apologetically try to explain to him that I have "bad hands" (because "I have an autoimmune condition and this goddamn weather is making my hands feel like water wings," just takes too long), and he just sits there; hubby to the rescue again. We pay and I waddle back to the car, where I am free to play with my shiny new toy, and bitch about Apple for not having copy and paste on their phone.

Because really, who does that.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sunday morning

I start my Sundays with fourteen pills.

But it's not all bad. Husband usually makes a giant pancake, too.