Give Up or Keep Trying? The Consequences of Chronic Illness & Poverty

300px Orthopantogram3 Give Up or Keep Trying? The Consequences of Chronic Illness & Poverty

Orthopantomogram of my teeth, showing an impacted wisdom tooth. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I know you’ve all been there – things start going better, you start feeling like there may be hope that whatever situation you’re fighting may actually be over and you can start putting the pieces back together, and then life kicks you in the teeth again.

That’s kind of where I am right now. Hubby finally found a full-time job, I got a new department manager who actually gives me enough hours to be able to scrape around and start catching up a little, and “POW, right in the kisser, Alice!” (~Jackie Gleason as Ralph Kramden in “The Honeymooners”)

Well, actually, life has kicked hubby in the teeth again (quite literally) and I get to deal with the fallout. Monday night/Tuesday (Oct. 21/22) morning he woke up in the middle of the night in severe pain. It took hours for the pain to ease enough for us to get a little sleep, and more hours for me to find a dentist I could get him in to see. (He also lost a day’s pay, because he has another month to run on his probationary period before he gets paid sick time, but luckily I was scheduled off that day.)

He doesn’t have insurance because my company doesn’t allow part-time employees to cover dependents, and he’s not eligible for insurance at his job until his probationary period is up; so I went online and found one of those “dental discount plans” that cover you immediately, signed up, and found a local dentist that could see him right away.

After doing all the “new patient” paperwork, they did the exam and x-rays and told us that he has an unerupted, impacted wisdom tooth that’s growing into the tooth beside it. Both of them have to be surgically removed, and they’re referring us to an oral surgeon because they can’t do it at their office. We’re presented with a bill (that has to be paid now,) a referral, and an estimate from the oral surgeon of $1,436 ($1,149 with the discount from the plan;) as well as the information that because we don’t have insurance, the bill HAS to be paid in full before they’ll do the work.

So let’s see. After spending $26 and change for the dental discount plan, and another $45 for the exam and x-rays, we have about $25 left in the bank that doesn’t have to go to the rent. Nope, the numbers just don’t work. “No problem!” they say. Just fill out this application for Care Credit, and as soon as you’re approved you can go get the work done.”

Hmmmmm. We’ve been trying to survive on part-time, minimum wage jobs since 2008, we have a $120,000 mortgage that hasn’t had a payment made on it in 5 years (on a house we can’t live in because it’s 5 miles from the nearest bus stop,) we owe another $50,000 or so in unpaid student loans, and we’ve JUST managed to finally pay off the cable bill and the past due amount on the electricity. There’s not a bank in the world that would lend us 14 CENTS, let alone $1400. I already know what the result is going to be, but of course, you have to go through the motions before they’ll believe you, so I fill out more paperwork and pace for 20 minutes or so waiting for them to tell me it’s a no. Spend a little time begging to be allowed to make a partial payment with the rent money and pay the rest off in monthly payments, then come home and spend what’s left of the business day trying to find an oral surgeon who WILL do in-house financing. (Apparently, they are rarer than hen’s teeth, because after almost two weeks, and almost two months worth of phone time, I still haven’t found one.)

Tuesday night, we spend more hours with him in agonizing pain and manage to get about 2 hours of sleep before we have to get up to get ready for work. We can’t make any calls, because he works 8 to 4:30, and I’m scheduled 10 to 4 (which means I have to be at the bus stop a few minutes after 9, and don’t get home til after 5.)

Once I get to work, I happen to think that maybe my company has some kind of emergency assistance fund that can help, so I hunt up the manager on duty and ask. She calls HR and leaves a message, but by the time I get off I still don’t know anything and she’s had to go to a meeting.

Another night of agony and no sleep later, I have 4 hours I can spend looking for help before I have to go to work.

First things first. Call work to find out if HR ever called back. Well, yes they did, but it’s not going to help anything. We do have an emergency assistance fund, but it’s not intended to help with things that “should be covered by insurance.” It’s only intended for “dire emergencies” like a death or hospitalization where you can’t cover your share of the bill, and that would keep you from paying your rent or utilities.

I was really, really good and didn’t yell at the manager. She’s a nice lady, and was trying to help me out, but at this point I’m furious.

Let me give you my interpretation of this answer.

First: “not intended to help with things that should be covered by insurance” – now, why doesn’t he have insurance? Let’s see, that would be because I’m a part-time employee, and as such, I can’t cover dependents, only myself. Why am I part time? Because my company doesn’t hire full-time employees, and every time I’ve asked to have my status changed I’ve been refused. Basically, you’ve set a policy on your emergency assistance fund that protects you from having to help your employees with a situation that is set up by your own policies because you know this kind of thing is going to happen and you just don’t give a shit.

Now let’s take a look at the “dire emergency” part of this policy. Impacted wisdom teeth that are left untreated can lead to a whole host of issues. First, and most immediate, is the pain, which can be extreme enough to cause death or permanent disability due to things like strokes, heart attacks, and seizures. (Severe pain raises the blood pressure, and if it goes high enough, all kinds of bad things can happen.) Most of you deal with your own pain, so you probably know from first-hand experience that it can also make you suicidal when it gets bad enough.

Then there’s the fact that it’s pretty much guaranteed to get infected if it’s not removed. This can lead to some pretty severe physical consequences like bone loss, perforation of the sinus cavity, cysts forming around the tooth, spreading of the infection to other parts of the body like the heart, septicemia (systemic infection caused by the spread of a localized infection throughout the body,) permanent nerve damage, and chronic pain.

Finally, there are the dangers of taking the maximum allowed amount of over-the-counter pain medications without medical supervision because you HAVE to do something and you don’t have access to anything else. That includes the danger of ulcers, the chance of hemorrhage from the blood thinning effects, and the possibility of permanent liver damage. This sounds pretty damn dire to me, how about you?

What I get from this policy is, “if it kills him, we MIGHT help you out with paying the medical expenses from his death, but we won’t help you keep him alive.”

Now I know that I’m putting the most extreme interpretation possible on this, and that the actual meaning of the policy is more like, “we don’t know or care what could happen, as long as we don’t have to part with any money.” This is, after all, pretty typical corporate policy, and it’s not personal for them. The problem is, it FEELS pretty damn personal when you’re watching the person you love most in the world suffer torturous pain and are terrified he’s going to die because you can’t afford to get him the medical care he needs; while the company you work for won’t help even though their policies are part of what has put you in this position in the first place.

After a weekend of horrendous, escalating pain (at one point I had to take a knife away from him because the pain was so bad he was about to try to cut the tooth out himself;) I finally found someone who was willing to at least talk to us about working something out, thanks to the wonderful guy who works the receptionist’s desk at the therapist’s office. Turns out they can’t do the surgery, but the office manager showed hubby’s x-rays to the dentist and they advised us to call the original dentist and ask for antibiotics because the extreme level of pain indicated that the tooth was abscessed. She said if the original dentist wouldn’t call them in, to come back and they’d work him in and write the script themselves, but they’d have to charge us for a consult because of the way the law is (you can’t write a script for someone who isn’t a patient, and the only way to be legally considered a patient is to pay for a visit.)

We got the antibiotics, and they’ve made the pain more manageable, but after another week of looking, we STILL haven’t found a way to get the damn thing removed. I’m working with a couple of people trying to find some help, but we’re getting nowhere fast, and in the meantime the risk of some dangerous (or fatal) complication keeps getting worse.

Wish us luck, send up a prayer, light a candle, send some good energy our way; or whatever else your spiritual beliefs provide for; we can use all the help we can get.

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 Give Up or Keep Trying? The Consequences of Chronic Illness & Poverty

Invisible vs. Visible Disability – Discrimination WITHIN the Disability Community

300px HCSign3 Invisible vs. Visible Disability   Discrimination WITHIN the Disability Community

Sign indicating parking is reserved for vehicles with a handicapped tag or placard (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How many of you have used a disabled parking space, only to be accosted by someone accusing you of “not needing it” or depriving someone who “really” needs the space? How about this one: “You don’t look very disabled to me!” Come on, don’t be shy. It’s happened to most of us at some point.

It’s one of those really frustrating things that can cause us to lose it and respond with rude comments of our own. (I hate to admit that there have been a few times that I’ve snapped back, “and YOU don’t look like my fucking doctor, either.” Not exactly the best way to make friends and influence people.)

With more of those experiences in my past than I like to think about, I was thrilled (and touched) when I found this tweet from @Rob_Cares  in my Twitter stream: Disabled Parking Abuse: Change in Attitude…and an Apology:

Apparently Rob had written an earlier post critical of people who don’t need the spaces using them, and had been “enlightened” by the comments he received. (I haven’t actually read the original post yet, because I didn’t want to lose the glow from this one, but I will.) Unlike many, however, he didn’t refuse to consider the possibility that he might be wrong. Instead he thought about it, decided his attitude needed some modification, and made some changes.

This is awesome! For many, there would have been a change in attitude and behavior and that would have been the end of it (which is great,) but Rob went further. He wrote an apology describing the change, stating in part:

While I thought by confronting someone that walks (even briskly) from a handicap parking space to their destination I might convince them that others, such as my wife (a wheelchair-bound amputee) were in greater need of the space, my actions could be very hurtful. Some shared that their illnesses and disabilities are not visible to the naked eye and therefore, they are discriminated against by the unknowing public, of which I was a member. They are stared at, commented to that they are abusers of the handicap placard and heartless human beings. The reality is they may have just enough physical ability to get to their destination with a minimal amount of pain and suffering.

I understand how difficult and painful this kind of soul-searching can be, and how hard it is to admit that you’ve unknowingly hurt someone else. As an imperfect human being myself, I’ve had to do it more times than I want to remember.

I left the following comment:

Rob – Thank you so much for this. As one of those with an invisible disability, I’ve run into this type of thing way too often. Even worse, the worst offenders tend to be those who use a wheelchair or scooter (or their caregivers.)

I find it very frustrating that those of us who should be working together to make things better for all of us are divided against ourselves. If we’re judging each other by the severity and visibility of our disabilities, how can we expect the able community not to do the same?

The validity of my limitations is not less simply because I have different limitations than someone else, and it is actually MORE hurtful to face this type of discrimination and judgment from someone who shares many of the same difficulties than it is from the able community. After all, I don’t expect someone who can do pretty much anything they like to understand what it’s like to be “shut out.” I do expect that from those who face similar difficulties.

After posting and rereading my comment, however, it didn’t feel “right.” It felt like I was thanking him, then taking it back by criticizing him further, and that is definitely not what I meant, so here’s another thank you that hopefully expresses what I mean a bit more clearly.

Thank you Rob, for being willing to examine your own beliefs, and for being able to admit when those beliefs don’t fit the situation. Those of us with invisible disabilities don’t get that kind of validation very often, even within the disability community. I admire your strength, your courage, and your commitment to doing the right thing.

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 Invisible vs. Visible Disability   Discrimination WITHIN the Disability Community

Halloween, Memories, and Gratitude

300px Colibri thalassinus 001 edit Halloween, Memories, and Gratitude

English: Green Violet-ear — Finca Lerida, Boquete, Panama. Français : Un Colibri thalassinus, Finca Lerida, District de Boquete, Panama. 日本語: ミドリハチドリ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 Halloween, Memories, and Gratitude

It’s kind of an odd time for it, considering what’s going on in my life right now. A lot of people would think that I don’t have much to be grateful for, and that I have a horrible life, but this morning I’m sitting here remembering all the wonderful people and things I have been lucky enough to have in my life so far.

I was reading a friend’s Facebook post about missing someone who is gone, and it reminded me of so much. I am so grateful to have been able to share my life with the wonderful, caring people I’ve known. I’m grateful for the help and support they’ve given me, and for the opportunities they’ve offered as well. The opportunity to support them through their own difficult times; the opportunity to learn and grow from the experiences they brought into my life; and even for the pain, sorrow, and destruction some of them have caused.

Right about now, you’re probably thinking something along the lines of, “oh my god, the woman’s crazy! She’s actually grateful for pain, sorrow, and destruction!” Hang on for a minute. Although I readily admit to being “crazy,” it’s not really as strange as you may think to be grateful for these experiences.

Without pain, how would we recognize pleasure? Without sorrow, how would we know joy? Finally, without the destruction of the old, there would be no room in our lives for the new. Without the most painful experiences of my life, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I wouldn’t be able to understand the struggles of the people I meet, and I wouldn’t be able to help my friends through their own problems.

Facing my own challenges has made me a stronger, kinder, more compassionate person. It’s taught me the joy that is felt when someone offers a kind word, even when that’s all they have to give. It’s taught me to appreciate the small things in life; like the pleasure of a soft breeze on a hot day, the beauty of a spider web in the morning sun, or the joyous sound of birdsong.

Sometimes in the midst of the struggle, we forget what’s good in our lives. All we see is the people who refuse to help, the barriers we face, and the desperation we feel. Thank you Ginny, for reminding me that I have more reasons to be happy than I have to be sad.

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Fibromyalgia and Getting My Life Back

I was beginning to think we were never going to get our internet back, but we finally managed it! I was disconnected from June 27th until October 11th, and it was rough. You never really understand how much you depend on something until you don’t have it any more.

I didn’t realize how much I used the net for until I had to go to the library to get access, and I also didn’t realize how OFTEN I jumped on the net for a few minutes here and there to do things like check the weather to see if I needed to take an umbrella to work with me, or see how to get somewhere on the bus, or look up a phone number, or check the bank balance to make sure we didn’t get overdrawn.

And that doesn’t even start to touch what I use the net for. There’s research for my writing; more research just to find out about things I find interesting; contact with the outside world and people who actually “get” what it’s like to live with chronic illness; email to keep in touch with family and friends who don’t live nearby and keep up with the latest research and the blogs I read; social media for connecting with others who have similar interests and issues and sharing interesting bits of information; shopping for things that are too difficult to get home on the bus; and, of course, this blog, which has been sadly neglected.

I had no idea how often I would check things online while I was writing a post, or how long all the “extras” like adding tags and finding pictures took. The few posts I did manage to get up while I was offline would take nearly the entire hour the library allows, even though I did the actual writing here, then pasted them in. Correcting the formatting, adding tags and categories and pictures, then trying to share them took forever; and left no time for the necessities like managing the bank account, checking email, and all that other stuff. Then throw in a 1/2 hour and about 3/4 of a mile of walking each way, plus up to two hours at the library (including wait time for a computer to be available;)  and it was practically unmanageable unless it was a day off and I had nothing else that had to be done. Since I’ve been putting in more hours at work, it got almost impossible, and I’ve only been getting to the library once or twice a month to deal with the absolute necessities.

I’ve missed the internet, a lot; and I’ve especially missed my online friends; but I hope that the time I spent away was “well-used.” I did a lot of reading, some of which you can follow in my last few posts; and I started a couple of new books as well. I’ve also spent a good bit of time in self-examination, thinking about who I am, and how that matches up with who I WANT to be. I’ve been taking a look at how (and whether) my beliefs match up with my behavior; and, more importantly, whether my actions support what I say I want.

One of the things I did was create an “office” to better support my writing. I don’t have to move my computer every time I have to make capsules to treat my symptoms, Just my keyboard (which spends most of its time in my lap anyway.) No more stacks of reference books scattered all over the living room, all I have to do is reach to a different shelf to grab what I need (or put it away when I’m done.) It makes writing a whole lot easier, because I no longer have to spend more time trying to find the book I need than I do writing about what I’m looking up.

my office Fibromyalgia and Getting My Life Back

My new “office.”

Even better, it didn’t cost me anything but a few hours work, and some creative re-use of things I already had.

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Sick in America: The Chronic Epidemic

Got a chronic illness? You aren’t the only one. Actually, there are millions of us across the country, and there are more of us every day. Recent estimates suggest that about a third of the US population suffer from chronic pain from various causes, and if you throw in those with chronic illnesses that don’t include pain (are there any?) it’s got to be even more. Check out this great infographic someone let me know about . . .

chronic diseases Sick in America: The Chronic Epidemic
Image compliments of Master of Science in Nursing Degrees

Our Daily Meds: How the Pharmaceutical Companies Transformed Themselves into Slick Marketing Machines and Hooked the Nation on Prescription Drugs

 Our Daily Meds: How the Pharmaceutical Companies Transformed Themselves into Slick Marketing Machines and Hooked the Nation on Prescription Drugs Our Daily Meds: How the Pharmaceutical Companies Transformed Themselves into Slick Marketing Machines and Hooked the Nation on Prescription Drugs
From snake oil salesmen to humanitarian scientists and back again, “Our Daily Meds” chronicles the rise of the pharmaceutical industry. More than just a terrifyingly accurate expose’ of the abuses, deceptions, high-pressure sales tactics, and outright lies used by the marketers who have taken over companies that make and sell prescription drugs; “Our Daily Meds” also shows us how we can tell when we’re being manipulated and how to protect ourselves from dangerous medications. It is a must read for anyone who takes prescription medications and wants to protect themselves and their family members from becoming an experiment (or a statistic) in the drug companies’ rush to make obscene profits from barely tested medications.

I think this quote expresses what has happened, and is continuing to happen, perfectly:

There is a kind of madness in it. The drug companies pay hundreds of millions of dollars in government fines for promoting their products illegally and hundreds of millions of dollars more to the families of the victims who suffered or died, then raise their prices and promote the products even harder.

Much of the blame must be put on the nation’s physicians, who have enjoyed the industry’s gifts as their profession has been corrupted and patients have suffered.

Marketing has no place in medicine. But in America marketing has replaced the science, honesty, and caring that the best medicine requires. Money rules. Patients come second. There’s a moral imperative that the medical industry’s marketers be stopped before many more lives are lost. ~page 322, Our Daily Meds

Written by investigative journalist Melody Peterson, it exposes the stranglehold BigPharma has on modern medicine; and the corrupt, profit-driven system it has spawned. Ms. Peterson has filled the book with quotes from doctors and former pharmaceutical company employees. She also includes stories of lifesaving drugs abandoned because they weren’t “profitable enough” and deadly medications (remember Vioxx, fen-phen, Accutane, and Rezulin?) whose makers not only hid the truth about the dangers, but actively marketed them knowing that patients were dying and/or being severely injured.

She begins with the story of eflornithine, dubbed the “resurrection drug” by doctors. It destroys the parasite that causes sleeping sickness, which kills tens of thousands of people a year in tropical areas of the world. It was discontinued in 1995 because the company that made it saw no profit in selling it in poor countries. (Don’t feel too bad for the pharmaceutical companies though. A few years later another company resurrected eflornithine as a cream to remove women’s unwanted facial hair. I called a local pharmacy and was told a tube of that cream is available by prescription for $115.)

The book continues with descriptions of the slick marketing practices used to convince us that we need the newest, most expensive pills available to treat diseases invented by the drug companies. (The story of “irritable bladder syndrome” is especially interesting.) It also exposes how much of that marketing is hidden in “news stories,” “health seminars,” and advertisements that are purposely written to look like legitimate articles.

As our prescription drug use has climbed, our health outcomes have declined. The more pills we take, the less healthy we are. Instead of being taught that what we eat and how we live affects our health; we are being told that we can do whatever we want to our bodies, and as long as we take the “right” pill everything will be fine. It’s a LIE. As we’ve added more and more drugs to the list of things we take every day, we’ve gotten sicker and sicker.

Healthcare is no longer focused on getting us well, it’s focused on convincing us that we’re sick, and tricking us into believing that even more pills to manage the side-effects of the medications we already take makes sense. It’s focused on convincing us that normal reactions to the everyday events of our lives are illnesses that need to be treated with expensive medication, and that we need to take those medications for the rest of our lives.

There is hope though. The epilogue provides a list of ways we can protect ourselves from medications that kill us or make us sicker, and doctors who have sold out to the pharmaceutical companies.

Our Daily Meds: How the Pharmaceutical Companies Transformed Themselves into Slick Marketing Machines and Hooked the Nation on Prescription Drugs (c) 2008 by Melody Peterson, published by “Sarah Crichton Books” Farrar, Straus, and Giroux

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Fibromyalgia Finances & Other Updates (Good News)

4612035503 13ffb333f8 m Fibromyalgia Finances & Other Updates (Good News)

Money cash (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

Well, apparently I’m not going to lose the website this week. My bank, in their “wisdom,” decided that instead of declining the charge like they’re supposed to when there’s no money in the account, they’d pay it anyway.

In other good news, we got lucky this week, I got a check from the Bank of America mortgage settlement on Tuesday (July 23). It wasn’t a lot, but I actually have something in my refrigerator besides the last of the condiments and a jug of water now!

Just as exciting is that I think that we’ll actually be able to pay the car insurance and put minutes on the phone, too. That’s really important, because without the car insurance, hubby wouldn’t have a way to get to work and our situation would go from a nightmarish scramble to keep from getting evicted or anything other utilities cut off to living on the street. Without a phone, there’s no point in putting in applications for better jobs, because there’s no way for people to reach you (the store that told hubby he had a job as soon as the background check came back has not only not called him, they aren’t even returning his calls, so I’d say that’s a bust.)

In other news, my ebook “Transform Your Chronic Life: You CAN Be Happy in Spite of Chronic Illness,” has been added to the premium catalog at Smashwords. It should be available soon at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBookstore, and other major ebook retailers.

I’ve also started my next couple of books. The first is a book of tips and tricks for making living with chronic illness easier, and ways to save money. It will be full of simple ideas like sitting at the counter to do kitchen prep instead of standing up; using the fingerless elastic sewing gloves to help ease the aches in your hands; cooking larger batches on days you feel better and freezing the extras for days you can’t cook; and similar simple, inexpensive tricks to help you cope. If you have any special tricks you use, and would like to have them included, send me an email including your tip and how you’d like to be identified at chronicillnesstipsandtricks at gmail dot com (remove the spaces, replace “at” with @ and “dot” with a period.) (You can also share your tip in the comments if you’d like.) I’ll include them in the appropriate section, and add you to the list of contributors as well as sharing some of the best tips here on the blog as I write.

The second is a look at working in the service industries, more specifically retail work, and how those companies use the social safety net to increase their profits by using taxpayer money to replace the income and benefits they should be paying out of their billions of dollars in profits. I’m also looking for personal stories of what it’s like trying to live on what retailers and other service providers pay, as well as how policies have changed over the years, and what the “unwritten” policies are. All contributions will, of course, be kept anonymous for this one. Since being named as a provider of information could easily cost someone a desperately needed job, all names in the book will be changed unless someone specifically requests to be identified. To share your story, email me at lifeasawageslave at gmail dot com (remove the spaces, replace “at” with @ and “dot” with a period.) General information; personal stories; and scanned, photographed, or electronic documents will all be gratefully accepted.

Finally, I’m hoping to be able to buy a digital recorder for interviewing sources for this book, but with my current income, that’s not likely to happen. If you’d be willing to help out, you can donate to the cause at the link below.

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pixel Fibromyalgia Finances & Other Updates (Good News)
 Fibromyalgia Finances & Other Updates (Good News)

Deadly Spin: An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR Is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans – Book Review

5620276148 43347cbf6f m Deadly Spin: An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR Is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans   Book Review

Wendell Potter (Photo credit: Project On Government Oversight)

Deadly Spin, by Wendell Potter, is an expose’ of the health insurance industry, but it is also much, much more. Although possibly not intended as such; it is also a scathing indictment of the corporate greed and unethical practices that are destroying this country, wiping out the middle class, and killing the American Dream for all but the privileged few.

This book is required reading for anyone who wants to make informed decisions at the voting booth, as well as those who have any contact with health insurers, especially through employer-sponsored plans (in other words, pretty much everyone.) It explains how to identify “spin,” how to tell when you’re being manipulated by corporate interest groups, and how to recognize the various tactics used to influence you against your best interests. It also tells you how to determine whether an organization is truly independent, or is sponsored by corporations or PR firms trying to manipulate you.

The former head of corporate communications (the internal Public Relations arm of the company) for CIGNA, Mr. Potter exposes the methods that health insurance companies use to control public opinion, prevent needed legislation, and increase profits.

I never got close to the same pay grade as the CEO, but I nevertheless hated to see the value of my stock options go down. So, I paid close attention to the stock price for personal reasons, just as every other executive in a for-profit health insurance company does—including the medical directors who call the shots on whether to pay for expensive treatments and procedures like transplants. They know that they play a key role in reducing medical expenses, and they also stand to benefit financially if the company meets Wall Street’s expectations.

Rescinding individual policies, purging small-business customers, denying claims, cheating doctors, pushing new mothers and breast cancer patients out of the hospital prematurely, and shifting costs to consumers are the ways insurance companies cut their medical expenses and keep their MLRs* from inching up a decimal point or two.

(*The MLR is the medical-loss ratio, and is a key factor in the value of a company’s stock. It indicates how much of the premiums you pay for coverage are actually paid out in medical claims. The fact that these companies consider providing the service you are paying them for a “loss” seems to me to be an obvious indication that providing “healthcare”  for you is much less of a priority than providing healthy paychecks and bonuses for themselves. A lower MLR means that less income is being spent on paying claims; and more on overhead like salaries, bonuses, and outside PR services.)

Mr. Potter provides an insider’s view of of the dirty tricks, twisted truths, and outright lies the insurance companies use to increase profits and avoid paying legitimate claims. A favored tactic, given the name “consumer-driven healthcare” by the insurance industry, is raising premiums and deductibles to the point where consumers are forced to pay all their medical expenses out of pocket. One Minnesota family profiled in the book pays $7000 a year in premiums, and has an $11,000 deductible (which is much less expensive than coverage would be through the cheapest family plan available through their employer-sponsored insurance.) When one of their sons broke his arm 6 months after their coverage went into effect, the insurance company tried to avoid applying those medical expenses to their deductible, and made them prove it wasn’t a “pre-existing condition” before doing so.

He also includes detailed explanations of how the insurance companies have defeated every attempt at healthcare reform until President Obama’s victory. He shares his own experience and knowledge of how the Clinton administration’s Health Security plan was defeated, detailing the various fake “grassroots” voter movements set up by the insurance companies, as well as how public opinion was manipulated.

 It’s clear that voters were frightened away from [Clinton’s} Health Security by the specter—conjured up by the insurance industry and its business and political allies—of government bureaucrats coming between them and their doctors. What Americans got instead was private insurance companies doing exactly the same thing.

Did I mention that “Deadly Spin” is required reading for pretty much everyone? I was so fascinated (and horrified) by they methods Wendell Potter describes, and their results, that I couldn’t stop reading. His honesty about his own role in many of the events he describes is refreshing, and his explanation of why he had to step forward and expose the tactics of his former employer is inspiring. My favorite line in the book is, “Telling the truth is cathartic. I highly recommend it.” It reminded me of how necessary the truth-tellers and whistle-blowers are, those who are willing to stand up and say, “this is what’s happening, and it’s wrong,” even when it’s a risk.


Finally, in the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that I got “Deadly Spin” from my local library, and have received no compensation of any kind for this review. I’ve never (knowingly) met the author, or anyone involved in any of the events described; and have no connection to any company mentioned except perhaps as a former customer. Any biases and opinions expressed in this review are my own, developed as a result of my own experiences with various insurers, corporations, and healthcare in general.


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pixel Deadly Spin: An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR Is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans   Book Review
 Deadly Spin: An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR Is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans   Book Review

The End of the Line?

6343257373 0c25e4f97e m The End of the Line?

It’s over. This will probably be the last post on Transform Your Chronic Life. The hosting is due in two days, and I don’t have it. This week’s check is just enough to pay the part of the rent that’s due and keep the gas and electricity turned on, with $8 left for “medicine,” food, and gas so hubby can get to work. I think he’s planning to walk to work tonight, which will take him about 5 hours (each way.)

 The folks that hired him for a full-time job haven’t called him to come to work yet, and in less than a week the phone will be off and they won’t be able to, so I guess that’s done too. Even if they call, I don’t know how we’re going to get him back and forth with no money for gas or buses.

 I don’t know what’s going to happen next week, but I expect not to have a place to live because I don’t think the check is going to be enough to cover what’s left owed on the rent. We need to renew the car insurance, too, so I’m guessing we’re gonna be down to my MARTA card for transportation.

 We’re pretty much out of options, so it may be a while before anyone hears from either of us again. I can squeeze a penny until it cries blood, but there have to be pennies to squeeze, and there just aren’t any more.

 The End of the Line?

When the Light at the End of the Tunnel IS the Train

6970086695 974bffbc3a m When the Light at the End of the Tunnel IS the Train

Donner Train Tunnels and Snow Sheds (Photo credit: ChiefRanger)

Note: This post may sound pretty negative. I’ve been running with my blood sugar very low because of the financial situation, and that causes me to be depressed. If/when the finances are resolved, the hypoglycemia will go away, and so will the depression.


You remember the train I mentioned in the last post? Well, it turns out that light at the end of the tunnel was no more than the headlight of the train headed right at us . . . (My life is a train wreck. Wasn’t that part of a song?)

Hubby’s great new job? Well, sort of. He hadn’t heard anything by yesterday (the 12th) so he drove up there to talk to the manager that interviewed him. That manager wasn’t there, so he talked to someone else, who said, “oh, no, he couldn’t have said Wednesday or Thursday. It takes two to three WEEKS to get you on the schedule.”

Great, wonderful. Two to three weeks may be just fine for someone who isn’t at the point of losing their apartment, who has groceries in the house, or has an existing job that pays enough to live on. For us, not so much. Maybe we can survive until the first check comes, but I doubt it. Both of our checks last week were $400. Rent and the other stuff that HAD to be paid or something else would get shut off took $380 of that, leaving $10 for gas, and $10 for groceries for two people for a week.

This week will be even worse. He doesn’t get paid this week, and my check will be between $200 and $250. I have to make a $150 rent payment, AND pay a $70 gas bill out of that. If the check turns out to be less than $220, we’re SCREWED. Actually, we’re pretty much screwed anyway. Even if I can cover what HAS to be paid out of that check, I have no idea what we’re gonna do for food, or for gas to get him TO the job when they finally do put him on the schedule.

I can’t even go to a church and get a “basket” because I lost my driver’s license and social security card on the train, and haven’t been able to scrape together enough money to replace them yet. (DL costs money, and you can’t get a replacement SS card without picture ID. None of the churches around here will give you anything without a picture ID and SS card.)

We were absolutely counting on him having his first check from the full-time job this week or next week . . . without it, we’re almost certainly going to wind up on the street because we have nowhere left to go. They gave me a grand total of 18 hours this week, which means a check of around $100, and hubby has maybe 20 hours, which will net him about the same. That means that our total will be barely over $200, and if I don’t pay the last $350 of the rent, they’ll evict us.

We can’t even borrow anything, because our friends aren’t all that much better off than we are, and I will NOT ask to borrow money that I may not be able to pay back any time soon. I won’t risk putting someone else in this position. I know what it feels like to lose everything, and I will NOT be responsible for causing any of my friends to have to go through that.

In other words, I have no idea what we’re going to do to survive the next few weeks, I just know that somehow, we will. There has got to be some way for us to get the few hundred extra dollars it’s going to take for us to make it until the job comes through, and I’m going to find it. (And if we can’t find a way, there’s always the “exit strategy.” It’s not a choice we want to make, but we will if we have to. Neither one of us can face walking away with no more than what we can fit in the car. We can’t lose everything again, we just can’t . . .)

In the meantime, at least I’m not going to be spending all my time in the kitchen for the next few weeks. No cooking means not many dirty dishes . . .

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pixel When the Light at the End of the Tunnel IS the Train
 When the Light at the End of the Tunnel IS the Train
pixel When the Light at the End of the Tunnel IS the Train