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Posts tagged with: medicare

Lessons I’ve Learned being Poor

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We hear all the time about the welfare state, and the generations of people living on welfare, etc.  And being a conservative, that has always driven me batty.  “I’m working my butt off to support my family with no assistance, and these people who are perfectly capable for working, just sit on their butts and collect a check which I worked for.” –has been my attitude on it.  And this even coming from a social work background.

Now I certainly know that there are people who truly need the assistance, they cannot work or what they can do would not be able to support them.  I get that.  But having been in and around the social work field since the early 90s, I can promise you that this is not the majority of welfare recipients.

But now I am one of those people.  We are receiving SNAP (food stamps) and Medicare.  I do not qualify for any other assistance due to the adoption assistance for the twins…$1372 per month. (This number is public knowledge and every state sets their own rates, you can read more about in on the NACAC website.)

It was a VERY humbling experience to apply and have an in person interview for these services to be awarded.  I had to prove everything…my kids, my income, my bills, my job loss, my bank balances, etc.  I am not sure I have every felt so much shame and failure.  But I had to do it, I have four children to take care of.  And the only way I got through it was by telling myself – I have paid into this system since I was 15 years old AND this is not a long term solution, just short term assistance.  But frankly, I am so embarrassed to go buy groceries and have to use the SNAP card.  And while I pray that embarrassment never goes away as that is certainly a lesson in and of itself for me, I am educating our children at the same time and teaching them not to judge people in these situations, as I have for so long.

Needless, to say, we cannot live on $1372 per month, especially when rent on our 2 bedroom, 900 square foot apartment is $1435 per month.  So I’m having to continually seek additional assistance (in addition to my job search, odd job, etc.)  And it’s in seeking this assistance that I have learned ALOT about this “system” of ours.

I don’t want to write a book here and I could not about my experiences the last couple of months, I do want to give you some highlights.  And maybe some food for thought as you think of your charity choices.

  1. EVERY SINGLE place I’ve applied for help has turned me down.  The most common reason…I haven’t received an eviction notice.  Something is wrong with this picture to me.  So you want a single mom of four to be put out on the street before you step in?
  2. YOU CANNOT BE RESPONSIBLE and receive assistance.  I did not buy my kids Christmas presents. Every dime I get, I put toward bills.  We ate ramen for most of the month of December SO that we could have a great Christmas dinner.  Yes, that might have been my receipt with a couple of steaks at Christmas time…but if you looked at the rest of the month it was sandwiches and ramen.  So when I’ve gone to get help, don’t have an eviction notice and my utilities are just a week or so late…yup, no assistance for you.
  3. NO ONE EATS expired or weird types of food.  We have been blessed beyond measure with food.  Thanksgiving basket from a church, turkey from our neighbor and boxes and boxes of cranberry sauce and yams.  I am so guilty of this.  When one of my kids activities required a canned food drive, I would find whatever we wouldn’t use in our pantry, no matter how long it had been there and send it.  Gross!  Now I have received those foods.  My kids won’t eat them, I won’t eat them.  So when you are going to give to a food pantry, give them money…they can buy fresh food, food that people will actually eat.  I have a big box in the back of my car of food to donate…because we don’t eat it.  But I hesitate to send it back because I hate for another family to get a whole box of cranberry sauce and yams!
  4. IT IS REALLY HARD to get ahead and by ahead I mean paying your bills on time or at least on time enough not to accrue late fees, when you can only get help when you are SO far behind.  Since I’ve known I had this part time job for months now, I also knew that if I got to my start date being so far behind on bills, I would NEVER catch up.  And while I knew I wouldn’t make enough to cover all the bills, but I figured I would be able to at least “borrow from paul to pay larry and vice versa every month.)  Do you get what I’m saying?  But if I am even one day late on my rent, there is a fee of over $400 added on.  And with other bills the fee ranges from $5-25.  So I knew I needed to stay as current as possible.  And by the grace of God, awesome friends and community and family assistance, thus far I’m pretty close to on time (4 bills currently in arrears, 2 due to dog bite medical treatment/insurance fiasco,) but I know not everyone in my situation can.  So if you want to help someone who is struggling, don’t give them “stuff” or gift cards and I know most don’t want to give money…but you can, absolutely can, pay a bill for them.  It won’t take too much time out of your day to make a phone call or take them to a payment center and pay it.  No expectations, no strings, just pay it.

I won’t keep preaching.  But I can tell you this, I have changed significantly since starting my BAD journey a couple of years ago now. But these last months have made a forever imprint on my life and my attitudes, I have learned so much about the populations that I have wanted to serve my whole life.  And I have learned so much about the systems, they are dealing with, I am dealing with.  When I am through this phase in my life, I can promise that I will be paying it forward like a crazy person AND more importantly I will work to help improve the systems/services that are supposed to be “helping” these communities.  I think for the most part, they are just holding them down…the responsible ones that is. And I promise you there is more than just me that falls into that latter category!

I know the holidays are over and I know this is a debt pay off blog, but I will tell you this, if you are reading this, there are others who are a whole lot worse off then you.  I challenge you to reach out, lend a hand, even during your payoff journey. 


Health Care Nonsense

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I definitely do NOT want to get all political on the blog. I, personally, am pretty moderate and a swing voter so I can see both sides of most political issues. So without pointing fingers or blaming parties, I’m just going to say what anyone dealing with health care already knows….our current system sucks. Sucks bad.

I’ve got two case studies for you:

1) When my Dad had to retire early (due to being diagnosed with FTD), I took over a lot of his personal matters, including paying his bills, getting him insurance, etc. Here’s the problem:  we basically cannot get him the health coverage he needs. No matter the cost, its just not possible.

Some explanation…

When my Dad relocated from Utah to Texas he was given a referral to a neurologist who specializes in FTD. This physician only accepts certain types of insurance plans. He will not even book an appointment without one of these plans (I even tried to pay in full in cash at time of booking. Office simply wouldn’t do it). Unfortunately, the plan is really only available for group coverage. Did anyone else know that PPOs essentially no longer exist for privately-paying individuals? Because they don’t. We can buy various levels of HMO coverage (for like $1,000/month for a single individual), but none of the options available through the Marketplace (which is the government website) NOR direct through the big insurance companies (we tried 4 of them) have a PPO plan option for someone paying privately. It just doesn’t exist. Meanwhile, my Dad doesn’t qualify for Medicaid due to his asset base, and from the legal counsel we’ve received it sounds like Medicare is a long ways off before we can get him covered (pending getting all his disability stuff in order). So what’s our only option? We cannot see the specialist we were referred to. Just simply can’t do it. Between the poor options in health coverage available on the open market coupled with some ridiculous office policies at the specialists’ office (seriously – who doesn’t just accept cash?!?), we are stripped of the option of seeing the one person recommended to us. Absolutely disgusting.

2) Okay, to be totally fair, #2 has nothing to do with the government or sucky health care options…it has to do with my own naivety (heh). Apparently when I signed up for health insurance I was unaware that the plan I selected has NO (zero, zip, zilch, nada) coverage until a $500/person (or $1,000/family) deductible has been met. At that point we just pay the co-pays. But until then we owe 100% of our health bills. Only….I guess medical office staff wait to settle up their books until the end of the year? Since switching insurance in July, we’ve had several trips to the doctor (3 routine annual office visits/exams & 3 sick child visits). At each trip we paid our normal copay and thought that was it. Until…within just the past couple weeks bills have been flooding in! All of these visits (that have occurred at different places and with different family members) are just now being billed. At first I thought it was some issue with the insurance but after 3 separate calls to have all our benefits explained, I discovered – nope. It’s not a mistake. We owe this money. And it’s in the range of several hundred dollars (just under $500). We do still have about $400 in our health/dental/vision savings, but that’s going to go QUICK and we’ll still owe more. Groan! One more point for Murphy (of Murphy’s law) and yet another reason to slow our debt payment progress so we can try to recoup our EF (which I mentioned as an option here; still haven’t decided 100% for sure yet. We pay our debt at the very end of the month so I still have about a week to decide).

My Dad’s health care drama will likely be an ongoing thing we continue to deal with the entire rest of his life (as he’s always going to be privately paying; even after he gets Medicare it’s not like things will be all peachy. There are plenty of issues with that program, too).

In regard to my family unit, it’s annoying to have just discovered this information (and, of course, I learned this AFTER open-enrollment had ended so I can’t change it at this point). However, we can make changes to our budget to accommodate the issue (e.g., keep a larger amount in our health/dental/vision account in order to cover the $1,000/family deductible).

Live and learn. That’s all I can do. Live and learn.

And earn & save more money. ; )