Friday, January 17, 2014

I just wanted good health insurance for my children….

When I decided to stay home with my children and only work part-time jobs, it wasn’t for lack of work offers or desire to follow my dreams. I wanted to stay home as my mother and grandmother had done before me, intimately knowing my children and taking care of our little home. And besides, what was the point in paying someone else to raise our children for us? At the end of the day working for a parochial school, I wouldn’t be making that much money after paying day care. My husband’s jobs always include good benefits for him, but the small engineering firms would charge almost half of what he makes in a month for us all to join his insurance. It was cheaper to go it alone on our own individual plan. What I did not foresee is that having a $10,000 deductible and paying $440 a month for health insurance for the three of us would continue to financially devastate us. Perhaps I should have kept working, for at least the healthcare bills would have been manageable.

Unlike my Libertarian father and Republican brother, I was excited that the Affordable Care Act passed because I felt that finally, we the "working class", might catch a break. $1,500 deductibles for what I was already paying? Sign me up! Sadly, though, you often hear that some things are “too good to be true”, and this is one of those stories…

November 2013-

I receive a letter from our current health insurance company that says my plan is no longer legal according to the ACA. They give me an option to be grandfathered in with this same plan, leave, or accept a modified plan at a discount. As mentioned earlier, the $10,000 deductible was reason enough to leave, but I also had a hard time bearing (pun intended) the fact that I do not have Maternity/Labor insurance. As a baby and husband loving woman of child-bearing years, I find it despicable that my taxpayer dollars fund abortion, yet I cannot have a baby on my own insurance plan. We decide that the children and I should leave our insurance company and look for something on the Marketplace, despite the numerous complaints about the website in the media.

I begin applying at for myself and my two children.  First time through, website crashes. Second time through, I get all of the way to the end of the application and it says the “eligibility results are not ready at this time” or something to that effect.

December 2013- I get an email from the Marketplace, so I log back in; all of my information is gone. I start back over. It continues to say that my son is my husband and will not let me change it. I delete this application and start again.

Up until this point, I was willing to offer up these minor inconveniences for the sake of the Affordable Care Act being something new. New things do not always work perfectly the first time through. As someone who often tries to create new programs in the schools, I wanted to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. Even our Federal Government. This might be my first mistake.

December 15, 2013-

My husband and I restart my approximate 4th application after I leave Urgent care for a disgusting sinus infection. We knew we are running out of time to get covered by the New Year. After we complete the application, I am deemed eligible. My 2 year old daughter is deemed eligible through a state run agency (more on this later), but my 4 year old son is deemed ineligible for any insurance in the Marketplace. He has no income or any difference on the application than his sister.

At this point, the numerous Marketplace agents I spoke to should have told me to delete my application and start again. They should have assured me that this was one of the "glitches in the system". Instead, I pick a plan for myself, hoping that the appeals and State agencies would get back to me so that we could all start the New Year with quality health insurance.

December 23, 2013

I file an appeal, (because it must be done within 10 days) and even to date I still have not received ANY response. I continue hoping that perhaps they might get back to me within the week, and I realize now my naïveté.  I pay my new health insurance plan premium online, because New Plan called on 12/22/13 and said I must do this ASAP to be covered.

December 27, 2013

After a lovely Christmas spent with family, I am in a car accident with my son. We are fine, but both cars involved are not. As Dave Ramsey says, “Murphy’s Law will happen” or something to that effect. Things are not looking up on the health insurance front.

December 30, 2013

Now I am starting to panic. I have heard nothing on the insurance front for my children, but I am enrolled in an excellent plan with New Company and selfishly feel relieved. The relief is short-lived, as I continue to call the Marketplace, who state that they have no record of my appeal, and who all remark that it’s “so weird” that my son was rejected, etc. etc.  I call Old Company and try to explain the situation, asking if it is possible that the children can stay on our crappy plan for January or at least until I can figure this out. Old Company says that our State law requires an adult to be on the plan with children. If I leave that plan, Old Company will drop the children and they will have no insurance.  If I STAY on the plan but also get insurance the New Plan (can’t I double up?) the OId Company says they will drop me nonetheless.

In between trying to get the car sorted out with insurance and police reports, etc. I call New Plan and ask if I can just forward the $250 premium I put down into February. They say this is impossible, that I must cancel my health insurance enrollment with the Marketplace.

I call the Marketplace. They say that since I already paid my premium, this is especially tricky. They tell me not to delete my application though, since I have an appeal pending for my son. They assure me they have cancelled my enrollment with New Plan. I call New Plan. New Plan assures me my money will be refunded when the business department gets wind of everything.

I pay Old Plan so that we go into the New Year insured. I plan on restarting the calling and hunting process into January, but at least we have something.

Or so I thought…

January 13, 2014

I get a letter from New Plan stating a doctor they picked for me, an insurance card, etc. I am confused.  I call their hotline and leave a message. No return calls.

I call Marketplace and re-explain situation. I wonder now why I never got the names of the numerous, yet friendly people who have assisted me. At least I’d have some sort of trail to follow. Very fun lady is blown away by my situation, advises me to delete my application and start again. When we hang up, she even adds, “I’ll holla at you later girl”, and then corrects herself. We were on the phone so long, she said, that she forgot I “wasn’t one of her friends”.

I reapply online this night, only this time, they ask for wages before taxes and I’m no longer eligible for the Tax Credit of $55 a month. Fine. Get through entire application…and we’re all approved! Son & daughter are eligible through State Medicaid office. Now, as a former Social Worker and Master’s Degree holder, I have to swallow my pride reading this. Upon further investigation, I learn I still will pay a premium, but this program is under the umbrella of Medicaid. Perfect. Fine. We can do this.

I do not pick a plan for myself or pay because I cannot bring myself to take care of myself (again) until I do so for my children. Lesson learned.

January 17, 2014

I am a hard- working woman trying to finish my Administrative license, an academic portfolio, and raise (poorly, I suppose) two loving children that I want the best for. I should have called sooner, but now, a few days later, I finally call back New Plan (after never hearing back) and speak with Jamal, the first name I actually have ever remembered to write down. Jamal tells me my New Plan account is still active, and that I won’t be getting the premium refunded because I have been insured since the first of the month. I go through it all again…Poor Jamal got his supervisor, who was unavailable to speak with me, promised he marked me Urgent, and assured me that someone would call back…

Maybe it’s just $250. Maybe I chalk it up as a loss. I tried something new that was supposed to help the Working Class and maybe it’s just not my turn. I have a great and loving extended family to turn to in times of trial. However, I can’t help thinking that if I am DOUBLY insured now because of the faults of New Plan, myself, and/or the Marketplace, my two children will lose their coverage if Old Plan finds out. 

If that happens, that is the biggest travesty of them all. They are just kids, and I only wanted the best for them.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

‘Pianos Aren’t for Standing’

‘Pianos Aren’t for Standing’

I heard myself saying the above phrase and wondered what my life has come to. Rafael is now 21 months old, and Lou’s aunt came up with a fitting nickname: Captain Destructo. Rafael can systematically destroy one room at a time before you have a chance to locate the tornado that is him. I haven’t blogged in about a year and a half, and part of the excuse includes my lack of free time. Even when he naps (thankfully, still once a day for 2+ hours), I find myself removing plastic Easter eggs from under the stove, fishing out pajamas from the no-longer-locking garbage can, and dustbusting cheese chunks from under his highchair.

When he was itty-bitty, I didn’t use that much baby-talk. I try harder now to have more “conversations” with him so that I: a) don’t lose my mind in the course of a day, and b) help to build his vocabulary…I think? I may not be using baby-talk, but I find my ‘toddler anecdotes’ won’t really cut it in the real world, either. This brings me to some awesome Mom-quotes I’ve heard myself say recently:

“When you put the macaroni in your hair, that tells me you’re done eating.”

Rafael’s ability to self-feed does take some of the pressure off of me, and the spoons. Unfortunately, his exploration with texture and artistic expression leaves me hosing down the kitchen daily, as if I am one of the penguin keepers at Lincoln Park Zoo.

I am in no way a control freak mom, as evidenced by the time I was doing my back exercises on the floor (with my son right next to me, I thought) when I heard water splashing. This is a very bad sign with a toddler. As I rush to the bathroom, I realize one of 2 things. Either one of us left the toilet seat up, or Rafael is a baby genius and has defeated the toilet lock. At any rate, his “month-by-month” scrapbook was floating in the toilet, which prompted me to say, “Your photo album doesn’t want to go swimming today!”

Thankfully, he’s taken to playing with toys now, at least for several minutes at a time, which is refreshing compared to his ‘play’ at 16 months which just involved taking everything off of every shelf. His Nativity set from Christmas still makes him happy, so we find ourselves setting it up a few times a day. However, I don’t like to advocate violence, especially on Saints and Holy People, so I’ve set some boundaries:

“There was no police chase in the manger with Jesus.”

And as I end, here, let me leave you with the last bit of wisdom I imparted on my son a few weeks ago. I mean, honestly, where do I come up with this stuff? Seriously, it just comes out:

“You can’t hit your mommy. If I’m not allowed to hit my mommy, neither are you.”

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Bees, Popcorn, Sunburns, and...People Who Tell You How To Raise Your Kid

Last Saturday was the Popcorn Festival in my hometown of Valparaiso, Indiana. Held each year in the hometown of the bow-tied great Orville Redenbacher, it's an event Valparaisians truly look forward to.

Lou, my mom, Raf, and I arrived at the end of the Popcorn Parade. I thought I had some perhaps not-so-fond memories of marching in said parade in high school. However, when I saw the marching bands (whether in summer shorts or heavy wool gear) I found myself getting choked up. Even the little soccer club kids and karate students were moving me to tears. I think this is still hormones from nursing. I'm hoping, at least. Maybe it's that being in your hometown as an adult brings a feeling of nostalgia and pride. Or the nursing.

Anyway, we walked around the crap, I mean craft booths, bought some lunch to support local schools and Boy Scouts, and generally perused the scene. I'm always amazed when people watching at these things. Where do some of these people come from? High school kids wearing ski caps in 80 degree weather, tee shirts with really trashy sayings, you name it.

My main focus was trying not to bake my son in the sun. We didn't bring his nice stroller because we're lazy. Well, sort of. It's heavy and takes up space in our already tight trunk. Plus, my mom has one at her house we got for 8 bucks at a thrift shop. The only problem with that idea is that the shade doesn't really protect him since he's still so small. Sure, we lathered on the sunscreen, but I still spent most of the time worrying.

We brought along this blanket that Rafael likes that's light and white. We put it on his lap to protect his legs as best we could. He enjoyed playing with it as well. He puts it in his mouth, covers his head, and shakes it up and down. Whatever. It makes him happy. As we were stopped in one booth of homemade baby clothes, a lady came over and started cooing at the baby. This is not uncommon, but I do stand there close, especially in crowds, because this Jaycee Duggan thing has gotten me a little paranoid about child abduction. Anyway, this lady coos at the baby for about 15 seconds, then grabs the white blanket off him, hands it to me fiercely and says, "He doesn't need this- it's a VERY hot day". As if I need her to regulate my temperatures for me.

Louie instantly put it right back on Rafael. He was PISSED. I quickly blurted, "He likes it-it's his security blanket- also a sun shade..." and trailed off. She walked off in a huff. I kind of couldn't believe it. I mean, people come up to me occasionally and say stuff like, "Isn't he cold/hot?" depending on the outfit, but I've yet to have a complete stranger grab something off of him. I'm not sure why they think this is okay. Of course, then I felt like a bad mom for the rest of the Festival for bringing a baby out into the sun.

This reminds me of when he was first born and I stroller walked him to Dollar General because we were out of milk. The lady behind the counter couldn't believe I had a 4 week old out (he was wrapped up, I swear) in May because of "too much air". Um...too much air? Last I checked, air was a necessity. Now too much cold/heat/Swine flu- I get that.

Last week in the grocery store (you best believe he was in the Bjorn) a really cranky elderly lady was yelling at her husband near the baby aisle. As she stormed past me, I heard her remark, "A baby in the grocery store! Harumph!" I just got out of her way and felt bad for the man. But in a way I knew it was yet another person telling me their advice on child rearing.

Later that Popcorn Fest night we attended a wedding. Perhaps, if anything makes us bad parents, it is this. He never once napped in a crib and was out and about that whole day. Believe me, we paid the price in baby meltdowns. But at the time, it seemed like a good idea. Nevertheless, the decent people sitting across from us at our assigned table struck up a conversation with us. All was well and good until the father said, "Do you mind if I give you a piece of advice?" Looking back, all I can think is, "Well, he DID ask." I of course, allowed him to share his little nugget of wisdom which was...not to let Raffi try standing on my lap (which he really likes) because it will make him bowlegged. Of course the man knew from experience. He said his oldest son was bowlegged because they let him put "too much weight" on his "little legs" too "early on". Not to mention Rafael is already a little bowlegged.

So then the rest of the night I spent trying to keep Rafael from standing in my lap, even though we were all taking turns holding him for several hours. Everytime I forgot and let the little guy stand up (which by the way, he cracks himself up in doing so) I'd see the guy across the table, feel guilty, and promptly bend Raffi back into a seated postion.

Maybe people think we're teenage parents. Maybe they think we appreciate their help. Even so, I promise you I'll never comment on other people's child rearing now that I know what it feels like- at least to their face.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Summer of (100) Iced Coffees

Someone who is supposedly a grown up is expected to drink such things as wine, beer, and coffee. However, I prefer the sweeter side of life: juice, sodas, or tea. When summer comes around, I can’t help but get excited by McDonald’s cheap thrill- flavored iced coffee. Sure, this probably does not qualify as real coffee, but I enjoy it despite this, perhaps for this reason. At the beginning of my pregnancy, I avoided caffeine like the plague, but later as my energy waned, I was sucked back into the ‘quick pick me up’.

I hate McDonald’s usually for their corporate greed, but they really sucked me in with the frequent buyer card. I must’ve sipped my way through at least 4 of the “Buy 4 Get the 5th Free” cards. I’m luckily able to restrain myself from buying food while I’m there. And since giving birth in April, I truly appreciate the drive-thru for its convenience. I’d never be able to get my ‘fix’ if I was forced to hoist Rafael in and out of the car. Maybe that would help my addiction, however.

It was all well and good when I bought the small sized drinks- maybe an occasional medium. But you know how a craving builds…and then one day, I moved to a large iced coffee with vanilla syrup. I’d been driving 40 minutes each morning to Valpo for my part-time gig (and my mom watched the baby) and a coffee really helped my day start off right. That afternoon, Rafael was sort of wild and fussy and never went down for a nap. He kept up his act until later in the evening, and even Lou remarked about it.

It was then I realized…play with fire…get burned…

As long as I’m nursing, I suppose I’ll stick to size small. But it begs the question: whatever will I do when the Iced Coffee season is over?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I Suppose It's Sad What Passes For Humor With Us

Lately, Lou and I have begun amusing ourselves with new verses to a certain "Poker Face" song. By the way, we call our son Paco sometimes.

So, instead of 'Lady Gaga', here's...

Baby Gaga!

P-P-P Paco Face P-P Paco Face
P-P-P Paco Face P-P Paco Face
Won't eat rice, won't eat rice
No he won't eat his rice cereal
(when you try he gives you death stare)
Won't eat rice, won't eat rice
No he won't eat his rice cereal
(when you try he gives you death stare)

M-M-M Milky Face M-M Milky Face
M-M-M Milky Face M-M Milky Face
Can't wipe my, Can't wipe my
No you can't wipe my milky face
(He can spit up like no other)
Can't wipe my, Can't wipe my
No you can't wipe my milky face
(He can spit up like no other)

P-P-P Poopy Pants P-P Poopy Pants
P-P-P Poopy Pants P-P Poopy Pants
Can't clean my, Can't clean my
No you can't clean my poopy pants
(that orange crap is really stuck there)
Can't clean my, Can't clean my
No you can't clean my poopy pants
(that orange crap is really stuck there)

Coming soon...a verse with K-K-K Kicky feet K-K Kicky feet...

If you're thinking that we need to get out more, would you like to babysit?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

If Ignorance Isn't Bliss, It Must Be Pretty Badass

I usually do all the grocery shopping midday, to best coincide with my energy level, and the eating/napping schedule of my son. Across from our local supermarket is a lovely United Methodist church; it reminds me of the setting of hysterical "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" movie. Like many churches, it has a 'bell tower' playing recorded melodies of Christian hymns. This particular one plays contemporary Praise & Worship music, interestingly enough. I always enjoy the uplifting melodies, even if I don't happen to recognize the tune.

Anyway, when leaving the store recently (so, um, July), I saw a mother, her husband/boyfriend, and child on their way in. It being noon and all, the bells were all a-chiming, and the sun was shining bright. Glorious. Well. Until I heard the woman say, "Holy F***, hasn't Christmas been over for a while? What the f*** are the holiday bells about, anyway?" The man laughed, too, in agreement. Holding her hand was our nation's future, a bright eyed six-year-old little girl.

Does it hurt to be that ignorant, I want to know, or is it just awesome?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

How Much Can They Hear, Anyway?

As I write this, I'm researching Craigslist for a new place to live, despite the fact that I really like the interior set up and size of my apartment very much. The aesthetics of the exterior don't bother me too much, as I don't have to look at it as much as the inside...but out there, unfortunately, are my neighbors.

When we looked at this apartment, I was 8 months pregnant, and very desperate to find a place without mold and water leakage that a baby could grow healthily in. The landlord didn't seem as smarmy (over the phone) as others that we'd met, and really sold us (again, over the phone) on the friendliness, "condo style remodeling", and quality of tenants. Due to our good credit, he said we could have our pick of the beautifully redone apartments. We viewed it, liked it, and committed to paying $125 more a month to go from a HOUSE in Hammond to an APARTMENT in Highland. That was on a Monday, we signed the lease by Thursday, and moved in on Saturday, thanks to some really great friends.

While it was still colder outside, all was well and good. No one lived above us or to the side of us, and we existed blissfully with our newborn baby and the windows closed. Flash forward to this summer.

I think it started when some friends were visiting the baby in the early evening and there were ambulance lights in the parking lot. Three times in one week. Turned out there's an elderly gentleman who always thinks he's dying and calls 911, but now 911 wont come out anymore. Ok. I can deal with this. It's not very intrusive in my life, and obviously, I can show compassion for someone who is ailing. Done.

Another friend who lives in a similar set up assures me that nicknaming the other residents is a normal pasttime in apartment living. The "smokers" stand outside the front doors of buildings and talk until the wee hours of the morning. Inconsiderate, yes, but unbearable, no. Until the smell of cigarettes wafts into my windows and I start worrying about secondhand smoke. Close my windows, you say? I like the breeze! I'm trying to save on energy costs! It's not that hot out! Ok. I can deal with this. I can close the windows if it gets too bad. Done.

Then someone moved in upstairs. Honeymoon over. Putting together their funny accent and name on the downstairs mailbox, I've ascertained that they are German. If they, and their obese child, continue to stomp around up there, I've got a few words to share with them, and one of them is "goosesteppers." Ok. I can deal with this. It's like dorm life all over again. Just shut it out, Sally. Even if her hopping around shakes our ceiling fixtures and rouses Raffi from his naps?

The final straw however is the cursing, obscenities, and general domestic disputes that occur, sadly, frequently. You can say that Lou and I haven't been married that long, or that we know better than to argue with the windows open, but I can honestly say that I would NEVER use the language I've heard (and learned) living in this apartment complex. We really love each other, double yes, and have no interest in our life becoming one of those episodes from COPS. I shouldn't joke, but "scary guy" has now had 3 COPS show worthy episodes in our complex.

June 12th: I am nursing the baby at 4a.m. and hear a man calling a woman all kinds of names- let's just say, names a trashy person would use to call someone who they think is cheating on them. The woman is screaming, crying- so I wake up Louie. He goes to call the real cops, but in his hesitation, a car pulls up, a guy in boxer shorts and no shoes gets out, and into his cell phone says, "I'm here, where are you?" Woman gets into car and the man escorts her away. Thank God for her safety, yes, but then "scary guy" comes out in the COPS episode uniform: no shirt, no shoes, camoflauge shorts, lots of tatoos, beer belly...SCREAMING in the dead of night- more obscenities. We tried to brush it off; spoke to the building manager who assured us that "scary guy" was drunk and "that's not the way we like to do business around here". He promised us that any more similar offenses would equal the eviction of said "scary guy". I didn't like it. I wanted him to be evicted right away. This is the same guy who HAS SMALL KIDS that I've heard him yell "shut your a** up" to, but I don't think they live with him. I'm worried for this families safety, and my own. Imagine, if this is the way he treats people he 'loves', imagine how he treats those he does not? Lots of lights were on in our complex that night. It wasn't just us that were pissed.

I assure you that I'm not a nosy neighbor. Small apartment building + windows open + home daily with a baby= I hear everything. But even if my windows were closed, I'd experience a lot of this.

So, flash forward, last week. Monday night/Tuesday a.m. I'm awoken by "scary guy" on his phone outside the building. I cannot, and will not, repeat the words he yelled at a woman- which woman, I do not know, but they involved vile slang for the female genitalia. I kept thinking, why doesn't she hang up? Eventually, she must have. He went inside cussing, and one of "the smokers" shook his head. I didn't wake Louie, but figured this would be "scary guy's" final strike.

In the morning, as Louie left for work, I told him about what I heard. Apparently, when I finally did get back to sleep I was in it pretty deeply, because Louie woke at 4 a.m. ("scary guy's" favorite time, I guess) to the same man/woman screaming at each other. This time, Louie called 911. Someone else had called as well. Louie said three cops came by, they took the woman home, and had "scary guy" close his windows. I was a little nervous this guy would find out it was us who called. Louie talked to both the landlord and the building manager. At first, they assured us that this was going to be handled properly, but within the week they had changed their story to "just drunk talk" that would be handled if anything "happened again".

How many warnings do these people need? It doesn't appear to be physical yet, but what happens when it is? What will it take? I can't deal with this. I'm D-O-N-E with dealing.

But then, as I rose to feed my erratic sleep scheduled son at 3:30 a.m., I tried to change his diaper and quiet his tears quickly. I realized, if I can hear all this outside stuff all night, what can they hear from inside our apartment? A baby crying is not as serious or life-threatening as these other encounters, but perhaps they're blogging, just the same, about ME.