Simply ordinary observations from an ordinary person - sometimes having to do with health care issues, sometimes not. Topics will change as my attention wanders. Yours probably will too....

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Just So Wrong

We've started our annual health insurance review at work early this year, anticipating the usual bad news. It's worse than we expected. The premium increases haven't been posted yet but we were told to expect somewhere between an additional 15 to 30%, on top of the age related adjustments. Also, the out of pocket maximums have doubled, mental health coverage has decreased, prescription drug coverage has decreased, HRA contribution limits are cut by 50% and the HRA payment arrangement has been restructured. Bottom line - less coverage for 30% more money. It's just so wrong.

By coincidence, this bad news arrived in the same week as the SoCal octuplets. After a sleepless night worrying about our employees and their benefits, I got up to news about the medical accomplishment of a multiple-multiple birth. A birth which required 46 doctors, 4 delivery rooms, unlimited support staff, and an open ended NICU stay for 8 premature babies.

I was not planning to write about this, because I do believe in privacy rights and in the woman's right to choose. But as the details of this situation trickle out, I only have one thought: it's just so wrong.

I feel sad for the young, single mother because I belive there are mental health issues involved. Why else would a single, unemployed mother of 6 children under the age of 8 choose to deliver 8 more? It's either extreme irresponsibility or mental illness. I'm trying to be kind in choosing the latter.

But I also think it provides part of the explanation for our increasing health care costs. While my co-workers and I scrimp and save - setting aside money for the high deductibles, seeing only doctors within the network, getting our generic drugs via mail order, using a cut-rate lab where we're never sure we can trust the results, and self treating until illness is really, really apparent - while we're doing all that, one woman can be implanted with 8 embryos and then use huge amounts of health care dollars to bring fragile, sick babies into the world. The medical advances of our time have been phenomenal. But they are not always used for the greater good and situations like this only increase the burden for those of us leading boring, normal, middle class lives.

Health care premiums are strangling the company I work for and the new out-of-pocket limits will place some of our employees at high risk for financial disaster if a serious illness or accident strikes their family. It's depressing, discouraging, and complicated. We have a system which doesn't seem to really satisfy anyone - except the rare case like the one above. I only have one thought today - it's just so wrong.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Joe the Realtor

I recycled an 18" stack of catalogues right before Christmas, but they still keep coming! It's like a plague - order from one company, and get placed on the mailing list of 5 others. Some days I have 3 catalogues from the same company in my mailbox, each with a different cover. I don't see how that can be worth the printing/marketing costs but apparently it is, or it wouldn't be happening. I was waiting for my tea to brew this a.m., I started flipping through one of the more recent mailings, which promised "a showcase of catalog best sellers". (If your taste runs to slogan tees and gadgets, maybe.) On page 23 is the "St Joseph Home Sellers Kit" for only $12.95!

Now, I was raised Roman Catholic so I can write about this. I know my patron saints and their personalized intercessions. St. Joseph, with his contractor/carpenter background, is the patron saint of house sellers and buyers (and numerous other situations including fathers and whole countries). According to this catalog, "burying a statue of St. Joseph on property to be sold dates back to medieval times, but...became widely popular in the U.S. in the 20th century..." Widely popular? Are you sure? The kit contains an 8" resin statue, instruction card, prayer card, and interesting background information about the origin of the practice. OMG!

I know the housing market is in dire straights but I didn't know it was THIS bad! But hey, if burying St. Joe in my backyard will bring the value of my house back up to 2002 levels (when I purchased), I'm all for it! It would be great Return on Investment - spend $12.95 and get back $50,000. Maybe I can research "patron saint of the postal service", who can then help me get off the mailing lists. Don't laugh... I'm sure he/she is out there.

I'm saving the catalog. If Obama can't get property values restored, Joe the Realtor is going down - into one of my flowerbeds that is....

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Mr. President

The past few weeks have been an eye-opener for me. I supported Barack Obama from the very early days because I liked what I was hearing. I found his racial background interesting and liked the thought of having a black woman and her daughters in the White House, because of the example they could set. But race was not a major factor in casting my vote, and it wasn't for any of my pro-Obama friends as far as I know.

However once the votes were cast, I began hearing the same message over and over and over from blacks and minorities: "I never thought this would happen in my lifetime!" The joy and pride and excitement and relief and tears have taken me by surprise. I have completely, totally underestimated the psychological burden our minorities have carried. If someone had asked me the same question - will we ever elect a black? - I would have answered, "Of course, if he/she has the education and leadership skills needed to do the job." I believe the same for gender - that's it's only a matter of the right person before we elect a woman to the position. But it's obvious now that that was naive on my part and that millions of dark skinned citizens did not believe American would do so. I'm so happy that they're finally, finally wrong.

And I confess to blatantly "lifting" this photo from someone else's blog. I couldn't help myself.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Grazie, but no!

I've just come back from a Sunday shopping trip to Costco. It's amazing how many families were there, just browsing through the aisles of stuff and partaking of the free food samples. I was headed into the food section when I overhead an earnest, energetic worker offering samples of the "new, imported, Italian salmonella pasta"! She was referring to her note cards and following the cues perfectly..... except I'm quite sure she meant "semolina" pasta, not "salmonella".

But who knows, maybe I inadvertently discovered the source of the recent outbreaks! I passed on the pasta sample, even though I'm quite sure it was delicious. I'm just getting over one illness, no need to risk another!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Chips, no dip

Continuing on with bowl fever, I watched the "Tostitos" Fiesta Bowl last night. I was mildly rooting for Ohio due to 1) an aversion to all things Texan because of G.W.Bush and 2) a very tenuous connection to OSU (my ex-husbands' younger brother attended Ohio on a sports scholarhip 35 years ago. Tenuous indeed.)

But it was hard not to love those Longhorns - from the ridiculous, ginormous longhorn steer, and the kitzy-cowboy band uniforms, and the Texas football fever in the stands. But, know what I loved most of all? The color of the football jerseys!

That is an impossibly beautiful color for a football team! I couldn't decide whether to call it Roasted Pumpkin, or Burnt Sugar, or Caramel Cream, or Nutmeg Spice, or Autumn Haze. And to pair it with rich cream helmets and accents - perfection! I would choose that color for a fall wedding, if I was young and had a Prince Charming, maybe paired with cream color roses and deep brown velvet ribbons.

I suspect it is meant to duplicate the color of a Texan longhorn steer, but it gets my vote for Favorite Football Jersey of All Time. That's how much I like it!

Oh yeah, the Longhorns won the game too. As if that matters....

Monday, January 5, 2009

Bowl Me Over

As it turned out, I could have skipped the shopping excursions for cold medicine because I didn't have a cold. After acknowledging to myself that I needed a doctor, I was diagnosed with "right lower lobe pneumonia" and promptly placed on antibiotics. Guess that explains 15 days of coughing, fever, chills, congestion, and pain. The miracle drugs are working and I'm well on my way to recovery now. I called in sick this morning tho, after two weeks of "vacation". Fortunately, I am the HR department, so don't have to provide documentation.

Since I was already laying around on the couch, I caught quite a few of the college bowl games over New Years. It wasn't just my low oxygen saturation level or general malaise either, I do enjoy watching these once-a-year matchups. I prefer the traditional names of course. I like the history and cache behind a Gator Bowl or Sugar Bowl or Cotton Bowl or Rose Bowl. But please, who actually wants to admit to watching the Chick-fil-A or Autozone or Capital One Bowl? I know I don't.

It's not completely honest though, to pretend that the football game is the main attraction for me. I understand the basic framework of the game so I can follow the action - but here's a list of the things I really like to watch:

  • The intensity and concentration of the (usually handsome) coaches as they pace the sidelines. I like how they never concede defeat until the game ends and how they congratulate the other side before leaving the field.
  • The energy and exuberance of the marching bands. Those kids are awesome - having so much fun in such dorky outfits!
  • The beauty, athleticism, and perfection of the cheerleaders. I know, it's probably an outdated sexist gender-diminishing activity but come on - have you ever seen anything so SoCal as a blonde, ponytailed, USC cheerleader in her little pleated skirt and white appliqued sweater? If I had a daughter, I would totally allow her to be a USC cheerleader. As long as she kept up her GPA in a realistic career path major.
  • The spontaneity and spirit and enjoyment of life displayed by the students, parents, and alumni in the stands. I like the "game faces" and colors and loyalty and camaraderie in the crowds.
  • The goofy, illogical mascots. That Georgia bulldog pouting on the sidelines was hilarious, as was the giant orange Clemson tiger and the gaudy USC "Trojan". Roman centurions are rolling in their graves I'm sure, hopefully in laughter.
  • The unpredictability of what happens on the field. (Yes, I do watch parts of the game too. ) Even tho many of these players go on to professional sports, they're not there yet. These games seem to contain just a bit more risk and more surprise than the NFL ones - making them more fun to watch.

So, bowl me over. I have pneumonia and bowl fever. Looks like I'll be watching the BCS championship game Thursday night!