Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Now, THIS is what I call crazy.

So. Let me tell you about my latest catastrophe.

I have a job. I have a good, possibly even great job. The only problem with my job is that there is no insurance. Realtors, being independent contractors, are unable to have group insurance, and there are not enough non-sales employees to warrant us having a group policy. Thus, the only medical insurance I have is a little supplemental policy from Aflac, because I have been dealing with my health from the “It’ll never happen to me” standpoint.

Recently, I rethought that attitude when my buddy Rhonda, the smartest woman in America, told me I could totally have a regular major medical policy for as much as I was paying for my craptastic supplemental policy. So I called up to my local insurance guru, who put me in touch with the agent who handles medical insurance for her office. This is where my trouble began.

As I know absolutely nothing about the insurance world, I had no idea what to ask about my coverage needs. The main two questions I had were whether maternity insurance was included (in case of an Act of God) and if my psychiatry appointments would be covered.

Here is your lesson for the day: Honesty is NOT always the best policy.

As soon as I said the word “psychiatry,” the red flags went up. The agent (Who, I might add, was nothing but helpful and I would highly recommend using her to anyone local who may read this post.)said that psychiatric appointments were generally not covered by individual policies, and if she were to find a carrier, my premiums would increase by 20% to 70%.

Twenty to Seventy percent.

TWENTY to SEVENTY percent.

So I told her to forget the mental health coverage and just run the numbers with “normal” coverage., but she was required to enter my specific diagnosis as a pre-existing condition.

Although my doctor says I have a “mild mood disorder,” there is no official diagnosis for that. My official chart reads “296.60, Bipolar I, D/O mixed unspecified.” Bipolar disorder is one of the mental health diagnosis with the “uh-oh” connotation. If somebody says they have anxiety issues, people think, “Eat a Xanax, you’ll be fine!” If you admit to having bipolar disorder, they look at you like you should be in a ward somewhere, or at the very least on heavy, heavy medication.

I am not remotely embarrassed by or ashamed of my diagnosis. I am thankful and happy that I have a very “light case” (for lack of a better term) of the disorder that can be handled with one tiny pill daily. There are horror stories about people who truly, truly suffer with Bipolar Disorder every day. One of the reasons it is so hard to get medical coverage with the disorder is the instability of many patients and the likelihood that they will harm themselves, costing the insurance company money. I am lucky in many, many ways.

However, my luck apparently ran out at the insurance counter. The agent tried to find a carrier who would accept me, and had no luck. The entire insurance community has given me the Heisman.

Let’s think about what this means:

Unless I choose to leave my very good job in this unstable economy and take a chance that I can find an employer offering group insurance, which does not have the same restrictions, I will have to pay out of pocket for any medical care I receive. Pap smears, regular visits to a GP if I get a cold, eye doctors, anything. A major procedure would, quite literally, bankrupt me. Bankrupt.

I am a college-educated, tax-paying, productive member of society with steady employment who has no insurance. Do you know who can receive medical care, including mental health benefits? People enrolled in the Medicare program. Here is a link to the government pamphlet explaining your mental health care benefits under Medicare:

Ideally, I would like for my insurance carrier to cover my once-every-three-months shrink appointment, but I could handle (because I am employed, remember?) shelling out for those visits, if I could pay a co-pay for things like the OB-GYN and the regular general physician. But I cannot even do that. All I have been thinking about lately is a long string of what if’s.

What if I got pregnant?
What if I broke my leg?
What if I were in a car accident?
What would I do?
How would I pay for it?
How would I pay for the rest of my bills?

Maybe I should quit my job…..

Friday, August 7, 2009

I had that Weekly Reader too, you know!

My name is Jamie, and I am a book-o-holic. And I’m sure most of you were already aware of that little fact. At the moment, I am completely sucked into the Kindle phenomenon. Oooh, it’s so great. I was originally of the opinion that I would never, ever, ever, ever feel the need for the Kindle. A book hoarder like me would never leave my actual paper pages for a digital screen. The whole tactile experience would be lost. The smell of a newly opened book, extinguished. Future generations would never be able to dig up a Kindle and learn about our culture. We can read the Dead Sea Scrolls, what are they going to do with a desiccated hunk of plastic?

Um. So. It turns out that I was just rationalizing to take the focus from the fact that I am cheap.

This Kindle thing is fabulous. El fabuloso. Most definitely the best gift I have ever, ever received, with the possible exception of the year Santa brought a puppy.

The first three books I bought for the kindle were:
1. Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer (Yeah, yeah.)
2. Shelf Discovery by Lizzie Skurnick
3. Best Friends Forever by Jennifer Weiner

First off, mad props to Lizzie Skurnick. Skurnick has a column on called “Fine Lines” in which she re-reads old Young Adult books, and reviews them based on her adult perspective combined with her reminiscences of her teen reading. Why do I not have ideas like this????? Do you realize how many books which are, as I type, residing in a closet somewhere in my parents’ house were reviewed in this collection of essays? Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret and Island of the Blue Dolphins and The Westing Game and even Flowers in the Attic. Freaking Flowers in the Attic! I can see me right now in the seventh grade, carrying a turquoise Liz Claiborne pocketbook within which was one of the (many, many) V.C. Andrews books and a tester for Polo Sport Cologne. I don’t know which the more confusing fad was: (a) compulsory reading of terrible, poorly written, often incestuous teen literature or (b) requiring that one’s purse smelled like men’s fragrance. Did we think we were growing boyfriends in our Liz Claiborne’s?

Second off, I’m struggling with Best Friends Forever. I love Jennifer Weiner. Love her long time. I bumped into a copy of her first book, Good in Bed, years ago and have been in love ever since. But I am not in love with this book. I started reading Weiner because she writes novels generally starring big girls, which is more of a rarity than you would realize. Carrie Bradshaw and Sookie Stackhouse don’t exactly shop at Lane Bryant, you know. But I stayed because she writes books that I would enjoy reading even if they did not have the weight angle. The plots are strong. The characters feel real, and flawed, and a lot of the time they remind me of people I know, if only we were a little smarter and had more snappy dialogue. Plus I am a big fan of Jennifer Weiner’s voice when she just writes as herself. There’s a link to her blog – A Moment of Jen – over there on the right. She also writes guest posts for various sites like the Huffington Post, and she actually wrote the essay on Judy Blume’s Blubber for Skurnik’s Shelf Discovery.

So what is it about this book?

I just can’t quite figure it out. I’m almost done with it and I am hoping for a last minute pass. I think it’s partly because the heroine reminds me a bit too much of myself in certain ways. Or me in a younger, less self-assured time, perhaps. I think it might be because I just cannot justify any investment in Valerie, the “frenemy". I find myself talking to the Kindle, saying “LADY, your friend there is obviously in need of heavy psychiatric medication and quite possibly some electroshock therapy as well” but thus far it is not working. Maybe I will give you a more detailed analysis when I finish. Like I said, I have high hopes for the end.

Maybe I should make that a regular feature, like Jamiereadit Day on Jamiedidit. A-ha! Coming next month…..September Book Club selection Same Kind of Different as Me.

Although, now that I think about it, V.C. Andrews might need a re-reading.