reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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healthcare.gov [flawed wednesday]

healthcare.gov

this could get ugly.  it could also get too honest.  and maybe too personal.  and too detailed.

this is the week.  i’ve been dreading it for months.  it is the final week to select health insurance for 2020.  sometime this week i will wait online for probably hours to take my turn, to take my turn to sign up for a plan on healthcare.gov. i have been awake all night on and off for weeks.

we are artists.  both of us.  neither of our jobs and none of the other work that we do provide health insurance or benefits.  we live in the state of wisconsin and have four options of healthcare companies on healthcare.gov.  an insurance agent pointed out that we could opt for short term health insurance (up to 360 days) instead of a regular policy, but those do not cover any pre-existing conditions, do not provide for physicals and most preventative care and are basically catastrophic plans.  hmmm.  as a grown-up who has been working my entire grown-up life, i would really like to have grown-up insurance.

so.  four companies.  bronze, silver and gold plans in each.  none of these companies provide nationwide coverage and a couple do not even allow for emergency room coverage out of network. two of those companies do not cover our doctors, professionals with whom we have established relationship through years; last year (2018) our coverage did not allow us to go to our own doctors, so we didn’t.  we paid for coverage and never visited the doctor’s office at all.

so let’s get more mealy here.  there are plenty of arguments about healthcare out there and plenty of naysayers and supporters -each- of the affordable care act.  are you even familiar with it?  if you would prefer not to know, i would stop reading here.  but if you really want to know more, please read on… but keep in mind, i love math and research.

we are 60 and 58 and healthy.  these four companies on healthcare.gov presented bronze, silver and gold plans that will cost between $1600 and $2800 per month out of pocket, which is a total of $19,200-$33,600 per year.  the $1600 options have deductibles between $14,000-16,000.  in many cases, this is what you must satisfy before the company even begins to pay a portion.   that would mean you have paid in the neighborhood of $33,200 a year for you and your spouse to be treated on a bronze plan, without figuring in the actual cost of the treatment.

let’s explore an example for example’s sake.

let’s say you make a combined salary of $70,000.  let’s assume a meager (and understated) tax bracket of only 20%.  $70,000-14,000 = $56,000.  now let’s assume you own a house or pay rent and your mortgage plus escrowed real estate taxes are about $1200 combined (also underestimated in most cases). $56,000-14,400 = $41,600.  add to that your utilities bills; let’s just estimate that at a lowish $250 per month, which is $3000 year.  $41,600-3000 = $38,600.  now subtract out for cellphones, home phones, cable, wifi again lowballing at $250 per month, $3000 per year.  $38,600-3000 = $35,600.  at this point you have not included any of your outstanding student loans or parent plus loans, nor have you subtracted out for home insurance, car insurance, life insurance, dental insurance, any kind of retirement savings or a car payment.  nor have you even considered food, clothing or gas for driving to and from work, even if you don’t drive anywhere else.  any outstanding rotating credit card debt or medical related costs that you are paying on installment are not subtracted.  but you are sitting at $35,600 usuable income.

so.  if you take the bronze plan you must assume that you have approximately $16,000 in the bank for the deductible and you must subtract $19,200 (27% of your gross income) from your $35,600 leaving you with $16,400 to cover all the aforementioned items we hadn’t subtracted and maybe perhaps saving a little to cover the percentages of medical expenses you need to cover post-deductible.  OR you can take a silver plan, which is in the neighborhood of $2200 per month or $26,400 year (38% of your gross income) leaving you with $9200 to cover loans, home insurance, car insurance, life insurance, dental insurance, car payment, food, clothing, gas, etc.  you clearly can’t even consider a gold plan at $2800 per month (the most grown-up plan) because that would cost $33,600 a year, leaving you with a mere $2000 to spend on the rest of life (as listed above).  again, that’s assuming a meager 20% income tax rate and not considering state or local income taxes as well.

i’m sure you are beginning to see my point.

and then there are the subsidies.  yes.  if you earn below 4 times the poverty rate in your state, you are eligible for subsidies for this healthcare insurance.  naturally, the more you earn, the less subsidy you are able to receive.  that makes sense.  it feathers out as the numbers go up.  and then?  there is a dollar level – one dollar this way or that – that a granted subsidy would drop from hundreds, even more than a thousand or fifteen hundred to – ZERO – .  for instance, if you are granted a subsidy because of your level of income and sometime in the year (as you have worked hard to earn more to live a little better) you go over the healthcare cliff by ONE DOLLAR, ONE dollar, you will owe back the entirety of the insurance plan.  in the above case, that would be anywhere between the difference of what you paid in and the plan total of $19,200 or up to $33,600.

we are the poster children of this so-called sweet spot in the healthcare crisis of our country.  a bit older, working hard, multiple jobs, no job-provided healthcare.  not making enough to scoff at spending say $29,000-$33,000 (silver or gold plans) or even $19,200 (bronze) for one year of health insurance, nonetheless be able to actually budget that, but making a bit more than the cliff.  no ropes.  no guardrails.  just a cliff.

the professional insurance agent on the phone said she had “a lot of people your age in that circumstance.”  she suggested considering short term health insurance, the kind i mentioned above that precludes pre-existing conditions etc etc. etc.  that doesn’t sound like grown-up health care to me.  and the deeply disappointed, frustrated cynic in me asks this question – when will breathing be considered a pre-existing condition?

something needs to be done.  is the health of the people of this country important or not?  it’s a basic question.  with an obvious answer.   where do we place value?

read DAVID’S thoughts this FLAWED WEDNESDAY

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voila! [merely-a-thought monday]

something wrong with me box copy

20 rolled his eyes at himself when he told us the story.  he was at the grocery store and was looking at dish soap.  he likes dawn dish soap; it gets the best ratings, he said.  as he is peering at the shelf of containers, he can see that way in the back is a container with just a bit more…the volume of the ones in the front seem lower than this particular one in the back.  so he reaches all the way in, moving aside other dawn bottles now rejected by him and pulls out the one where he can see the soap level just-a-little-bit-higher.  he notes that the plastic bottle is not squished or dented (for obviously that would cause a rise in level) and he triumphantly puts the chosen bottle in his cart.  voila!  “there must be something wrong with me,” he said.

as a person who grew up with soap socks and leftovers i couldn’t disagree more.  of COURSE you look for the highest level of soap in the bottle.  that’s a no-duh.  penny-pinching and making things last as long as possible were unspoken mantras for me; they still are.

my sweet momma kept a soap sock.  for those of you who have no clue what that is:  as a bar of soap gets smaller and smaller it becomes increasingly difficult to use.  never to waste anything, my momma would gather all of her tiny vestiges of soap bars and put them in a clean white sock (generally a sport sock…something a little thicker with a tooth like a washcloth.)  she would tie off the end and voila! there you have it – a washcloth with built-in soap!  a soap sock!

i have inherited this trait from my momma.  i will turn bottles upside down and squeeze the life out of them in order to finish all the product.  days after d has declared a shampoo bottle empty i am still encouraging shampoo out of its depths.  our refrigerator rarely has much extra in it – we buy for what we need and we use it up, even if it ends up as some weird concocted leftover.  growing up i didn’t need the “starving children in ….” speech.  i had dna.

so when 20 told us that he takes three pre-packaged 3 lb bags of potatoes over to the scale and weighs them i listened.  apparently, 3 lbs of potatoes can look like 2 3/4 or 3 1/2 or 4 1/4 lbs.  who knew?  you can bet i’ll be trying that.  more potatoes for the money!   voila!

“there must be something wrong with me,” 20 said.  nah.

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY

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i already have them.

fullsizerenderbeing an artist means many things to many different people, but the one thing that i am certain of that is unifying among artists is that there is a budget. hmm…a challenging budget. not a lot of space to splurge sometimes. and other times, maybe some space to splurge. but always an awareness that, although art forms are the things that people gravitate to in times of bliss and utter grief, in times of celebration and quiet, in times of unity and division, in times of conversation and reflection, these ways of making a living are way less sure (understatement) – in a budget kind of way – than most others. and so this is how we live. always aware.

he said he was about to click on the “buy it” button and complete the purchase online when he noticed an additional $10 administrative fee. it made him reconsider; it made him think of other things we might do/purchase/pay for/experience with that extra $10, not to mention the whole purchase price.   and so, he thought about it and, reluctantly, he stopped and cancelled his order.   he seemed sad to tell me this story and prefaced it with an apology. he was ordering flowers. online. to be delivered on valentine’s day. which, might I mention, is really a made-up holiday. (why shouldn’t every day be treated as valentine’s day? i choose him each and every day, not just as my valentine on valentine’s day.)

this morning he brought the newspaper along with steaming mugs of bold coffee when he woke me. we sipped coffee together and chatted as the sun moved into the sky. i found his homemade valentine’s day card that he had tucked inside the paper and felt my heart beating as i read it, tears easily coming to my eyes. it was exquisite.

knowing how he was feeling about the story he had just told me, i asked him what kind of flowers he had been ordering. “daisies and one red rose,” he said.

there’s no need to receive these at our front door. i can see them.

they are the daisies from our wedding and a long-stemmed red rose – the traditional flower of Love – the very thing that he shows me every day, in so many ways.

i already have them.