27 October 2009

Obamanomics and Healthcare

I found a receipt for my short hospital stay almost 53 years ago. It cost my parents $100.00 to get me out of hock..er out of the nursery and bring me home. I looked up the current costs and found that a baby is going to cost between $6000.00-16,000.00 now. It all depends on whether or not there is need for a C-section and if there are other complications.

Thirty-five years ago my friend was without insurance when her son was born. She had the $25.00 a month plan and paid him off in full. Years ago people my age and older actually paid their medical bills like that and it worked. You knew it was your obligation and you paid. I just recently finished paying my portion of my hospital bills from last year. Even paying my 10% was difficult, but I got the job done.

Earlier this month I had an MRI. I have insurance and my cost was about $43.00 which had to be paid before I had it done. Because I have insurance the MRI folks who normally charge $2525.00 for this test were willing to accept less than $500.00 in total from my insurance company and me. Without insurance and without a pre-test agreement, they would expect me to pay their full amount.

What to do when you don't have insurance isn't a new problem. Years ago you weighed your salary by the benefits that were provided. You were willing to work for less per hour when the medical benefits were there. What happened to those days? Employers couldn't keep up with the higher costs of insurance and maintain the same salaries for their employees. My insurance was once paid in full by my employer. Those days are long gone. I am not complaining. I have insurance.

Those of us with insurance are noticing that pending legislation has our providers panicky and our premiums are going up, not down. Employers are requiring their employees to jump through more hoops. A friend of mine had to submit to having blood tests, being weighed and measured in order to have benefits from her employer. Workers are being separated into tiers of risk and being charged accordingly. No doubt this is the insurance industry's answer to not being allowed to refuse coverage to some. Insurance is a transfer of risk. The more risk the insurance company is willing or made to assume the more they want you to pay. When their risk increases, so do your premiums... even if you are not the cause of the increase. Some of the cost gets distributed to everyone.

Are we trying to take health insurance the way of automobile insurance? The more accidents and tickets you have as a driver and what type of car you drive have a direct impact on the cost of your insurance- along with geography, state laws and claims paid out. How much your insurance company pays in claims in an area influences the cost to everyone in that area. Some folks are such bad drivers they cannot get insurance unless they go to their state's assigned risk plan. In states where insurance is mandatory, the state evenly distributes those few drivers who are an unacceptable risk and refused the chance to purchase insurance to all the companies providing insurance in that state. That way no one company has to take all the bad drivers. You can bet the health insurance companies want no part in being regulated like this and I am not sure we want them to be either. I don't have the answers. I don't think the government does either- despite the charming assurances of President Obama.

HOWEVER, I would rather have saddled my grand-kids with taxes to provide some folks health care than bailout/bonuses for executives and the companies they ruined. Trouble is, nobody asked me.

My only comfort is knowing none of this has caught God by surprise. He isn't in heaven wondering how to bail us out. Now, watch the video again and smile.

21 October 2009

Being Invisible

Ever feel as if God is not going to cut you any slack? I do. I think that right now He is making things very uncomfortable for me in just about every area of my life. I have been off work since the end of August because I tripped in my own home, wrenched my back and hurt my neck. I flunked 3 MRI's because of being claustrophobic. I finally got through one and then it took 3 weeks for my doctor to be able to read the report. I have some severe damage going on in my cervical spine and I have been referred to a neurosurgeon. I have an infection in my eye. I have two different dental insurance benefits and neither one of them will pay for the cleaning I had six months ago. I had my teeth cleaned today and found out that I need a crown and not one, not two, but four fillings. I haven't had a filling in 10 years and suddenly I need four. They are so small that the dentist says we could watch them. Watch them what? Turn into big cavities that hurt? My short term disability insurance hasn't paid me in over a month because they are trying to determine whether my injuries justify a claim. Hmm.... sciatica from my lower back injury and my neck hurts because my cervical vertebrae C3-C7 are collapsing, have severe narrowing and big bone spurs that require a consultation from a neurosurgeon....but am I really hurt?? If I am not back to work by 11/16 I will be terminated. I cannot go back to work without my doctor's approval....my next doctor's appointment is.... 11/17. Are you getting the picture?

It took me a very long time to find this job. I love the company, got in on the ground floor and was hoping this would be the last job I ever had. I can't sit for long periods, have a hard time typing, can't think straight for the drugs that are helping me manage the pain. I want to go back to work but also have to think of the best interests of the company. I write contracts. What better way to get out of a contract or challenge it than by asking if the person who wrote it was on drugs, you know? I don't want to be a liability for the company and don't want to lose my job. I need the money and don't want to injure my pride. I have never been terminated by an employer.

I know that all of this can be worked out but it requires slogging through and being willing to fight. I am medicated and injured and don't feel good. I don't want to have to fight. I want God to fix it all right now. I don't want to wait and I don't want to have to be broken to the place that the only fighting to be done is on my knees.

Last Sunday my pastor preached on Matthew and prayer. Prayer is an essential part of a believers life and he said something about how little children ask their parents for what they need without fear and without wavering. I realized something important. I was always afraid to ask my father for something. I tried very hard to be invisible. Perhaps all God wants is for me to quit trying to be invisible with Him and do what He's commanded. Make my petitions known, pray without ceasing...come boldy before His throne.

I wonder what it would be like to willingly respond to Him? I hope to find out even if it is only once. I don't think it is practical or advisable to try and feign invisibility with God.

Matthew 7:7-11
7 "Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you.
8 "For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it shall be opened.
9 "Or what man is there among you, when his son shall ask him for a loaf, will give him a stone?
10 "Or if he shall ask for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he?
11 "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!

19 October 2009

Unfinished Business

April 14, 1989 I was driving home from a specialized training seminar in emergency management. Two of my co-workers were with me. Anxious to return home and avoid rush-hour traffic, we were making fairly good time traveling northbound on Hwy 101. We were tired of being away from our families and friends. Perhaps we were a little tired of each other, I don’t know. I don’t remember exactly why we were listening to the radio, but we were. A news story caught our attention and held it. There had been multiple homicides in our county and the suspect, Ramon Salcido, was being hunted by every law enforcement agency in California.

I remember feeling sorry for the dispatchers, detectives and deputies that were working. Joseph Wambaugh once wrote that law enforcement consisted of “hours of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror.” Working in public safety is akin to being on an adrenaline roller coaster and nothing got everyone’s adrenaline going more than a homicide. If I am to be honest, there is a part of the excitement that we’re attracted to, you could scarcely do the job without liking that rush, that flurry of activity, that instant mission that unfolds before you to solve the puzzle and put the bad guy in jail. But multiple homicides put you into overload and don’t give you a chance to come down from your fevered frenzy. No one wants to admit it but these incidents put a chink in your armor and remove a part of your soul. An incident this big leaves gaping holes and spills little pieces of you everywhere.

The dispatchers who received the initial calls took the brunt of the stress, but there was more than enough stress to go around. The detectives and deputies responding get different level of stress. First responders and medical personnel too. They get to see the results. As the details unfolded and the body count increased, local and national news became more and more interested. In the aftermath of Salcido’s murderous spree, his three young daughters were missing. A national manhunt ensued for him and we all hoped to find the girls alive. Everyone, cops and criminals, society and scumbag alike wanted to see Ramon Salcido pay for his crimes. That sentiment increased exponentially when we found the girls. In total he brutally murdered 7 people and attempted to murder 2 others. One of the survivors was Carmina, his 3-year-old daughter. Carmina and her two sisters all had their throats slashed. I remember when they found the girls and rushed her to the hospital. I recall being told they thought she survived because when Salcido threw their tiny bodies away, Carmina landed with her head tucked to her chin, stemming to flow of blood. It was nothing short of miraculous that she survived. I saw a picture of her on a tricycle and for twenty years I have wondered what had become of her.

Friday, October 16, 2009 I turned the television on and to watch 20/20. I had missed the first two or three minutes of the program and hadn’t a clue what topic they would be covering. My mouth dropped open as I saw a familiar face of a detective I had worked with, Detective Mike Brown and the tears began to flow when I realized he was sitting and talking with Carmina.

It was good to see them both. It was difficult to see the pictures and hear the narrated reports. I saw the faces and heard the voices of men and women I had worked with and known for an 11-year period of my life. Never knowing what becomes of the people whose lives intersect with yours during an emergency is taxing. Carmina is not the only person I have thought about over the years but she was on the top of the list.

There is a girl named Melanie who was abandoned by mother at a baby-sitter’s house. I walked into the report writing room and saw a group of deputies standing around the table looking at something. I peered over their shoulders and saw a 2 ½ or 3-year-old girl in overalls. She had her hair in little pigtails and big blue eyes that made her look like a character from a Dr. Seuss book. She was a dead ringer for Cindy Lou Who, standing on the table blinking with wide eyes. She took one look at me, the only woman in a sea of olive drab deputies and put out her arms to be held. I held out my hands and she launched herself at me, tucked her head under my chin, made a big sigh and hung on for dear life. The deputies that had taken her in to the main office were getting a better car seat for her and somehow DJ and his rookie got me to agree to sit in the backseat with Melanie as they took her out to the Dependent Unit. Had I thought things through, I would never have agreed. Melanie sang to me, held my hand and loved on me for the entire trip out there. When we arrived I carried her in and when the folks working there came to take her from me, she screamed, grabbed my clothes and arm and cried, “No! No! I be good! I be good, No! Please No!.”

For what seemed and eternity I couldn’t move and then I realized I had to extricate myself from her and the situation. I went out to the patrol car to wait for the deputies. DJ took one look at me and said, “It’s authorized to cry.” I think I swore at him and threatened him if he ever asked me to do that again. . Later that week I tried calling the Dependent Unit to see how she was and they wouldn’t tell me. It shocked me at first but I realize now why they have that policy. It didn’t stop me from thinking about her. Like Carmina and a couple hundred others, I think of Melanie all the time

I can’t explain exactly why I sobbed while watching 20/20. It was a cathartic moment of sorts but it has also opened a floodgate of emotions that I would just as soon not deal with. In a total of 17 years of public safety there are hundreds if not thousands of memories I would be happy to excise permanently. Eternal sunshine on the spotless mind ain’t such a bad idea, you know? But that’s not how God works.

There is not a doubt in my mind if I ignore my soul and my faith, I could become a victim of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I am not the same woman I was twenty years ago and I am very grateful for that, I don’t want to be that woman ever again. She and I are two very disparate personalities but we cannot exist apart from each other. I cannot be the woman I am today without having been the woman I was then. I think the tears I have been crying since Friday are as much for that other woman as they were for Carmina, Mike and the others. I also think I haven’t gotten to the bottom of them. Sometimes you have to knock off a scab to let the infection out.

Most of life is unfinished business looking for resolution. God specializes in that.

Romans 8:28
28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to {His} purpose.

Philippians 1:19-21
19 For I know that this shall turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,
20 according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I shall not be put to shame in anything, but {that} with all boldness, Christ shall even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.
21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

Proverbs 12:21
21 No harm befalls the righteous, but the wicked are filled with trouble.