All posts by Joy

Health Insurance – The Options

1. Go without health insurance
2. Pay $405 a month for COBRA
3. Lie on my application and pray no one will find out later on
4. Take 6 or more units of credit at a community college to be eligible for the student plan (that’s two classes, I think – which will end up costing more than the $405 a month? And require time I don’t have.)
5. Get a job with benefits (and give up the job I have now that I really like.)
6. Get married to someone with health insurance
7. Apply to the California High Risk Pool, wait 6-12 months to be approved, then pay at least $200 a month for health insurance
8. Successful Suicide. (*note – I don’t mean to make light of suicide, I’m just noting this since I cannot get health insurance due to being diagnosed with major depression.)

Thoughts?

Will Short Term Health Insurance Help?

I just applied for a short term health insurance plan. I put down that I want coverage for 72 days until March 1. I figure if I get approved, that will buy me some time to figure out how to get “real” health insurance. Ie – how I’m going to have to lie in order to get insured. I’m not sure if they’ll approve me for this short term insurance, but basically it’s $133 for those 72 days, and it will help me extend my period of continuous coverage for a while so I have some time to sort things out. I just wonder if HealthNet will approve me. Chances are I won’t even go to the doctor in the next 72 days, so they can just take my $133 and run with it.

I Can’t Get Affordable Health Insurance

Do I really need healthcare?

Well, apparently I was denied coverage from PacifiCare due to my pre-existing conditions. That’s not good, since my health insurance agent basically told me that they’re the most lenient when it comes to this stuff, and I didn’t even note on my application that I have “major depression.” I just put down that I have anxiety/depression and took Lexapro and Xanax for this problem for one month each. To be honest, I’m done with meds for anxiety forever. I don’t like them, they don’t help, they make me feel sick, and they cost too much, even with insurance. I also noted that I have irregular periods, but I didn’t label it as “PCOS” because I thought that might get me denied. Oh, and I mentioned that I did have a ruptured cyst on my ovary last year. Yea, so I was pretty honest, minus fibbing a bit on my mental health diagnosis.

Anyway, fuck, I wasn’t approved. Now what? Well, my options, according to my agent, are signing up for a state plan where I’d be pre-approved but it would cost more. $240 a month for Kaiser, or $290 for Blue Cross. I’m pretty sure these are high deductable plans too. Yea right. I don’t make enough for those plans.

In short, it looks like I’m going to have to go without health insurance for the next ten years. I think that’s when I can wipe my mental health problems off my record. Let’s hope I don’t get into any near-fatal accidents between now and then.

Gosh this makes me sad.

Free Workout of the Day: 8 Minute Abs (from 1994)

Can it get any cheesier than this? I remember the infomercials for this 90s exercise classic. The good news is that this video is now “free” and it works. The main guy is motivational, and the bad music (that could fit in a 90s porn as well) for some reason makes me want to work out even harder.

I kind of like how each move in 45 seconds. But by the end of eight minutes, I’m in pain.

Free Workout of the Day: Butt Blaster

Now that I’ve pulled the plug on my gym membership (that I never used), I’ve decided to seek out free fitness videos online. My boyfriend swears by 8 Minute Abs (circa 1994). If you want, you can find that easily for your dated enjoyment on YouTube. Yes, I did 8 Minute Abs today and I’m going to try to do it everyday for the foreseeable future. However, today’s “Free Workout of the Day” takes us to a slightly lower region – our butts.

I just did this six minute butt blaster workout that I found on YouTube, and boy does my butt feel blasted. Check back every day for a new Free Workout of the Day video or tutorial from another fitness website. All workouts will use body weight and cardio alone and require no additional equipment, therefore actually being free!

Is "Mystery Shopping" Worth the Stress?

For the past few years, I’ve done a few “mystery shopping” meals through the firm Coyle Hospitality. While many mystery shopping companies are scams, Coyle is an actual legit business that is decent to do work for.

They only do restaurants, hotels and spas. The hotel shops are generally during the week (when I have work) and spa shops are, not surprisingly, difficult to get. However, every once in a while I’ll sign up and get assigned a shop at a restaurant.

I always drag a guest along… usually my boyfriend… and we try really hard to pay attention during the meal and memorize the majority of important interactions made between us and the staff. In the end, though, we both spend upwards of five hours on the report, and yet we still manage to make mistakes (both due to confusing instructions and error in consistency — you have to note the exact time dishes were served and taken away, etc, in numerous locations on the report) and my scorecard is only in the average range.

So I wonder if mystery shopping is really worth it. Sure, we get a free expensive meal ($100+), but the dining experience is not all that pleasant due to being paranoid the whole time about paying attention to the details. The actual “shop” takes about two hours to complete, or more if the restaurant happens to have slow service. You usually have to do a shop at the bar first, where you go and spy on the bartender(s) and “wait” for your guest to arrive.

The meal, however, is the “pay.” Well, that, and a $15 “fee” you get with each shop, which basically covers the cost of gas or a train ticket to get to the restaurant for two people.

Currently, as a freelance writer, I charge $25 an hour for my services. My boyfriend, who is also a writer and editor, makes about $15 an hour. So figure that, given our current wages, our time would be worth about $40 per hour… maybe $30 with taxes taken out.

On the last assignment, we spent two hours dining, and then five hours filling out the report. That’s seven hours… and at our ‘after tax’ rate, that would still be $210. The total reimbursement I’ll be seeing for the lunch shop will be $112, including the $15 fee.

I don’t mind the pay difference, though, as I’d never spend money frivolously on ordering a three-course meal at a supposed fine dining establishment, but what really irks me is that regardless of how much time I spend proofreading my report, I still manage to make mistakes.

My earlier report scores have disappeared from my account for some reason. They score out of 20, and I’ve scored 18 and 19 in the past. But this recent report (which, due to the extremely slow timing of the restaurant, caused my boyfriend to miss his $80 voice lesson that afternoon) we scored a measly 16 on.

While I agree that the report should follow their style and be consistent, I also wonder what kind of scores other people are getting reporting for this company. After all, my boyfriend and I are professional writers and editors. The report submission system does not make it easy to compare notes between different pages and to proofread for inconsistencies.

Meanwhile, I feel like I could pretty much make up the entire report, and as long as I followed their guidelines, they’d give me a great score. But instead, I include material that I believe is of value to their client. Apparently, I’m over-thinking the job. Maybe their client just wants to hear that their restaurant is perfect, and they’ll be satisfied.

I’ve requested another shop, but I’m not sure I’ll get it. I’d like to do a spa shop, as it would be nice to experience a spa without having to feel wasteful spending money on a massage and other treatments. But I doubt they’ll assign someone with a “16” score one of their precious spa reviews. Oh well.

Help Me Sort Out My Tax Mess

How on earth am I going to figure out what I owe for taxes this year?

Can’t I have one year where my taxes are straight-forward?

I guess not.

So… I have absolutely no idea how much I’ve made this year. Some of my income has been taxed, some has not. I hate having to wait for those 1099’s to come in the mail to figure out what I’ve made. I should have kept better track of things, but it’s too late for that this time around.

Here’s a guesstimate of taxable income…

startup a: $1275
startup b: $3300 (1 month)
marketing firm: $2,275
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$6850 not taxed yet.

Plus…
Pre-Taxed income:

Job 1: $12430 ($35k/year)
[$656 a month taken out in taxes??? Or $3283.33]
Job 2: $8028 ($50k/year)
[$2973 taken out in taxes total]

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So I’ve had $6256 taken out as taxes already??? Possibly.

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So how much tax am I going to owe?

Oy, I’m confused.

Goodbye 24 Hour Fitness!

I’ve spent about $600 a year on a gym membership that I’ve used about 20 times, total. It’s time to quit the gym.

My boyfriend and I signed up at 24 Hour Fitness in 2006. We both wanted to get in shape, and signing up for a gym with around-the-clock access seemed like a good idea. We didn’t even look at any other gym.

The membership services guy gave us a couple’s “deal” (yea right) where we’d pay initiation fees for “only” one of us, and that we’d get one monthly membership at 1/2 off. What did that amount to? My bf paid the initiation fee (something like $150?) and I was stuck with the $46.99 a month membership. He pays $23 a month.

Since signing up, I kept the membership, thinking maybe the monthly bill would encourage me to work out. Not so. Instead, I just kept wasting money.

In the recent weeks, I’ve been doing a barter with a personal trainer who I’m designing a website for. She works at Golds Gym and offered me a free month’s pass to try out the gym while I get my training sessions. Golds Gym is much, much nicer. It’s not open 24 hours, but really my bf is the one who likes to work out at 3am. I prefer 11pm. And most night’s they’re open until midnight.

Besides, Gold’s Gym is actually cheaper. Their monthly rates are about the same, but if I sign up for a long-term membership, I can get $19 a month rates. I’m not ready to sign up for a membership like that, but if I decide I can’t live without the gym, I think I can handle a long-term commitment of $19 a month.

Meanwhile, I can get a special $34 a month deal (monthly dues) since I’m training with this woman. That’s a good way to get me to want to join a gym.

The bad news is that 24 Hour Fitness requires 30 days notice before cancellation (of course) – so after spending an hour on hold and talking to some outsourced customer service agent who tried to convince me to keep my membership (switch to a one-club membership and it will only be $36 a month. How about you put your membership on hold for just $7 a month and you can sign up again any time without paying initiation fees) I finally canceled my membership. I’ll be paying the $46.99 one last time, and then I’m out. My membership ends March 5, 2007.

That’s what I call freedom.

Applying for Healthcare, the Saga

I’ve been uninsured for about a month now. I don’t plan on staying uninsured, so I’ve been doing some research into health plans (as many of you know from my previous posts). Basically, because I went to a psychiatrist for anxiety and depression, 90 percent of insurance companies out there will not accept me. (Hmm, should I be anxious and/or depressed about that?)

A few weeks ago I called a health insurance agent who I found on Yelp. People seemed to like him, so I thought seeking out help would be worth a shot… even though it would be biased help because he gets paid by the insurance companies to sell their programs. Well, after a few weeks of him calling me every other day to convince me to sign up, I finally did. I usually don’t reward annoying salesman, but he’s been very helpful and I need a bit of prodding to do anything. Health insurance is not something I want to fuck around with, so I’ve finally applied.

He told me that my best bet would be Pacific Care with a $1500 deductible and an HSA account. Oh boy, more accounts to try to organize and sort out. In any case, Pacific Care, he said, would likely be the only insurance company that would accept me due to my history of depression and anxiety. (The other major company he represents is Blue Cross, and he said they would not accept me).

So he talked me through all of the questions on the application and basically filled it out for me over the phone. It felt really awful to categorize my health history. Do I put depression or anxiety? My agent didn’t think putting major depression was the best idea, but he couldn’t officially encourage lying. I’ve been diagnosed with everything from ADD to major depression to generalized anxiety. What do I actually have? I have no freaking clue.

Anyway, we decided to put anxiety / depression and leave it at that. Later on I had to say what meds I’ve taken. So I took Xanax on and off for a month (in June 2005) and Lexapro for a month (in October 2007). That’s all the medicine I’ve taken for mental illness in the past five years. But that means I’m obviously going to scam the health insurance system into spending zillions of dollars on me.

I guess I can understand why they don’t like accepting people with mental illness. I know one girl who had anorexia and her health insurance company had to pay for the treatment. Then the government paid for her to be on disability so she didn’t have to work while she recovered.

My other medical disorder, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) didn’t neatly fit into any of the check boxes. There was a separate section for menstrual disorders and another for hormonal disorders. It’s both. Then we had to figure out what to say about that ovarian cyst I had last spring that likely ruptured.

In the end, I was left wondering how awful my application looked. Will Pacific Care accept me? Shouldn’t I be rewarded for being honest on my application?

Nah, I’ll just be “rewarded” with higher rates. He told me the base rate for this plan is $105 a month. I’m curious to see what I’ll get quoted.

Oh, I had to give my credit card number and everything BEFORE I’m approved. He said I have 10 days to reverse charges once I am approved, but I think I should be able to see where I’m approved first before everyone charges me. Well, I’m only applying for this one plan right now, so I guess it doesn’t matter.

Also in health insurance news… the startup company I work at is getting health insurance… but I’m not eligible because I’m part time (contract). Oh well.

Aside: Dangerous Rollercoasters

Today I was doing a bit of research on extreme sports and roller coasters, and it just so happens that this evening I came upon a site called RideAccidents.com. While amusement park accidents are rare, they do happen, and they happen fairly often – they’re just rare because it’s like one a week for the entire world.

One article on the site struck me as especially interesting. In 2001, a woman, age 28, died of a ruptured brain aneurysm while riding Goliath at Magic Mountain in California. I found this link after reading another story about a 20-something woman having a similar fatality due to another ride.

The reason I was particularly interested in the Goliath article related to my own experience riding Goliath years ago. I’ve ridden quite a few coasters in my lifetime, and while some make me feel queasy, none have had the effect that Goliath did. I literally blacked out during a few seconds of the ride. All this time I thought I was crazy for experiencing that… I thought I had imagined it… but apparently, I’m not alone…

Other riders throughout the years report similar blackout sensations over on Theme Park Insider. It’s scary to know that this is a normal feeling experienced by people who ride Goliath, but at least now I know that I’m not insane!