Tag Archives: health insurance

Economy and Jobs: California 3rd Worst. (How are you faring?)

Yesterday, the state of California posted an 8.4 percent jobless rate, the third highest in the U.S. According to The Los Angeles Times, The state lost a net 41,700 jobs in November. The rate is at its highest level since 1994 and puts the state behind only Michigan and Rhode Island.

Last month, U.S. employers slashed 533,000 jobs – the most in 34 years – as unemployment rose to a 15-year high of 6.7 percent, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. With the high rates of job loss in my state and elsewhere, everyone is watching their piggy bank. Closely. For workers who lose their jobs, health insurance options are limited. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that (As most of you know, I’m fortunately employed, but as a freelance worker with pre-existing health conditions, my options for health insurance are fairly non-existent.)

It isn’t helping matters that in California, the state’s financial crisis means that traditional safety-net options, such as public health programs and clinics, are being cut back or threatened by the state and national budget crisis. It’s true California’s estimated $41.8 billion budget deficit needs to be fixed somehow, but with the current state of the economy and rates of job loss in Cali, it’s a tough time to go cutting public health programs.

Election’s ’08, Holding My Breath

Tuesday is a very important day. It will decide a great deal about our nation’s future, especially in terms of the years of my life when this sort of stuff matters.

That is, as a child I was relatively oblivious to politics, financial market upsets, and while I understood what war was, it didn’t effect me personally. Now, as a soon-to-be 25-year-old adult, all of this is very relevant in my life. If Obama wins, I may have health insurance again. If McCain wins, well it’s 4 more years of Bush. I don’t mind McCain, it’s Palin I’m afraid of.

I believe in the constitution, and strongly believe in social and economic freedom that, for the most part, goes unregulated by government. Because government is usually wrong. But when it comes down to things that make the people of our country better – healthier, smarter, and prepared for the competition in the international marketplace, the government needs to help out. Look at China – its people may not be doing all that well, but economically they’re thriving. America is no longer the big shot nation. We’re one of many. And before we fight for democracy, we need to prove why it is so great. We take care of our people. That means providing quality education, health coverage, and mental healthcare. The school system should have a class in finance, explaining why sub prime mortgages don’t work. We can’t bail out banks, because that defeats the purpose of capitalism. This isn’t Mario. You can’t just be like, oops, do over. (Though, apparently, you can.)

It never ceases to amuse and confuse me that those who believe strongest in liberty and freedom from centralized government are the same exact people who speak out against gay marriage. In California, there’s Prop 8, which will add an amendement to the state constitution saying that marriage has to be between a man and a woman. Now, regardless on your opinion on gay people, isn’t that kind of ridiculous? After all, if we’re fighting for our freedom – freedom to spend as we please, teach our children what we believe, do what we think is right, then shouldn’t everyone have those freedoms? The biggest hypocrisy is fighting for freedom, as long as people agree with your beliefs.

Sorry to go a little off topic here, but this issue really irks me. All the people who are so set on defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Marriage, in itself, is a religious concept. I personally believe that the government should remove itself from the marriage process, and that everyone who wishes to be married can sign up, legally, for a civil partnership, and then let people define marriage as they please. I went to a wedding this last weekend, and while it was lovely, all the traditions and everything were a religious ceremony – that’s what marriage is. Two people can love each other and be together forever without being “married,” the only difference then is the lack of rights. The lack of freedom to have these rights.

The last thing I have to say about this is how if every marriage between a man and woman were perfect, then maybe it would make sense to say that marriage is this special thing that must be preserved. But look at the marriages in our country. Many end in divorce. Many that don’t remain abusive. My good friend just eloped so she could have her fiance’s health benefits. This is reality. And letting two people who love each other get married, whether they have different genitals or not, well, that really shouldn’t matter. Marriage is about a commitment to someone you love, to share your life together, to be there for each other in sickness and in health. It’s not restricted to a man-woman relationship. That’s all I’ll say about that for today.

I’m feeling good about Obama’s standing in the polls, but still worried that McCain will pull ahead. I remember election day 2004, when the results were coming in and it was clear that Bush was going to win. Well, it was never really clear, except I knew it because he did a great job of scaring people into thinking if anyone else won the terrorists would infiltrate our country. Fear is a great campaign to run on. McCain is trying it too, but people are maybe a little smarter now that they’ve seen what Bush has done.

Obama isn’t perfect. But he understands this country. He understands what we need. He may be liberal, he may believe in equality for all, and that may scare a lot of people in this country who, on the extreme, think that America needs to be white in order to still be America. I’m worried FOR Obama, it’s obvious that him being African American makes him the target of tons of assassination attempts. He is the next JFK, he inspires hope, and scares the shit out of people who don’t want things to change.

But that’s really it, why Obama still may not win. The fear, the fear of a president who isn’t white, and even more so, the fear of a president who’s middle name is Hussein. My mom is voting for McCain because she thinks Obama will not side with Israel. People think he’s too soft. He’ll let the terrorists walk all over him.

You know what Obama is? He’s human. He’s a real person. He’s smart. He’s really smart. And that’s what we need as our president. Not someone like this…

Stumble It!

high deductible health insurance sucks (TMI post)

I’ve been having these pains in my stomach for the last month, and as they haven’t gone away, I want to go see a gastrologist about it. I already spent $65 + $25 to see a gynecologist for a UTI I had earlier + antibiotics, and I’m not even sure my UTI has gone away. Meanwhile, this pain is getting worse. Yesterday, I took laxatives to see if it would help. Maybe I just have IBS and the doctor will say “eat more fiber, stop eating sugar” and that will solve everything. I had the worst pains ever after taking that stimulent laxative and was up all night grabbing at my stomach.

I don’t think my problem is constipation. There wasn’t much to get out (sorry, TMI, I warned you in the title.) So what IS my problem? It’s not gassiness, it’s not dihareea, it’s probably not constipation. But there’s still a pain, that seems to go back and forth between my lower left abdomen and my upper left abdomen. Occassionally, the chest area on the left side also hurts, I get a burning sensation, so maybe that’s heartburn. The pain in my chest is rare, but the weird tight aching feeling in my left abdomen is constant.

So my boyfriend convinced me it’s time to go to a doc. I called and made an appointment. I can’t even see the actual doc because he doesn’t have an opening until Sept 24. So I made an appointment with a nurse practitioner. The lady in the billing department convinced me she’s just as good as the doctor. We’ll see about that.

So the nurse practictioner costs just as much to see as the doctor does. It’s about $300 for the appointment. Well, it might be $150 at the lowest, but they can’t tell me until after the appointment. If it turns out it seems serious (which, for the sake of getting my monies worth, I almost hope it does) then they’ll prob have to do a more thorough exam, which will cost the $300. But with that, they’ll need to do tests, and lab work, and I have a feeling it won’t be long before I reach my $3000 deductible.

I really need a job with health insurance. 🙁

The Costs of Being a Girl… Without Health Insurance

(First of all, I want to apologize for being so behind on updating this blog. My life has gotten quite busy, which is a good thing, but I definitely haven’t updated this site as often as I should, or as often as I’ve wanted to. I do hope you’ll bare with me until I can make more frequent updates.)

Today’s post is brought to you by The American Health Care System. Due to failures in the system, this post is vastly underfunded, but luckily I’ve got plastic to pay it off…

One you’ve started bleeding (down there) or having sex (down there) – if you’re a girl – which I am – you’re supposed to go to the gynecologist once a year to get the basic test. Swab in, swab out. Needle prick. No sir you have no STDs, thanks for coming. The whole nine.

Prior to getting super-high deductible health insurance (with a $3000 deductible, so I count that as no insurance at all), I didn’t think twice about scheduling my yearly paps. The co-pays for the appointment, tests and pills were a bit annoying, but nothing that set me back any large sums. I barely went to the doctor anyway, so this wasn’t a huge deal.

Then came contract life. It took me forever to get accepted for any health insurance at all. Finally, I got accepted to a high deductible program. That sounded like a good idea. I’m young. Somewhat healthy. Well, I know what’s wrong with me, PCOS – ie, polycystic ovary syndrome – and the likelihood of my falling to the floor in pain due to anything other than a ruptured cyst is near zilch. That’s what the high-risk insurance is for. Accidents. Not day to day, or year to year stuff. That’s all out of pocket.

So my yearly health insurance, which covers nothing except a hospital visit (after I pay $3000), costs me, oh, $1600 or something like that. $1600 in case I fall down and break myself. That’s important to have.

But it’s not going to help me make sure I don’t have cancer or any other life-threatening illness. It’s not at all about prevention. It’s about post-intervention.

Ok, so I’m really sensitive to screening before things happen right now because my dad was just diagnosed with prostate cancer. And while I know that I’ll never have prostate cancer, I’m still very concerned about being at high risk for ovarian and uterian cancers due to PCOS and having, like, 2-3 periods a year (sans bc pills).

I want to be “good” and get tested yearly. I’m 24, nothing should be wrong, but it’s good to be safe. Plus, I like to have STD screenings every once in a while, just in case an earlier one was wrong. It takes like 6 months for some of those diseases to show up on tests. And sometimes tests lie.

Anyway, today I was scheduled for my annual pap and checkup with a gynocologyst I had seen about a year ago when my cyst ruptured and I felt like death. She did an ultrasound on me then, and perscribed me – tylenol. At the time, it was cheaper to perscribe me it because I had good health insurance and I got a cheaper price to buy it under the cover as opposed to over. Those days are, apparently, long gone.

Although a few weeks ago I had a very, very painful period and pre-period period, and felt little alien slugs were attacking my innerds, I opted to avoid spending $200 on another ultrasound that would likely end with the words “take tylenol.” Instead, I figured it made sense to schedule my annual pap with the doc, and then to ask her what was wrong with me then, or at least inquire as to what could be wrong with me given my symptoms, and go from there.

When I called up the gyno’s office, they told me the annual appointment, sans insurance, would be $180. Ok, so $180 isn’t a big deal. I mean, it is, but when you consider the cost to get better insurance that would actually cover that sort of thing would cost me about $180 A MONTH more, it wasn’t so bad.

But when I got to the office today – I was running late – it turned out I missed the appointment with the doc. Which actually was a good thing, because I was soon informed that the $180 for the appointment did not include any costs of labwork. Umm… isn’t that THE POINT of having a pap? Let’s just scrape my cervix for fun, why don’t we? Use the swabby stick as a paintbrush and have a little creative fun on the wax paper I’d be sitting on, sounds like a plan. Totally worth $180.

No one could really tell me how much the tests would cost. I guess they’re not used to seeing people without insurance. Or with crappy insurance, like my insurance. I got such mixed answers today. The lady at the front desk said 100s, and then the nurse pratictioner who I finally went in to see said the basic pap test would be only like $35 – $50. I don’t trust ranges.

What I really needed today, urgently, was treatment for my likely UTI. Yup, I have and have had a full-blown, painful urinary tract infection for over two weeks now. (TMI? Sorry.) I knew I needed antibiotics. I know when I have UTI. I get them all the time. This one was caused by drinking about 6 large glasses of iced tea and promptly getting on public transportation for about an hour. Lets just say my bladder was not a happy camper, and it made me pay for what I did to it.

At the doctor’s office, I ended up getting a “talking” appointment with the nurse practicioner because she happened to have a cancellation. They had me pee in a cup to test my urine for the UTI. Again, no one told me how much this would cost me. I was told – well, the doctor will look at your pee, then decide if we need to send it out. And sending it out – would be a lab fee. Ok, how much am I looking at? $50? $100? More? Can’t someone just give me antibiotics? I’ve been having UTIs all my life, I know I have a god damn UTI, I can tell you exactly how it happened. I can even reproduce the situation. Got any iced tea???

Well, I went into the examining room, and the nurse practioner came in to talk. She was really nice, but I could tell that she didn’t exactly love that I was wasting her time. Well, I wasn’t wasting her time, because she ended up charging me $65 for the appointment, but at least I left with a perscription for some generic antibiotics. Not sure how much those will cost me, but she said they’re and old brand and should be cheap. Right now I’ll pay anything for antibiotics, as that’s what I really, really need.

However, this doc told me that it prob makes sense for me to go to Planned Parenthood for my pap and checkup, since it’ll likely be cheaper. I was thinking of calling Planned Parenthood but I figured my income bracket would prob be too high for getting treated there. But this nurse gyno lady convinced me it might be best, and since I’ve never had an abnormal pap before, she didn’t seem to think there was any urgent need for me to get the test done.

Maybe she’s right. I’m 24, I have cysts on my ovaries, I get a period once in a blue polka-dotted moon and a UTI when the moon is full and white. What else is there to know?

Still, I want to get tested. So I left the doctor’s office $65 poorer with perscription in hand.

… a few minutes ago I called up Planned Parenthood to schedule an appointment. I was told by a friend that it’s better to tell them you have no insurance if you have high deductible insurance so they will see you. As, again, my insurance has such a high deductible it’s pretty much no insurance, I didn’t feel like that was much of a lie.

So I called and asked for the appointment. They proceeded to survey me about my age, ethnicity, and income. When they asked how much I make, I didn’t know what to say. The truth would surely be too high for any sort of affordable care. But I kind of did tell the truth. I told them I’m a contractor. Which is true. They asked how much I make per month. I said, well it ranges. She asked what the low end was. I picked a number out of the air. $2500, I said. The truth is the low end is like $400 when I don’t have a job and the high end is like $5000 when I do have a job. So I averaged it. What’s $2500 a month? $30k a year? Not quite poverty, I guess, but the only way to get reasonably costed checkups in this country is to be poor, apparently. Not that I’d wish for that, but when I was making less than $30k, I had health insurance, like real health insurance. And now… well, you know… not so much.

So I figured on a sliding scale, $2500 a month income might get me some discount on all the tests. I was told, by someone else, that she basically got free care at planned parenthood. And she had money, it’s just that she wasn’t making any money. She was a grad student, but she had money, somehow. Anyway…

I was told I didn’t qualify for a discount. So their pap would cost $300 (which, I think, includes lab services) which is MORE than what I was going to pay at the doctor’s office this morning… she was going to do the exam for $165 plus lab fees. Well, she said the lab fees were “$35-50” – whatever that means. Maybe it’d be about the same. Still, so much for finding cheaper care.

Meanwhile, I found out that at Planned Parenthood, you could get birth control pills without a full exam. It’d just be $30 for an appointment and $22+ for the pills, depending on which ones you want. I guess most of planned parenthood’s funding is really about not making babies, not, not having cancer (which makes sense. It’s not Planned Ovarian Health Org). And the cost of a full STD screening at my “level of income?” $150.

I think all of this has me rethinking my career. I love my job. It’s wonderful. But I just need REAL health insurance. So maybe I’ll start looking for a job that provides that. I hate to do that. My company seems to have health insurance for “full time employees” (not contractors who work 40 hours a week) but even their health insurance, I think, is high deductible. I’m not sure, I haven’t really looked into it, but it sounds like they all have HSA plans which means they must be high deductibles, I think. They’re a small 8ish person startup, so they can’t afford good health insurance. Can’t blame them for that. But I don’t even get that. Everything comes out of pocket. And my pretty good contract rate starts looking less and less good…

It’s just hard to figure out the total cost of everything when it comes to healthcare. And in this case, the comparision between a year of being on crappy healthcare at $140 a month and having to pay for all health costs out of pocket and working as a contractor where I can work from home on some days and save on gas money, versus getting a “real job” with a salary and benefits, and having to go in every day and spend money on gas and extra travel time and being miserable and needing to spend money on a therapist.

It’s impossible to really compare that. Maybe I should just pay $300 something a month for an HMO. I can’t decifer if it’s worth it. I have an HSA plan but haven’t even opened an HSA account yet because that kind of seems like a joke. They charge you a fee to open the account, and to maintain it. It’s basically another RothIRA, but I go for index funds, and then I have limited choice in investments, and – the kicker is it’s not even tax-free in California. So…

blah.

When Do I Go to the Doctor?

I have high-risk “catastrophic” health insurance. COBRA would have cost me $400+, and any full health insurance would have cost me a small fortune. I also had a lot of trouble getting insurance in the first place (see here, here, and here) so I’m ecstatic to have the minimal health insurance that I have for something like $138 a month.

Two days ago I noticed a fairly large, hard bump on the back of my head, a few inches from my ears. It was swollen and throbbing. After doing some research online I’ve determined that the lump is a swollen lymph node.

Swollen lymph nodes can be caused by a lot of different things, ranging from a minor infection to cancer.

I doubt I have cancer. The good news is the bump (although still really tender) has shrunk quite a bit in the last two days. So it seems that it’s just an infection and it’s going away. I noticed there are actually two bumps there, but they’re slowly shrinking.

My concern is that — what if they were the warning signs of cancer? At what point do I go to the doctor to get such things checked out?

When I had “regular” insurance I barely ever went to the doctor. I hate the doctor. I’d go only if I was really, really sick and I’d wait it out for a while to see if I could get better before heading in for a diagnosis.

But I no longer have the luxury of going in to get something checked out for free (minus the co-pay). Going to the doctor is quite expensive. It’s not even so much the doctor’s visit as much as the fear that the doctor will either tell me that it’s nothing (=waste of money) OR the doctor will order a bunch of expensive tests that will add up to thousands of dollars out of pocket.

I can make an educated guess about whether my head lump is something I should worry about or not, and I can wait longer than I would to get it checked out and hope for the best… but the crappy thing about not having regular health insurance is that I just can’t go to the doctor for every little thing like this.

At what point should I go to the doctor to get this lump checked out?

Yet Another Example of the Fucked Up Health Insurance System

Thanks to Gawker blog The Consumerist for pointing me to the latest news about why the health insurance system, especially for self-employed individuals, is broken in so many ways.

“Cancer Patient Wins $9 Million From HealthNet in Arbitration Settlement.”

The LA Times has more details. Basically the woman was lied to while signing up for her policy, and then dropped as soon as HealthNet could cancel her “fairly” with their corrupt and unclear policies.

When HealthNet signed her up, this is apparently what happened…

“When asked about her weight, she told him her weight on her driver’s license was 185lbs. She never told Torrez to change the weight, nor was she aware that the weight had been changed.”

So… when this woman ended up getting breast cancer, they used the fact that she “gained” weight in order to bump her from the policy. Except, she hadn’t gained weight at all. The person who filled out her form while signing her up changed her weight so she would be accepted.

All of this hits close to home for me. While I (luckily) do not have breast cancer or any illness like that, I do fear my health insurance policy being canceled if I ever have to use it. That seems kind of ridiculous, doesn’t it?

As many of you remember, I had to lie on my health insurance application to get accepted.

My health insurance agent basically told me in so many words that my best option was to lie. He wouldn’t go on record about that, but he said my odds of getting health insurance while being completely honest about my pre-existing conditions (polycystic ovary sydnrome/irregular periods and major depression) were slim to none.

And he was right. The first time I applied through Pacific Care, I was entirely honest. My health insurance agent filled out the form for me as I told him my details by phone. Later, when I reviewed the information he entered before signing the form, I noticed he had taken some creative license in describing my conditions. I tweaked the language so it was 100% accurate.

A few weeks later I was declined coverage. Not for depression, which we both thought would be what held me back, but for the “irregular periods.”

As my fellow personal finance bloggers LuluGal and Escape Broklyn can attest, “irregular periods” are fairly common. And, to be fair, irregular periods often cost the insurance companies lots of money. Both those two gals are getting surgery for their problems. And, from what I understand, insurance is paying for a lot of the surgery, even though it won’t be covering everything.

For me… I don’t know if I’ll ever need surgery for my various ovarian problems. Because I know about the problems and because I’ve been diagnosed with PCOS, the cheapest way to maintain my health is to take birth control pills on a regular basis. Except my catastrophic health insurance does not cover medication. So I don’t take any.

Ultimately I was approved for health insurance. I had to lie to get approved. Well, I left off the depression and kept on the irregular periods bit. So now I can lose my coverage if they ever realize I lied about depression, and anything health problems I might have that relate to polycystic ovary syndrome won’t be covered anyway. This leaves me wondering why I bother with health insurance at all!

I really hope that Obama or Clinton get elected and then make some major progress in getting the health insurance companies in check. While I hate paying taxes, if I’m going to pay taxes I want them to be going towards keeping people in this country healthy… not fighting some trillion dollar war we can’t win.

Question of the Day: Can Wealth Be Fair? – from Brip Blap’s Blog

Blogger Brip Blap poses the question “can wealth be fair?” The blogger goes on to list three different scenarios where in order for people and a country to build wealth, others might have to suffer. The blogger does not say that (s/)he agrees with these scenarios. In fact, Brip Blap goes on to explain how (s/)he is upset but each of the scenarios discussed.

#1 — A college graduate basically decides to save nothing and spend all his money throughout his life. Is society responsible to pay for his medical expenses and basic necessities later in life when he can no longer work?

Brip Blap Says:I detest this attitude. His attitude will take money out of my pocket when he is older…. (still) I doubt anyone is prepared to see senior citizens sleeping on the streets.”

I say: I think financial education should be a required, ongoing class in public school. Each year you should have a different amount of money (income) to budget with, and the idea of the class should teach you about saving money, investing, and why credit card interest rates are the devil. After that, if someone choses to go out and spend all their money right away, especially if they’ve made enough to save, then I don’t see why the government should have to pay anything to them when they’re older. I don’t think the government should be able to “force” you to save your money through taxes, but should provide a clear and easy-to-understand tax incentive for people to save money. It should be income based, maybe in match form, so those who are in a lower income bracket but manage to save 5 percent of their income get a 10 percent match, where those in the upper income bracket get a 5 percent match… or something like that. (Those in the higher income brackets would likely be investing anyway.) For rich people who don’t save, I don’t mind them ended up on the streets. It’s their own fault.

#2: A child is born with 50+ different health problems. Keeping her alive is more expensive than treating dozens of other children. The family is in debt, the health insurance system is hurting because it can’t afford to treat this kid.

Brip Blap Says: “I knew a child like this. She was a lovely, happy and intelligent child who suffered from an incurable genetic condition that meant her chances of living to be a teenager – much less an adult – were minimal. Even if the chances of her living to be an adult are slim, she deserves her chance at whatever life she can have. My higher insurance premiums that may have resulted from that? Please.”

I say: If we are going to have a health insurance system at all, I think it should not be based on the concept of wealth. We should all pay equally into a universal healthcare system and receive the same quality health coverage, regardless of our pre-existing conditions. Those who are well off may wish to also purchase individual insurance for additional benefits. Yes, even a government-run healthcare system has to make some money to pay for the people who work there, but until healthcare leaves the hands of private, profit-seeking companies, it will never be fair.

#3: Is it fair that a middle class married couple pays more in taxes than someone living off their investments, even though they both may be taking in the same amount of money? Is it fair to tax the rich more, but keep taxes on lower-income families low?

Brip Blap Says:The unfairness in the system – the loopholes, the weak taxation on rich people – may not benefit me now but it will when I am financially free. I plan to be one of the people living off my investments, earning no wage income and avoiding my fair share of taxes. So if I want to build wealth, why should I rail against this system? I intend for it to benefit me in the end.”

I Say: Taxes are never going to make everyone happy. If you live in a society with no taxes and a very limited government, the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and the middle class disappears. Then the poor start a revolution and the rich get slaughtered. This has happened in history many times. Yes, it’s sounds extreme, but that’s what happens if you make it impossible for the poor to have at least some opportunity to make it into the middle class. The more opportunity you give, the less likely we’ll have another civil war one day. So as much as I hate knowing how much of my income gets zapped from my paycheck due to taxes, I know that at least some of those taxes benefit me (I’m glad the bridges are maintained, as to avoid falling into the East Bay). However, I’m not sure about taxing those living off interest income less than people earning the same amount. It seems taxes should be based solely off of income, regardless of where it comes from.

Brip Blap closes with a great point: “there is no fairness in a capitalistic society. Does anyone want complete fairness? Inequalities in the system are what allow wealth to be built.”

That’s very true. Otherwise we’d live in a communist society where we’d all (supposedly) be equal. We’d all work, get the same pay, have no reason to better ourselves or society. What kind of society would that be?

That’s why I think the role of the government should be to keep wealth in check. To give opportunity to people who are born in poverty and even middle class families. If I had my way, I’d make it illegal for parents to give their children money, and instead they’d put that money into a giant pot that would be divided up evenly amongst all the children in the country. It seems fair for individuals to build wealth, but unfair for their children to profit from such wealth. Yes, I come from a family where I did profit from my parent’s wealth, but at what cost? I’d probably be better off if I learned about budgeting from a young age, knowing that I would be on my own with a few hundred dollars in the back to start off with. Allowing families to pass money down from generation to generation is where unfairness begins.

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What to do About This Cyst on My Head

A few months ago I went to see a dermatologist to find out about getting two dime-sized cysts on my head removed. From what I could tell, they were not cancerous or anything, they were just annoying me and potentially causing pressure on a nerve which would explain the headaches I had been getting.

When I went into the dermatologist, I had good health insurance – a PPO with a $250 deductible. She recommended a simple outpatient surgery to get the bumps off of my head and I agreed. I asked her if this would be covered by insurance and she said “I think it will be covered, don’t worry about it.” So I had the surgery done and all went well. She cut holes in my head, took out some gook, then stitched me up.

One month later I receive a $136 bill for the surgery (my insurance paid for some of it.) While I was hoping they’d pay for all of it since it was causing me headaches, I wasn’t too pissed about the extra charge. What I was (and still am) pissed about is that one bump was not completely removed. At first I thought it was just scar tissue, but within the two months since the operation, that bump has re-grown and actually gotten bigger.

I’d like to go back to the dermatologist to have her check it out (she can at least tell me if it’s normal for it to grow back, or maybe take it out again) but now I have a high deductible catastrophic insurance and I don’t want to pay $200 for a visit to have her check my head when the original surgery… that I still have to pay for… was supposed to get rid of the bumps entirely!

What should I do?


Edited to add: I called the doctor and was informed that it’s normal for these cysts to grow back and basically I just have to deal, or come in for another appointment. I wish the doctor told me about the odds of the cyst growing back before the surgery. I had read online that the cyst could grow back eventually, but I didn’t think it would happen right away.

Health Insurance Hell — And I thought this part of the saga was over!

In 2006, I was covered under COBRA. My father was paying the bills to help me get started out after college, and he paid those bills on time until I got my first full-time job with health benefits.

During the time I had COBRA through Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, I went to see a gynecologist for a standard yearly exam. She had me get bloodwork done at the local lab. I filled out all the appropriate paperwork and thought I’d owe a small co-pay and that would be the end of it.

Two years later, I’m still dealing with this never-ending drama of trying to get health insurance to pay this bill. There is absolutely no logical reason why they should not pay the full amount (minus a co-pay), but I’ve been harassed by J & L Teamworks (a collection agency) on and off since my appointment, saying I owe about $1000. What???

Finally, after speaking on the phone to about 20 billion people, I thought I had everything settled in November. I wanted to be done with the mess for good, so I walked into the billing office of Mills Peninsula Hospital, where the lab services were done and apparently where the gynecologist bills her visits through if they haven’t been paid on time (they weren’t paid on time because they billed the wrong insurance and/or because my address (which I updated on my account by sending in a hand-written letter as requested) was added to my account incorrectly.) I’m still unclear what actually happened. All I know is I started getting calls from the collection agency, and they’ve barely stopped since.

In Nov of 07, I really thought the saga was over. I fixed my address on my account, I walked into the hospital’s billing office and spoke with a nice woman who promised me that everything would be fixed. She even called the collection agency while I was there and said they won’t be bothering me again… that they have to wait 30 days before legally being able to call me, and by then everything should be processed.

Fast forward those 30 days and without fail, those calls started up again. I didn’t want to deal with it. I was hoping it would all clear if I just ignored it. Of course, that never works.

So today I called J & L Teamworks. They told me that insurance paid for about $200 of the entire bill, but I still owe something like $700.

That doesn’t make any sense! If insurance paid for any of it, why are they only paying $200? I would understand if this was one of my newer insurances, but this was full COBRA of the policy I had since I was a kid. They couldn’t even knock me for pre-existing conditions, had this been something that they might have got out of paying that way. But this was for a routine gynecological exam and bloodwork. I was on a PPO. My father paid something like $230 a month to keep me on it. I know I was covered. And that bill should be paid.

Of course since I live on the West Coast now and all of my records are back East, I have to deal with the time difference when calling. So it’s too late to give a call to Highmark today. I’ll have to call first thing in the morning and find out why the fuck this didn’t get paid.

What really pisses me off is that I’ve racked up about $200 in interest on these bills… part of it is my fault because I did at times want to just ignore it because I knew insurance should cover the bill… but othertimes I was told by different people that it was all taken care of, then a month would go by, or two months, and then I’d find out it hadn’t processed. Or it only partially processed.

All of my trouble with health insurance makes me kind of glad that I’m finally on a high deductible plan. It’s nice to have the safety net (costing $1350 a year) in case I get into a major accident or something, but otherwise I’ll just pay for everything that I need to do out of my pocket. I’m a little worried about how expensive that will all be… but I figure if I check out the services offered by Planned Parenthood, I might be able to get by without spending gobs of money, and without having to deal with any more bs-talking health insurance agents and collection agencies!