Tag Archives: medical

The Hard Realities of Aging and Falling to Pieces

A recent article on “life before death” dementia and late-life illness struck a cord with me and my family. While I’ve always been fearful of death, the reality is that death isn’t just a one-time end. Even if you’re “lucky” to reach 100, for everyone, that means many years of degraded mental and physical health. It must be terrible to go through, but it’s equally as terrible for everyone else around you trying to help you progress slowly towards death.

My Grandmother, 83, has a gambling problem. In the last 10, mostly 5 years, she has gambled away her entire life savings of more than $300,000. Everyone knew she had a problem, but no one legally could intervene to help. Now, she’s broke, and at age 83, approaching the age of severe medical problems, even after leading a relatively healthy life (more thanks to good genetics than being healthy.) My mother and her sister’s had already been in uncomfortable discussions around what to do with her — as her social security did not provide enough money to pay for her two bedroom apartment in her Las Vegas retirement community, but she refused to move into a smaller space.

A few days ago, my grandmother fell down. She broke a bone in her neck, which was operable. On the scene of the fall, the paramedic asked her how old she was — she said 64. The doctor’s brought her to a rehab facility after she stopped being combative and arguing with them, and after one day there she told my mother via phone she had been there for weeks. The doctor diagnosed her with mild dementia. Now the question is not how she can afford the 2 bedroom apartment and a $2000 tax bill, but how to afford many years ahead of assisted living.

Meanwhile, her daughters — my mother, and her two sisters — are not in strong enough financial places to step in and help. My parents are concerned about their retirement savings as the stock market has not recovered, and they continue to spend like it is magically going to. I tell my mom over and over to not make the same mistakes her mother did, but she cannot see spending money on clothes and cleaning help as the same as her mother’s gambling away all her savings. In the end, the money will be gone, I tell her, so it’s the same. She ignores me.

For now, they need to figure out what to do with their mother as she gets increasingly senile. She’s always been a bit crazy, so adding real dementia to that crazy could get very bad, very fast. My mother is considering trying to get her to move out to New Jersey to be closer and find a lower cost place to stay, but all is up in the air right now. I don’t think my mother can really handle her mother at the moment, as my dad is in the later stages of terminal cancer and his cancer will likely get worse in the next few years or even months.

Overall, this is a very depressing situation, but so goes life.

 

Occupy Doctor’s Office & Health Insurance Agencies

They say the occupy movement is unfocused — it’s about all these various things we’re upset about — but a lot of the movement is about the lack of transparency in between bureaucracy and us common folk.

When I got home yesterday, I went through my mail and discovered a “explanation of benefits” mail from a recent “surgery” I had on two pilar cysts on my head. The doctor’s office never knows about costs — they don’t really care about how much you end up getting charged, as long as you pay it. Even with medical insurance from work, the two cysts removed cost me $550. Last time I had two cysts removed it was $300, so I was a little surprised that the cost went up $250. But I haven’t found a way to identify how much any medical interaction will cost in advance of the treatment… it always has to be a big surprise after the fact.

Another example… I went to a regular yearly gynecological exam a while back, which is covered by my insurance. Or is it? The gynecologist decided to do an ultrasound to check out my polycystic ovaries which — big surprise — still had cysts on them. That procedure wasn’t covered by the free annual checkup description, as it was considered diagnostic, and ended up costing me a few hundred bucks. Continue reading

Medical Costs, Life Costs, … are expensive

My medical AND entertainment costs are adding up, and I’m behind in accounting for them. I really need to sit down and make a budget for all of these costs. Some are not necessary, of course, but I’m still struggling to understand how much money I should/can spend on LIVING versus SAVING.

A reminder… I do have $8k in a CD for my emergency fund as well as another $4k in laddered 6 month CDs. I’m about $150 from maxing out my Roth IRA for 2009, and I have put about $5k in stocks & ETFs over the year. Additionally, I overestimate on my taxes so I will have enough to put at least $3k into my Roth for the next year to get it jump started. Plus I put $100 a month into my 529 plan, which may or may not be a stupid idea.

However, I’m worried my current medical and non-medical “fun” spending is going to hinder my savings at all. Basically, I really need to budget. I don’t think I’ll be getting a raise this year… (I don’t know if companies like mine give raises, esp in this economy.)

Here’s the thing. I have decided that I want to spend on ME. That is, on making myself a better person, inside and out. But all of this soul-searching guidance and external beautification is expensive. Very, very expensive.

This weekend I want to come up with a serious budget, but right now I just want to look at my major expenditures per month. Please don’t judge yet — I KNOW there are many things here that I don’t need, and that I’m very fortunate to be able to afford such things! I know one day when I have a family or even after I go to grad school and have to pay back loans I will have much less flexibility in spending on myself.

Extra Monthly Costs:

$250: laser hair removal financing plan (over 18 months)
$250: group therapy to deal with social issues (4x month) OR
$200: career counseling (2x month)
$190: voice lessons (2x month)
$60: one dance class
$32: gym membership

There are actual medical bills I need to sort through:

$2000: one-time necessary (non cosmetic) dental work (this is beyond my insurance coverage)
$400: foot doctor, 1 consult, xrays & 1 follow up
$100: gynecologist ultrasound

On top of all this, I’m trying to get a grasp on how much graduate school will cost me. I’m completely confused about financial aid. If my savings will hinder me from getting need-based financial aid, shouldn’t I spend it all before applying to a grad program? That sounds counterproductive, but if they really decide on your financial aid based on how much you’re making and how much you have in savings, I should spend all my money and quit my job! I’m just not 100% sure I want to go to grad school yet, so I don’t want to spend all my savings yet. Oy.

Health Insurance Plans & Depression

I called up a psychiatrist for an appointment since I didn’t trust my general doctor to throw random meds my way just because I told her that I was feeling blue and anxious. Whether I’m really depressed or not, I don’t know, but upon my first visit and answering a few questions my psych jotted down a bunch of notes and decided that I’ve got a case of moderate recurrent depression.

After she bitched for about 15 minutes about how most shrinks really hate medical insurance because of “all of the forms” and that it takes so long to get paid, she decided to give me a free trial of an SSRI antidepressent (Lexipro.) I’ve tried a few meds in the past — xanax for my panic attacks and ritalin for my add, but I’ve never consistently taken anything in the past. I’ve just gotten to the point where I can’t take my anxiety anymore, and it’s really getting in the way of functioning. Well, anxiety has gotten in the way of functioning since I was born, it’s just it was easier to hide it when I wasn’t completely responsible for my well being and time management.

Anyway, I figure the medicine will be rather pricey, even with insurance, but at that point I was ready to try anything to get me out of my slump. (That was about a month ago, btw.) Soon found out that a month’s supply of the antidepressant costs $50 (that’s after insurance pays their part.) Ouch. Then my doc also decided to prescribe me sleeping pills — I haven’t picked those up yet so I’m not sure how much they cost.

“Lucky” for me, I’m “severely” depressed, so my insurance only makes me pay $15 a visit (instead of 50 percent of the visits costs, which would be something like $75-$100 a visit, I think.) Also, if I wasn’t “severely” depressed, I’d be limited to 20 visits per year with a shrink. But because I apparently need lots of help, I can go see a therapist as much as I want for just my co-pay.

I barely go to the doctor for anything else, so I figured I might as well make use of my health insurance to help me be, uh, healthy. I’m quickly slipping some place I don’t want to be, and I’m willing to admit I need some outside help.

Well, after the severe depressive disorder went down in my file, I started reading up about future health insurance issues that go along with having pre-existing conditions like depression. My shrink made an aside when she was diagnosing me that she needed to check over time to see if I’m bi-polar, but then she asked for permission to write that down on my charts since apparently that makes it difficult to get insurance later down the road. At the time, I was so out of it and freaked out about the costs of therapy, I figured the worse of a diagnosis I had, the cheaper my costs were going to be.

Now I’m potentially facing a lifetime of overpriced health insurance. My dream is to work as a freelance web designer and marketing copywriter, but being a freelancer I will have to get my own individual health insurance plan. I’ve read many horror stories about people who were depressed and once on meds getting flat out denied when they applied for individual insurance.

Sure it makes sense for the health insurance agencies to protect themselves, but I’m now terrified (and admittedly even more depressed) knowing that one day I might be SOL when it comes to obtaining affordable health insurance. But it just seems so ridiculous that, while health plans cover mental health conditions, it’s all so shady. When I was looking for a psychiatrist in my area, I must have called every single person on my health insurance plan in a 30 mile radius before finding the one psych I’m seeing now. And I’m tired of her bitching about insurance companies and how most psych’s she knows don’t even take insurance anymore. Ok, I’m sorry I’m not rich enough like everyone else who lives in the area to just pay your fees and deal with my depression. I’m like, a normal person with a fairly normal salary and I need help.