Monday, July 14, 2008

Dispatched and Cleaned Up,I'm Still Sniffling & Thank Goodness for Health Insurance

My thrilling and exciting Friday night adventure gave way to a me begging my neighbor to help me solve the "new house guest" issue on Saturday AM, which he did. Yet another reason I just adore my neighbors! I spent Saturday night at a friends house and when I came home on Sunday, to my rodent free home, I scrubbed every inch of my kitchen with soap and bleach, scrubbed and vacuumed my floors, I also put the oven on self clean and proceeded to spend the next two hours outside on a lounge chair resting and reading. The dogs have not shown any interest in the two aforementioned corners of the house and kitchen, I'll take that as a sign it's just us in residence now.

Having this summer cold has been more than a bit of a pain. The only upside is my appetite has gone down and I have no desire in most food. I wandered around the grocery store for 20 minutes yesterday and walked out with one orange. I'll save money on my shopping bills and maybe lose some weight?

The downside is I have been to the doctor three times in the past month for "illness". I think I went to my doctor three times in the past 24 months and most of that was for routine stuff. I have become her new best patient. I have a pretty decent health insurance policy at this job, I have a much more manageable deductible than my old policy which was $3000 for one person and I've been able to use my HSA for medical costs that are not covered by the insurance. I am lucky, for the most part I am healthy and have no on going health issues.

What I did realize when I went to the MD last month, that while I was dealing with the Bankruptcy, I totally missed a year plus of regular preventative medical care-no dentist, no GP visit, no OB/GYN, no eye doctor. I missed them all. One reason was I did not even have the money at times for the co-pay and I was way to proud to say that at check in. Stupid of me in retrospect, you don't mess with your health, but I did. I've never had dental coverage and even a visit to the dentist was $150 for a check up and a cleaning. Last year I did not have the funds to go to the dentist and thus I did not. I'm hoping I won't have to "pay" for it this year when I go in for my check up. I made it a priority for me to go in for those regular check ups this year, you can't mess with your health.

I don't think I was any different than some other folks who are struggling financially. If you have to cut out things, a trip to the dentist for a routine check up can be put off, you wait and see how long the tooth aches before you schedule a visit, you buy extra soft tissues at the store and hope the bad cold does not get worse, you check Web MD, you drink a lot of chicken soup, you take a lot of cough medicine for your cough and hope you don't need an anti-biotic,you do what you can at home. I've read in some blogs where an unexpected trip to the doctor or the need for prescription meds has thrown off someones debt repayment plan and money has to be taken out of the emergency fund to cover those costs.

That is a scary concept. Really scary concept. I wonder how many Americans are either uninsured or under insured and not getting regular medical care because of crushing loads of debt. I know one reason I had fiscal issues is because I had a lot of medical bills for a bunch of tests that ultimately showed I was very healthy, but were not covered by my high deductible plan. I struggled to pay those bills and my other bills for months. I would make $10 payments to the hospital and still have several hundred dollars left in lab fees to pay. I know the statistics for people filing Bankruptcy due in part to crushing medical bills is very high.

My lovely neighbor now has a job with "real health insurance". She is in her late 30's and has not been to the OB/GYN since her last child was born, that was 17 years ago. I almost fell off my chair when I heard this news. She has not had regular preventative medical care in 16.5 years. I, being more than a bit bossy at times, asked when she had her last Pap smear (sorry guys, TMI, I know) and she could not remember. Her response to me was that since she was in a monogamous relationship and she had no reason to believe she needed any continued OB/GYN care. She also stated, she did not have the money to go to the MD for something like that every year, she spent the money on things like pediatrician visits for her children, dentist visits for the kids, putting her family first before her own health. I totally get that, but you still don't mess with your health.

Once I simmered down, I told her that there were places like Planned Parenthood that could provide the annual check up she needed and it was sliding scale. I also told her, monogamous relationship or not, things like a Pap smear need to be done every year. Cervical cancer does not care if you have one partner or multiple partners. I told her Planned Parenthood was not just a place for teenagers to get check ups, lots of adult women go to (myself included). I went as far as to give her web address of Planned Parenthood and strongly suggested she look into an appointment. Her new health insurance should cover a yearly check up and I told her, she should set a positive example for her daughters as well by taking care of herself.

There are resources out there if you are having fiscal problems. Planned parenthood does a sliding fee scale, the local heath department can be a resource for health clinics. If you live near a university town that has a dental school, they may have a student clinic where you can get your teeth done at a low cost under the supervision of a dentist (my dentist has his hygienist do the major teething cleaning anyway, he just pokes for cavities!), many hospitals offer free and reduced cost mammograms, many hopsitals offer assistance based on income as well (my local hospital does), see if you can get a discount if you pay in cash, work out a repayment plan if you must, the list goes on.

Some of these resources may be more readily available if you live in a city or a suburban center, harder to find in the less suburban and rural areas, but I know these resources exist. For those of us with good health insurance or those who live in countries like Canada and the UK where you don't have these worries, consider yourselves blessed. For those of you who are uninsured or under insured (like I was), there are resources out there and please don't take your health for granted.


Shevy said...

We have great health insurance here in Canada but, unless your employer provides a good extended benefits plan (that covers things like prescriptions, a private room instead of 4 to a room in hospital, etc.) you probably don't have dental or eyeglasses.

Even my hubby's extended plan, while good for a lot of dental, requires me to pay half of things like root canals and crowns. So, we spent about $5,000 on our 5 year old's teeth a little over a year ago and I don't get that sort of thing done, just cleanings and fillings.

As for glasses, I'm at the point where I can't read with them and I can't read without them, but for progressive lenses of the requisite strength and complexity I usually end up paying about $700 (of which only $150 is covered). So I squint or look over the tops.

Oh yes, and hooray for a rodent-free residence!

Anonymous said...

This is a important post!

Ironically, a personal crisis prompted by fears about having filed BK prompted me to recently get all of my regular medical stuff done and get to the dentist (the only thing I had kept up on was glasses). And I have great insurance and the ability to use sick time for medical appointments. Luckily, everything turned out okay.

Folks with insurance should definitely be keeping up with their health. Even if the bottom is falling out financially, take care of your health, especially if its taken care of by insurance.

SpillingBuckets said...

I totally agree about not messing with health if you can help it.

I have never had a problem at the dentist (no cavities yet even) or at the GYN, but I wouldn't miss the appointments. You're probably ok skipping, but the risks are high if you aren't. And I know many places are ok if you are honest.

Earlier in the year I had strange paid in my lower stomach and went to the doctor a lot. After a few visits I didn't have enough for the copay but still needed to go back. It was embarrasing but the doctor understood and waived it for me. It was hard for me to admit, but it was true and she was great about it.