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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

My Adventures In Health Insurance

I’m uniquely qualified to talk about healthcare.  In the past 25 years I’ve been disabled and non-disabled, diabetic and ex-diabetic, insured through employers, Medicare, and no one.  In the past couple of years the subject of socialized healthcare has been a divisive issue here in the U.S.  Aside from brief discussions with a few people I’ve kept quiet.
But the time has come for me to jump into the fray.  Lucky for me, I’ve got insurance if the fray hurts me.
My Type 1 Diabetes was a pre-existing condition (from age 12) which meant my employers’ insurance chose to ignore that area of my health needs.  I paid for the testing supplies, disposable syringes, alcohol swabs, and two kinds of insulin myself—when I could.  There were a few times when I had to use the syringes twice, risking infection.
And that was when I had insurance.  There were times when I had to cough up (pun intended) the cash to pay for every doctor’s appointment.
When I was 27, the diabetic complications started.  My vision and my kidneys started failing.  I had no problem proving I was in bad enough shape to get Social Security Disability.  Not long after that, Medicare became my only health insurance.
This is the part most lifelong healthy people miss.  If someone with a chronic health condition can’t get the help they need to take care of it, they can become disabled.  I went from paying into the system to being a consumer.  Maybe it was inevitable, but it could have happened later and I could have paid more to Social Security before needing it.
To keep from losing SSDI and the Medicare that comes with it, I worked part-time at a number jobs for which was severely overqualified and under challenged.  A diabetic with failing kidneys can’t expect a private insurer to go near them.  A VOUCHER WOULD NOT HAVE MADE ANY DIFFERENCE.  A voucher does no good if no one will take it.
Medicare paid for the kidney/pancreas transplant.  I was lucky enough to have people willing to help raise the money for the unpaid part of the surgery.  Not everyone is so fortunate.  I don’t even want to think about how a private insurer might have tried to dodge the whole issue.
Medicare also paid for a second transplant, four major eye surgeries, laser treatments, dialysis, and a host of other less serious procedures.
In 2004 I landed a state job and employee health insurance started paying for the deductibles and copayments.  Now that I’m a retired state employee, I’m covered by Medicare and private insurance.  I’m one of the tiny percentage of disabled people fully covered by insurance.
I can remember when my situation wasn’t so comfortable, which is why I don’t have that “I’ve got mine, Jack” attitude I hear too often from the chronically healthy.
Even if you don’t have a chronic health condition, an accident or sudden illness could make it impossible for you to work.  Then where would you be?  You’d end up with socialized healthcare.  You would be persona non grata to the private insurers.
You say you’re really careful?  You eat right and exercise?  Great, but your luck could run out.  Yes, luck is a factor, too.  A drunk or distracted driver could crash right into you.  Don’t let luck make you smug.
There’s an old saying, apparently forgotten my many: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  Keeping people healthy is so much cheaper than playing catch-up later.
Not only do most healthy people work, they further their education, volunteer, and some even start businesses.
I’ve heard people say, “We can’t afford to cover everyone in this economy.”  With two-thirds of us overweight, we can’t afford not to.  Here is the Land of the Free it’s “eat now, pay later.” 
Well, I’ve seen the bill myself.  Millions of us won’t be able to stiff the restaurant and do a Dine-N-Dash this time.

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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

An Open Letter to Computer Virus Creators

Dear Computer Virus Creator

I’m one of your countless, nameless, faceless victims.  To PC users a computer virus is about as unavoidable as death, taxes, and spam.  Even the most tech and internet savvy computer users (which I’m not) can fall prey your to dastardly deeds.  I was fooled by a very realistic-looking link when I tried to upgrade software.  Right away I knew I’d done something wrong because my computer froze up.  A manual reboot led to obvious conclusion: virus.

Right now, you’re probably chuckling to yourself like some kind of villain from a Batman movie.  I imagine you look like the garden-variety American computer geek, but you may actually be from anywhere in the world.  In that case, you may not have much sympathy for a white, college-educated American male.  Whoever you are, you’re about to get to know who I am.

The first sign something was wrong after I rebooted my computer was when Zoomtext, the magnifier program I use, didn’t open.  Visually-impaired people like me have to use a program to enlarge what’s on the screen.  I also use it to reduce glare by reversing colors on documents, so I’m looking at white letters on a black background.  Black and white.  Right and wrong.  Some of us know the difference.

It may not matter to you that one of your victims is legally blind, so it may not matter to you that I don’t drive, either.  I’m fortunate enough to live in a town with taxi cab service.  It isn’t cheap, but I’m lucky to have it.  I’m also lucky my computer guru wasn’t busy.  He even gave me a discount to clean up your mess because I’m a regular customer.  Yes, Mean-spirited Technically-gifted Loser, you’ve plagued me before.

After riding the taxi back home, I kept busy doing other things and tried not to think about lost productivity.  I’m nearing completion of my memoir, in which I talk about several health issues I’ve had to overcome in my life.  Being a single, middle-aged legally blind guy with a couple of transplanted organs isn’t easy.  I really don’t need you complicating my life further.

A kind soul gave me a ride to pick up my computer when it was fixed and also hooked it back up for me.  That saved me from having to feel the back of the PC tower to make sure I inserted the connections properly.  It would have taken me five times as long as it took him and I probably would have ended up with a headache. 

Score one for Jim!

Ah, but you did a thorough job, Mr. Egotistical Socially Unskilled 40 Year-old Virgin.  The virus you made was in there so deep I had to take it back for a full strip-down of my hard drive.  My computer guru removed everything this time, including your masterpiece of computer treachery.  When I picked it up the next day, I had to reinstall software.  Luckily, someone was able to hook up my computer this time and load Zoomtext on there again. 

Score TWO MORE for Jim!

The rest of us can only wonder what motivates you to wreak havoc on our lives like you do.  Are you angry at the world because in high school the cool kids shunned you due to your colossal geekiness?  Is your ego so inflated and your imagination so limited that this is the only thing you can think of to leave your mark on the world?  Do you work for an anti-virus software company desperately trying to create demand for its products?  Does creating computer viruses somehow make your penis larger?

I’d like to think this will make you feel guilty, but it won’t.  I’d love for the rest of us to sniff you out like bloodhounds, surround your sparsely-furnished little apartment, drag you out in the street in the underwear and dirty T-shirt you wear all day while sitting at your computer, and take turns pummeling you with our permanently infected laptops until you beg for mercy, cry like a little girl, and slink away to the safety of the nearest ditch or trash dumpster, but we won’t.

So, Sleazy Misguided Self-delusional Creep, I would like to close by letting your know that you were successful at causing me stress, raising  my blood pressure, delaying my progress, and costing me a small wad of cash.  But I don’t need to use my skills and education to unleash misery on the computer-using public in order to feel better about myself.  And that, in spite of my limited eyesight and tech know-how, means I win.  Until you serve up some kind of Y2K type of worldwide computer mayhem that leads rational people to hoard canned food, beef jerky, and ammo, you not only earn my disgust, by my pity as well—because you are as insignificant as a nanoparticle in the computer chip of an ameba’s tiny flash drive.