Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Drowning in Paperwork

Because CPA Boy has had so many procedures in the hospital this year we have many medical bills. And the thing is this: every single bill means at least 3 to 5 sheets of paper to sort through.

You get a pacemaker. The hospital sends you a statement with the words "THIS IS NOT A BILL" on top. It tells you the full cost of the procedure and that they have submitted the charge to insurance. They send these monthly until the insurance company pays so you sometimes end up with 2 or more of the "not a bills".

Then insurance pays and an explanation of benefits (EOB) is generated. I log into the insurance website and print them out to match to the hospital (not a) bill.

And I also have an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of everything! Each EOB is logged and I can tell at a glance where we are on meeting the deductible or whether I've paid a bill yet.

The hospital will finally get around to sending a statement with the words "THIS IS A BILL" on it.

And each of these statements, whether a bill or not, includes a pay envelope which go right into the recycling because I pay on-line or over the phone with a credit card.

Then I make piles of each item and match them up. And because a pacemaker doesn't insert itself, the doctor bills you, the anesthesiologist bills you and there are sometimes separate hospital bills for lab work.

This year our insurance has a deductible of $5,650. So we pay 100% of every bill that comes through up to that amount. But then we have what is called "out-of-pocket" costs of $11,000.

After we reach the $5,650 insurance starts paying 70% and we pay 30% until we reach $11,000 (5,650 deductible + 5,350 out-of-pocket). This only happens in years when we have some sort of surgery. Most years we just pay for a few visits to the doctors, prescriptions and flu shots and never even reach the deductible.

And that doesn't even count how much we pay in insurance premiums every year! That's another $10,000!

But without insurance the doctors and hospital would make us pay 100% of their bills. That amount so far is just over $105,000. Obviously paying $21,000 is better than paying $105,000 (and that will go up as the year progresses).

What's really interesting is the comparison to how much is billed and how much insurance lowers with "patient savings" (this is the deal each insurance company works out with medical providers).

For example, the angiogram at the hospital was billed for $28,543.40. Insurance deducted $19,057.40 so the hospital only gets a total of $9,846 (part from the insurance company and part from us).

For the pacemaker, the charge from the hospital was $61,828.36 and the savings was $41,146.03 meaning they will receive $20,682.33 (again, part from insurance and part from us).

You have to wonder how much things really cost! Does an angiogram really cost $28,000 or is it really closer to $9,800? Does a pacemaker procedure cost $62,000 or $21,000?

Presumably the hospital would not be willing to accept an amount lower than the actual costs but I'm not sure that's the case. Perhaps there are people without insurance who are struggling to pay the full amount. Maybe it averages out.

Time Magazine had an amazing cover story a few weeks ago about this very subject. One of its points is that there needs to be greater transparency in medical pricing.

People can't really shop around because hospitals don't offer pricing guides for comparison and then many people need hospital services on an emergency basis and don't have the luxury to compare prices.

So this is where our money goes this year. (Our last big medical expense year was 2010 when I had some female surgery and The Boy had a procedure on his leg.)

(I'm completely ignoring the entire political healthcare debate. I don't believe this is a partisan problem. It would be nice if there were bi-partisan solutions though!)

And that's why I'm drowning in paperwork!

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Big Ten

Down, CPA Boy. This is NOT any kind of college football related post. Well, except for this amazingly STUPID fact:

The Big Ten has TWELVE teams in it!

And corresponding to this, the Big 12 has TEN teams.

Huh?!

THIS is one of the many reasons college football is stupid. I am so very glad I went to a college that eschewed football.

I'm guessing I will get an explanation for this Big Ten/Big 12 situation at dinner tonight. Joy. 

But back to the regularly scheduled post about BOOKS.

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I read the following ten books over the last six weeks:

  • Medusa's Gaze and Vampire's Bite: The Science of Monsters by Matt Kaplan
    • Vampires, werewolves, the minotaur, Medusa, Charibdys, dragons, etc...
    • The author delves into history and comes up with some pretty good scientific explanations for the creatures that have terrified humanity over the ages. Rabies, a scourge for much of human history, explains a lot of the vampire and werewolf hallmarks. Earthquakes help explain the underground rumbling of the minotaur in its labyrinth. Earthquakes and tsunamis can explain the whirlpool of Charibdys. A really interesting book.
  • Al Capp: A Life to the Contrary by Denis Kitchen & Michael Schumacher
    • Capp wrote one of the classic comic strips, "Li'l Abner" (which ran from 1934 to 1977). Turns out the guy was an absolute asshole. He cheated heavily on his wife, took petty vengeance on fellow cartoonists, lied about everything, and, worst of all, was a sexual predator. He made many appearances on college campuses and when he got some co-ed alone he would sexually assault her. In his day he one of the most famous men in America so he was able to get away with it for a while. 
    • It's funny how famous Al Capp was and how popular "Li'l Abner" was (the strip generated tons of merchandizing, movies and plays) and yet he's largely forgotten today. 
  • Just My Type: A Book About Fonts by Simon Garfield
    • I really enjoyed this book. I love fonts even though I am terrible at identifying most of them. 
    • My favorite font is called Comic Sans. It's a simple font based on the lettering style of comic books which probably explains why I like it so much, says the woman with 6 boxes of comic books in her closet. Apparently most people HATE Comic Sans. I had no idea! The whole first chapter of this book details this hate. Here's what it looks like:
    • ComicSansSpec3.svg 
    • I don't care; I still love it.
    • The book also includes an overview of the history of typography which was fascinating.
  • Mary & Lou & Rhoda & Ted: And All the Brilliant Minds Who Made The Mary Tyler Moore Show a Classic by Jennifer Armstrong
    • This book was a quick, fun read. I grew up watching CBS on Saturday nights in the 1970s. The Fall season in 1973 lineup was All in the Family, M*A*S*H, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show and The Carol Burnett Show.  This is widely considered to be the best lineup ever.
    • My favorite fact was that Georgia Engel, who played Georgette, was only 24 years old when she started on the show! (At the time Ted Knight, who played her love interest, was about 50.)
  • Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
    • LOVED this book! It had an unusual structure which made its final twist shocking and heartbreaking. It's categorized as a young adult novel but this is historical fiction for any age. A British woman is caught in Nazi-occupied France and imprisoned and tortured as a spy. She is given the option to write out her confession. No spoilers here! 
  • Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
    • I was intrigued when I read the synopsis for this book: the daughter of a prostitute in 1950 New Orleans tries to rise above her beginnings. The book was fine but I don't remember much about it. 
    • So many novels set in New Orleans seem to take place in the French Quarter. I never knew anyone that actually LIVED in the French Quarter (except, I think, my Uncle Al stayed there briefly at some point). Most of my family members and family friends lived Uptown or in the suburbs. I think the French Quarter was a combination of too decrepit or too expensive so either really poor people lived there or really rich people had homes there. In any case, I am kinda tired of French Quarter novels
  • Wish You Were Eyre by Heather Vogel Frederick
    • The final volume of the Mother-Daughter Book Club series. A perfectly fine ending with all the main characters ending up at some sort of pinnacle. As one reviewer on Good Reads noted: "all the girls are apparently astoundingly gifted in their individual talent areas (by the end of the book we have a fashion designer getting bites in Paris, a published author, a national hockey champion, and a national singing contest finalist)." It's nice to see characters you like succeed but this really was a little over the top! 
  • Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris
    • The first of 13 Sookie Stackhouse novels. Quick, fun read. I also watched the first season of "True Blood" the TV series based on these books. I like the show better so I will stick with that instead of reading books 2-13.
  • Locke & Key: Volume 5: Clockworks by Joe Hill
    • The second to last compilation of a comic book miniseries. The final volume should be out this summer and I can't wait to see how it all ends.
  • Joyland by Stephen King
    • An interesting story built around a murder mystery. The action takes place at a North Carolina amusement park in 1973. I enjoyed it because I generally like Stephen King's work but also because I worked at an amusement park in 1982. I only worked there for 2 months but the memory of it looms so much larger in my mind. We had no murder mystery at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk though. (But we had polyester uniforms!)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

What Would You Do Without Best Friends?

The Boy broke up with The Girl last night. He is sad but said he is strong and will "recover and rebound." Poor baby.

After the sad event last night, his best friend Red Beard was waiting for him across the street at the 7-11. He gave The Boy a ride home and also bought him a lottery ticket and a Playboy magazine. ("I didn't win," says my son.) 

But he obviously won in the best friend department! They have been best pals since kindergarten. Red Beard is one of the good guys. (As is my son of course!)

So a special shout out to my own BF, Lady Chardonnay! She has always been there whenever I had man trouble. Which was a constant state of affairs --- pun intended --- during our college years.

I should mention too that our motto back then was "Men are scum." (And "Cows are killers." Don't ask.) 

But The Boy and Red Beard aren't scum! I am glad they have each other for support.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Start and Stop

Lately I have been starting books that I end up not finishing for one reason or another. A far cry from my younger days when I would plow through until the bitter end on almost every book I picked up. 

(Exceptions include The Celestine Prophecy, The Bridges of Madison County and Lord of the Flies.)

I got a book called The 5th Wave from the library which is another post-apocalyptic young adult novel. I was really enjoying it and was wondering if it was a complete-in-one-novel story or the start of another series. Turns out to be book one in a trilogy. This means the next two books won't be published until (probably) 2014 and 2015. So I set it aside to take back to the library.

I had read the first two books of another young adult trilogy earlier this year: Lauren Oliver's Delirium novels. The final book was released recently and I got it at the library. When I went to pick it up and start reading I realized that I had no memory of the first two books! So I figured that there was no point wasting time on a book whose first two volumes failed to instill excitement about the third! Back to the library it went!

The latest Dan Brown novel just came out. It's called Inferno. I'm in line for it at the library but in the meantime I thought I'd pick up a couple other of his books I hadn't read yet: Angels and Demons and The Lost Symbol. I read The Da Vinci Code years ago (but never saw the movie). As I got into Angels and Demons I realized it was very similar to The Da Vinci Code. Secret society causes mayhem, puzzles abound, Robert Langdon saves the day. Yep, back into the "return to library" basket.

And for the record, I have an actual plastic basket (it's red!) that I use to keep the books in so they are all in one safe spot. I go to the library about once a week so I almost always have something to return. I really do wish the people at the library were nicer though. No one ever chats with me when I'm checking out. They just scan my books and hand me the receipt. Oh well. 

Because the media was covering the fact that the last Sookie Stackhouse book was coming out --- oh, happy day! a completed series! --- I picked up the first book of the series. The name escapes me; they all have the word "dead" in the title. The book was fine and I watched a few episodes of the HBO series, which was really good, much better than the book.

Then I requested the next two books in the series. And realized quickly that this was a 13 book series. I really don't want to read 12 more books about Sookie. And I think the TV show seems more interesting. So those 2 books went into the red basket.

What's left? I have a zillion other books to choose from thanks to my long membership in Paperback Swap. It's funny though: I have the first 2 books of Justin Cronin who has written a horror trilogy (The Passage and The Twelve). They will stay on my shelf until the final book gets published! I read the first book in Deborah Harkness' series, A Discovery of Witches. I have the next book on my shelf but I will wait until the final book is out before reading the second book.

I am getting harder to please and/or I am no longer willing to waste my time.