Monday, June 22, 2009

Bills, Bills, Bills

I have a lot of medical/hospital bills that I am figuring out right now with great frustration. In my opinion, those that are sick and their family members should be able to fight for health, as opposed to fighting medical providers and insurance companies to get the correct coverage. Here are some of my examples:

1) In-patient hospital bills are 1/5th the amount of outpatient hospital bills, for the EXACT same procedure.

A)In-patient: $26
Out-patient: $130

9 inpatient: $234
9 outpatient $1170
Difference: $936

B)In-patient: $16
Outpatient: $80

9 Inpatient: $144
9 Outpatient: $720
Difference: $576

2) How a medical professional writes a diagnosis can change your bill drastically.

Routine Labwork: $62 (Covered at 90%)
Same EXACT Routine Labwork with other diagnosis: $310 (Covered at 50%)
Difference: $248
How can this be so for the EXACT same procedure? It's discriminatory.

These are examples from my medical insurance as a public school teacher, which is considered to have excellent insurance. (It's Blue Cross Blue Shield to be exact.) To top it all off, I've had to catch a few errors where inpatient was billed as outpatient or where the diagnosis was incorrect. As you see above, this can make quite a large difference in health bills. Imagine those little old ladies or people without family to help them work through all the bills, that just pay what they are told. Imagine those with poor insurance or none at all. Imagine those with mental health issues, that have no family or insurance coverage or job. They can't even begin to understand their illness, let alone the medical bills and discrepancy between mental and medical. Health reform needs to happen. Obama agrees. But what would it look like? It seems like such a big mess...where would you begin? I wish I had answers. I'm interested to see others' "answers".

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Runnin' On Empty

My family is visiting my grandparents in GA right now, about an hour outside of Atlanta. It is so great to be with them and be able to celebrate Father's Day with my dad and grandpa, even though it's one day early!

It has been an adventure of a trip, starting with a call from my mom at 11PM on Wed night, asking if I wanted to join them on a visit to my grandparents. I asked when they were planning to go to which she responded tomorrow morning. They have not been able to plan summer vacations right now, as their lives are monopolized by my brother's traveling baseball games. Wed night his team got knocked out of a tournament in the 1st round, which meant he had the next week and a half off.

Thurs morning we departed. We were just outside of Indianapolis, when my dad ran out of gas. He has this thing where he likes to go as long as possible before he gets gas. He also has a Shell card, which gives him a discount, so he waits till he sees a Shell sign. We stopped just before an overpass and about a half a mile from the next exit. My mom and I navigated through the long grass to stand away from our car, but still close by behind a guardrail, while my dad and Jonathan started hiking it to the nearest gas station. Our men deserted us. Meanwhile, much to our displeasure, my mom and I were getting honked at by passing truck drivers. How did they know that we were stranded on the side of the road for their pure enjoyment? Only about 15 minutes had passed and a car pulled up behind us. My dad and Jonathan got out of the car. I guess the driver had been worried about them walking along the road across the overpass and stopped to give them a ride. He took them to get gas, dropped them off, and then parked aways behind us to make sure we got off ok. What a blessing! Apparently, he told my dad on the way back that he'd be hearing about this for the next 20 years. You would think he had learned, but further along in our trip in TN, he was skirting along the empty line and wouldn't stop till he found a Shell. The first one was closed, so he wanted to go to the next exit with a Shell. And again, it was closed. He caved and we got gas, but not without a lot of grief from my mom and I. It's only been three days...but already he is hearing about it! And now it's recorded for posterity.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Truly Amazing Grace

The other day, I was driving from my apt in Lombard back to my parents' place in Wheaton and this song came on the radio. When I listen to the radio, I tend to jump around to different stations. Once you listen to one station frequently, you seem to hear the same songs over and over again. On this occasion, I was listening to the Christian station, 94.3K Love. "By Your Side" came on the radio and I found myself overcome with emotion. I know it meant a lot to me this past year when I felt like I just needed rest. This Thursday morning, I felt like I had an overwhelming sense of God's grace and how amazing it truly is. Not just for me, but for everyone. It is no small thing. I don't know how you could look at the world's sin and God's grace and not be overcome with just how amazing His grace truly is.

"By Your Side" By Tenth Avenue North

Why are you striving these days
Why are you trying to earn grace
Why are you crying
Let me lift up your face
Just don't turn away

Why are you looking for love
Why are you still searching as if I'm not enough
To where will you go child
Tell me where will you run
To where will you run

And I'll be by your side
Wherever you fall
In the dead of night
Whenever you call
And please don't fight
These hands that are holding you
My hands are holding you

Look at these hands and my side
They swallowed the grave on that night
When I drank the world's sin
So I could carry you in
And give you life
I want to give you life

Cause I, I love you
I want you to know
That I, I love you
I'll never let you go

And I'll be by your side
Wherever you fall
In the dead of night
Whenever you call
And please don't fight
These hands that are holding you
My hands are holding you

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Good Samaritan

SO today, I along with my family, were able to be Good Samaritans. Let me set the stage...

I was helping my mom make homemade pizza for dinner, as Melissa and Greg were visiting from KY and coming for dinner. All of a sudden we heard screaming through our front screen door. A girl was screaming hysterically, "PLEASE, PLEASE, someone help me." We rushed to the front door as she continued to scream "PLEASE, PLEASE help me!!!! PLEASE call 911. PLEASE help me!!" She started running to the neighbors' house and it was clear she had a child in her arms. I was thinking the worst....that the child was unconscious or having convulsions or any number of things. She turned to us and said, "Please, she fell from the monkey bars and cracked her head open. There's so much blood." My mom immediately stepped in with a calming voice telling her to calm down, to bring her inside, and insisting that she did not need to call 911. She (we'll call her Suzy) followed us into the kitchen and my mom told her to sit down on the chair. Instead of sitting down with the girl on her lap, Suzy sat her in the chair and started to leave. My mom asked where she was going and she said she had to get the other kids. The girl, Karis, was no older then 4. She had a cut on her forehead that was bleeding into one of her eyes. She would need stitches, but her head was not cracked open. After running to get my mom a washcloth, I went to the front door to help with the other kids. Meanwhile, both my parents were calming Karis down and wiping away the blood, which was not excessive and letting her know that she would be just fine. When I got to the front, Suzy was there with a little girl only 2 and boys about 6, 8, and 11. Suzy looked to be H.S. age, although maturity level was about middle school. She wanted me to run her 11 year-old brother, Chris, home in my car, which I wasn't so sure about. He ended up running home to tell their families, while Suzy was trying to call them. She was still pretty hysterical and told the kids to "just sit down" in the front yard and she ran back inside. (My parents told me later that Suzy came inside and got Karis all worked up again by telling her "it looked so bad" and "it must hurt a lot".) Meanwhile, I was trying to figure out the situation. I found out that the three of them, 2, 6, and 8 were siblings and that Karis was their sister. Chris and Suzy were siblings and they had agreed to take their neighbors (the four kids) for a walk to the park. I knew that Karis was in good hands, so I worked at keeping the 3 siblings calm and occupied. I took them to the backyard and got the boys involved in a game of catch, while I held the little 2-year old. Long story short, their mother came to pick them all up and take the 4 year-old to the Dr. for stiches. Suzy calmed down a bit and I helped them collect their things at the park.

The situation was not as bad as we had anticipated upon first hearing the screams, but it definately added some excitment to the evening! We were able to keep those kids calm and cared for, even if we were not able to spare them from nightmares. The one thing that I learned was that I would never trust "Suzy" with any of my kids. Not because the accident happened, but because of her ballistic, panicked, unreasonable response, that heightened the kids' (and our own) anxiety levels. Hopefully those children will not be having nightmares as a result, but needless to say, they are all in one peace and safe at home.