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The Horror of Health Insurance for the Self-Employed

dead man cartoon

Some pine for the good ole days of their childhood or early romances. I pine for the good ole days of health insurance.

When I first became fully self-employed, I had a decent Blue Cross Blue Shield health insurance plan for about $99 per month. The deductible was reasonable, the coverage was adequate and my doctor accepted it.

Then Obamacare came along.

My existing health insurance plan instantly went extinct, as it didn’t include all the added baggage every policy now had to have. Like breast milk pumps and pregnancy care, even if you were a woman not planning on children. Even if you were a man.

Those needless novelties skyrocketed health insurance premiums through the ozone, with any plan that offered anything near my former benefits starting around $750 per month.

For several years, I went for the chintziest insurance options just to cover major, unexpected accidents. Like the kettle-corn motorcycle crash, and the hair-dye chemical in my eye. My deductible was $10,000, my premium was hovering around $250 per month, and I was lucky my doctor accepted it since it had some weirdo name most folks have never heard of.

Then the premiums stared going up. Like every three months. By $40 a pop. Damn hair dye urgent care bills must have finally landed on the insurance company’s desk. So I told the company to go fly a kite.

Of course, I did this during open enrollment, when I could actually get a different plan. I landed on this really, really cheap option called short-term health insurance and went for it. Word of advice: Don’t.

Short-Term Health Insurance Risks

While the premium was less than $200 per month, the coverage was pretty much zilch. The deductible was still in the $10K range, and I had to get a new policy every three months. What cemented the belief that I was in a losing proposition was my prescription prices.

It was actually CHEAPER to buy prescription medication on a cash-only basis with no insurance than it was to use the prescription deal included with my plan. And that’s not the biggest horror story I heard about short-term health insurance.

A woman on a short-term plan had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and the plan merrily covered her bills – until her three-month term was up. The insurance carrier then dropped her, refusing to provide a new policy. She was now left with a pre-existing condition that pretty much ruled out any plan acceptance and a mountain of medical bills she had to pay out of her own pocket.

Unless you can get any and all possible medical expenses you’ll ever face crammed into the scant, three-month period for which you’re covered, short-term health insurance is a really bad joke.

Health Marketplace Insurance Risks

Why don’t you just shimmy on over to the health insurance marketplace, some may ask, where you can get reimbursed based on your wages? That option comes with its own headaches and risks. For starters, health marketplace is a crummy name. It sounds like a place you go to buy day-old fruit.

The plans themselves aren’t all that great. They’re also priced more in the $750 range – that’s with a deductible of $14,000.  If that’s not enough to deter you, there’s also the marketplace horror story I heard.

A guy who had low enough wages was getting reimbursed for his health insurance from the marketplace. Then his boss gave him a raise of something like 55 cents per hour. Lo and behold, that was just enough to squeak the guy over the income limit for reimbursement – and he had to pay back some $6,000 now that he was in a higher wage bracket.

So What’s Left?

Sigh. Panicky, nighttime internet searching for a health insurance plan in the middle of July. Filling out those little boxes with your phone number usually results in an avalanche of calls the next morning, but my phone rang about two seconds after hitting “enter” on one of them.

The caller’s name was Jentrey Shannon, and he was an agent with USHEALTH Group. To make a long phone call a short story, his PowerPoint presentation, comparison charts and health insurance perks nearly cemented the deal. Thinking about it for a day sealed it.

While the coverage is not cheap, it’s not $750 per month. And it actually covers things I may even need – without having to pay for pregnancy care and breast milk pumps. This is all good. Even better, of course, is if I never have to file a claim.

But that’s the thing with insurance. It follows the same concept as the umbrella theory. When you have one with you, it never rains. When you forget to take it long, it always ends up pouring.

Want to read about stuff a tad more exciting than health insurance? Get a rynski book. 

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The Most Ridiculous Email Scam Yet

danger email scam

Maybe it’s a family member supposedly stranded in Nigeria who needs you to send them money, a random person in Topeka who wants to send you a $1 million USD inheritance, or a dire warning that your Apple ID has been compromised (even though you’ve used Apple nothing your entire life).

We’ve all had more than our fair share of email scams, and they keep getting more ridiculous by the millisecond. The latest case in point appears below.

Just when you thought scam emails couldn’t get any more ludicrous, an urgent email from “Wilford Bennett” showed up in my junk email folder. I regularly review my junk mail because, alas, some non-junky mail does end up in there while other obvious crap still streams into my inbox.

In any event, I neither recall the subject line of this bizarre email nor what prompted me to actually open and read it. But here comes the verbatim text below:

Scam Email Text

Note: I left misspellings and other faux pas as is to further highlight the email’s (non)credibility.

From: Wilford Bennett, 915@420.900

rynski, you don’t know me and you’re thinking why you received this e mail, right?

Well, I actually placed a malware on the porn website and guess what, you visited this web site to have fun (you know what I mean). While you were watching the video, your web browser acted as a RDP (Remote Desktop) and a keylogger which provided me access to your display screen and webcam. Right after that, my software gathered all your contacts from your Messenger, Facebook account, and email account.

What exactly did I do?

I made a split-screen video. First part recorded the video you were viewing (you’ve got a fine taste haha), and next part recorded your webcam (Yep! It’s you doing nasty things!).

What should you do?

Well, I believe, $1200 is a fair price for our little secret. You’ll make the payment via Bitcoin to the below address (if you don’t know this, search “how to buy bitcoin” in Google).

BTC Address: 18AVxMK2KHimbrTJVEeUYM3LxLfD9RoR3o
(It is cAsE sensitive, so copy and paste it)

Important:

You have 24 hours in order to make the payment. (I have an unique pixel within this email message, and right now I know that you have read this email). If I don’t get the payment, I will send your video to all of your contacts including relatives, coworkers, and so forth. Nonetheless, if I do get paid (after payment, send an email to misszero@protonmail.com), I will erase the video immidiately. If you want evidence, reply with “Yes!” and I will send your video recording to your 5 friends. This is a non-negotiable offer, so don’t waste my time and yours by replying to this email.

Why I Knew It Was a Scam

While some email scams may be savvy enough for folks to ALMOST fall for them, this one was a loser from the get-go for several reasons:

  • I don’t visit porn sites. Heck, I’m the type that even gets annoyed when I’m searing for photos to use from royalty-free, free stock photo sites and inevitably photos with “adult content” show up during the most innocuous searches.
  • No one in my household would use my computer to visit porn sites. The dogs have their own computer and, besides, their porn consumption has decreased dramatically ever since both have been neutered.
  • If my webcam did record anything I did, it would show me boringly sitting at my computer typing.
  • The ransom is way too low. C’mon, if “Wilford Bennett” did indeed have embarrassing video footage of a person as outlined, you’d think the person would pay more than $1,200 to stop it from hitting the masses, no?

The Bottom Line

Even if email scams are obviously not getting more sophisticated, they are indeed getting more amusing. A round of applause for “Wilford Bennett” for creating the most amusingly ridiculous one yet.

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Why My Dogs Had No Spoons on July 4

dog with spoon

My dogs had no spoons on the Fourth of July. They were so lacking in spoons, in fact, they probably still owe a few to that great spoon drawer in the sky.

In order for all this spoon talk to make any sense, it helps to be familiar with the spoon theory.

The spoon theory originated as a way to check stress levels for people with chronic illnesses, but it can be adjusted to apply to every living thing. Your Dog’s Friend does a fantastic job of providing a bastion of details if you want to dive deeper into the spoon theory. My quick version of the concept appears below.

The Amended Spoon Theory

The amended spoon theory says that every living thing gets a supply of spoons each day. You get some spoons. Your dogs get some spoons. Even hummingbirds, houseplants and those ginormous Palo Verde beetles get spoons. The amount of spoons you get on a daily basis depends on your overall wellness, serenity levels and ability to handle stress.

  • Those well-adjusted and happy get loads of spoons every morning.
  • Those who are only pretending to be well-adjusted and happy may get several spoons.
  • Those obviously ill-adjusted and unhappy may get only a few spoons, and one of them may be bent.

You can gauge how many spoons you get by reviewing how many stressful incidents you can take per day without totally freaking out. If three incidents push you over the edge, you can estimate you only get three spoons per day.

Apply the spoon theory to your dogs, and you can use the same basic premise.

  • Dogs that are well-adjusted and happy get loads of spoons.
  • Dogs that are quick to become fearful or excited get several spoons.
  • Those obviously ill-adjusted and stressed may only get only a few spoons, and one of them may be already chewed in half.

As the day marches onward, every episode of stress has the power to take a spoon away. The higher the stress, the more spoons you lose. Stubbing your toe, for instance, may take away one spoon, while spending an hour trying to get Netflix to work may take away five or six.

Once you run out of spoons for the day, it’s a good idea to take a time out, go home, revamp, meditate or otherwise be kind to yourself until you can replenish your spoon supply. 

Spoons, Dogs and July 4

The Fourth of July is already a doozy for dogs with all its fireworks and noise. The date is known for being the No. 1 day dogs run away. While my dogs did not run away, they did lose spoons in rapid succession.

Here comes a rundown on my dogs’ spoon loss on July 4:

  • 1 spoon: Their dad going out for the day (they’re used to both mom and dad being home all the time)
  • 1 spoon per three sessions: Sitting at the door at intermittent intervals throughout the day just in case dad is about to come home at that exact moment
  • 8 spoons: Landscapers arriving next door at 6 a.m. with chainsaws, chains, clippers, buzzers and a giant Dumpster to overhaul neighbor’s yard
  • 2 spoons: One dog wearing his bark collar to stop barking at the chainsaws, chains, clippers, buzzers and giant Dumpster noise
  • 2 spoons: The other dog still barking and getting upset because his brother was not joining in the noise (this dog lacks a bark collar because it would involve shaving his long-haired neck for it to work)

Since I would approximate my dogs get 10 spoons per day each, they both were out of spoons well before any fireworks exploded in the sky. Because they were so exhausted after a full day of losing spoons, they barely even noticed the fireworks. One dog didn’t respond to the fireworks at all. The other dog did notice them, although he didn’t go wildly barking across the yard as usual. He simply refused to eat his dinner.

That means the spoon theory really is accurate. The dog that refused dinner is, after all, the same dog who is used to getting spoon-fed since he’s such a fussy eater. So he probably didn’t even think of eating since he knew there were no spoons to be found.

The spoon theory is a fun way to keep an eye on stress levels, for your dog, for yourself and for everyone and everything around you. Life can be so much more pleasant if we don’t lose all our spoons.

Like reading fun stuff about dogs? Then you’ll really dig the Rynski Doggie Dictionary. Buy your copy today.

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How to Deal with Jerks using Mental Floss

difficult people mental floss

Even if you work from home, shop at supermarkets in the dead of night, and only go outside after making sure no one else is around for miles, sooner or later you’re going to run across a jerk. Instead of running for cover, you can stand your ground confidently if you use a handy dandy tool called Mental Floss.

Mental Floss is one of 12 tools found in the Little Book of Big Jerks: Fast, Fun Illustrated Guide for Dealing with Difficult People. This post is an excerpt from the book. Enjoy!

What is Mental Floss?

Similar to dental floss but for the brain, mental floss cleans out built-up crud that’s been deposited by difficult people over time. Leave the crud to fester, and your mind’s deep pockets and crevices are subject to decay – or worse.

You could find yourself behaving as negatively as Nellie, as woefully as William, or begging for favors as vehemently as Gina.

How it Works:

Imagine a long, thin piece of floss that you insert in one ear and out the other. Grasp one end of the strand in each hand, pulling it back and forth several times while it’s stretched taut through your skull. Make a swishing sound for added effectiveness.

Your mental floss can be waxed or unwaxed, any flavor you like. Dispose of floss promptly after use so your pets don’t accidentally get ahold of it and choke.

mental floss

Find the mental floss marvelously helpful? Check out 11 other tools for dealing with difficult people in Rynski’s Little Book of Big Jerks.

Get your very own autographed copy today!

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Why Everyone Needs a Maneki Neko (a What?!)

maneki neko

When one of my Facebook pals asked if I ever made a Maneki Neko, my first response was “A what?!”

Since my fear of appearing stupid is nearly as great as my fear of being eaten by a shark, my second response was to hop on Google to find out what the heck he was talking about.

The mystery was solved quite rapidly. Even if we aren’t familiar with the official name of the Maneki Neko, many of us are familiar with the item itself. A Maneki Neko is the cute-as-all-get-out Fortune Cat, which some may refer to as the Smiling Wavy Cat Thing You See Next to Asian Restaurant Cash Registers.

Armed with the knowledge that these cutesy kitties are thought to bring good fortune and luck, I got my first one years ago from one of those dollar stores where everything costs at least $10. I don’t recall the exact price of the cat, but I knew I’d make it back in a jiffy when his good fortune vibes went into action.

While he graced my living room with his battery-operated waving paw for several days, the click-clack noise of the waving paw quickly drove me nuts. He’s been in the backyard ever since, now partially hidden by an overgrown sage bush but still streaming good fortune my way.

Whether it’s in their backyard, front yard or danging above their bed, everyone needs a Maneki Neko. Here’s why.

For Good Fortune

We could all use a dose of good fortune, and one of the most straightforward ways to secure it is to get yourself Maneki Neko. Other nicknames for this captivating critter are the Money Cat, the Welcoming Cat and the Lucky Cat, which means all that jazz can start coming your way.

You can also customize the type of good fortune you’d like to receive, based on the different colors, accessories and waving hand of your Maneki Neko.

Different colors are associated with different benefits:

  • White: Positive future and happiness
  • Red: Love and relationship success
  • Gold: Prosperity and wealth
  • Green: Good health
  • Black: Protection from evil spirits

Different accessories can likewise indicate different things.

A waving left arm is meant beckon customers, while a waving right arm beckons money and fortune. Get a Fortune Cat with both paws raised and you may get so much good luck your head is likely to explode.

My pal’s only request for his custom Maneki Neko is that its main color be white. I then customized the rest with:

  • A left waving hand, since that’s the way I’ve seen most Maneki Neko and I’m a big fan of left hands (as well as left-handed folks). The left to me symbolizes boundless creativity and potential.
  • Money-magnet accessories on the collar that include coins for wealth and flowers for growth and abundance.
  • A belly button, just because belly buttons are fun.

White was requested, while red, gold and black are the colors that called to me for the accents. My pal’s personal Maneki Neko is now equipped to bring on the prosperity and love while warding off the evil. Sounds good to me.

maneki neko

For Sharing a Good Story 

Legends rock, and the Maneki Neko has several that explain how the Fortune Cat came to be. One of the most interesting involves a geisha who absolutely adored her pet cat. Her cat followed her around, made sweet purring noises, and actually tugged at her kimono when it wanted attention.

While the kimono-tugging would be cute for some, the owner of the brothel took the tugging as a sign that the cat was possessed. So he grabbed a sword and sliced off the kitty’s head.

The cat’s head went flying off into the distance – landing on a snake that was about to strike and kill the geisha. The catapulting cat head, of course, killed the snake and the geisha was saved. Since she was still distressed about the loss of her beloved cat, one of her customers made her statue of the cat to cheer her up.

The Maneki Neko was born.

Pass along this legend and you get multiple layers of benefits. You get the benefit of sharpening your storytelling skills. The benefit of picking up a bedtime tale you can tell to your kids. And the benefit of keeping such fantastic folklore alive.

For Making a Quick Buck 

While the Maneki Neko is designed to bring good fortune and money, the windfall may not happen overnight. In the meantime, you can easily make a quick buck from all your family members and friends.

Simply point at your Fortune Cat and say:

“I’ll bet you $5 you can’t tell me the official name of this wavy cat thing.”

Boom. You’re now $5 richer.

Keep it up long enough and you’ll soon be able to afford anything and everything from those dollar stores that charge at least $10 or more per item.

Enjoy!

Read more cool stuff about the Maneki Neko on the Catster website.

Get a personalized Fortune Cat you can gleefully gaze at daily at the rynski etsy shop.

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