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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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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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3 Thrilling Facts about Air Conditioners

new daikin air conditioner

It’s official. This summer marks the year of air conditioning deaths. A pal posted on Facebook that hers had died. A neighbor had an old one hauled away on a flatbed. Mine was close to death, not expected to last through to fall, so I avoided a sudden and violent death by having it replaced this week.

Summers can be brutal in Tucson if you’re stuck without an air conditioner. But that’s not one the thrilling facts I’m about to expose. That one is just common sense.

The thrilling facts are a bit more intriguing, coming from the experienced pros at D&H Air Conditioning Company.  I was graced with several visits where the D&H AC guys first checked in on my old unit and then turned me on to and installed a new one. All were knowledgeable, personable and served up exceptional explanations, along with these three fascinating AC facts.

Dogs Use AC Units as Personal Grooming Systems

Globs and globs of dog hair. That’s the main thing that came out of our old outdoor AC unit. The globs and globs came from years and years of long-haired dogs, coupled with the fact that no one ever actually opened and cleaned out the unit for the past decade.

Now, we all already know that dogs are smart. The AC man made them even smarter still by noting he sees globs of dog hair all the time.

“Dogs learn to rub on the unit,” he said, noting that the force sucking in the outside air pulls wayward hair and debris off their coats. It’s like their own personal grooming system.

Since my current two dogs flee in terror from the room if you even sneeze, I cannot imagine them actually going near a loud, vibrating box – much less rubbing on it – but I liked the idea of putting a little fence or barrier around the unit. Not because it would ensure the dogs don’t get close enough for a massage, but for aesthetic reasons. A metal dragon cut-out privacy screen thing is nicer to look at than an AC unit, no?

Stolen Freon is a Hot Market

Yep, air conditioning Freon has a thriving black market, with thousands of dollars’ worth swiped from unsuspecting homeowners every year. On older AC units, all a Freon thief has to do is open a valve on the Freon AC hose, empty the stuff into whatever vessel works for Freon stealing, and then sell it to other people who don’t feel like paying full price for non-stolen Freon.

The AC man said they’ve seen entire neighborhoods hit, with sneaky thieves simply shimmying from house to house in the middle of the night. Homeowners wake up to a non-working AC unit – and a big bill for Freon replacement.

New units come with a special key that locks the Freon valve, and only authorized AC companies are allowed to have the key.

Many AC Units Still Use Technology from 1908

In its early days, air conditioning cooled the interior by coming on full blast, 100-percent power, filling the room with cold air, and then shutting off. It would then wait until the room heated up and repeat the process again and again. That type of system is known as the single-stage system. It’s also what made my old AC unit end up with charred black panel where the starter thing had to start it up full force every time it went on.

Newer AC unit feature a two-step system, which works to maintain an even temperature more like a refrigerator. The system’s first stage hits 60 percent power, filling a room with cold air. It then reduces the load to about 15 to 20 percent power to maintain a steady coolness throughout the interior. Instead of going on and off at 100 percent like a madman, it keeps a slower and more steady pace.

Our AC “comfort advisor” (love the title!) gave us a spot-on analogy. He said the single-stage system was like being a red light and then flooring the gas pedal to speed up and stop at the next red light. A two-stage system was like smoothly accelerating and gently reaching the desired speed, providing far less wear and tear on the car.

Even though I drive like a single-stage system, I went for the two-stage for the new AC unit.

While getting a new AC unit may not be as exciting as getting a new car or killer suede boots, the experience can still be fun. Not only do you get a quieter, more efficient way to cool your home, but your dogs get a brand-new personal grooming system.

Make your cool home even cooler with art from the rynski shop on etsy.

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Thinking of a Midnight Flight? Maybe Think Again

moonlight san diego

Despite being known as the red-eye, a midnight flight may sound pretty groovy. You get to drive to the airport long after rush hour. The check-in and security lines are less hectic, the airport less crowded and the wait less harrowing.

Once you board the plane, all you need to do is plop on your noise-cancelling headset, put on a meditation CD, and quickly fall asleep. Sleeping will be easy, you say, since it’s during your normal bedtime, right?

You may as well start laughing now. Better yet, start crying, which is something that will happen anyway if your midnight flight goes anything like mine did.

An Easy Start

I tried a midnight flight from Arizona to Florida. Nonstop was not an option at any hour, and midnight was the only flight that didn’t have a layover of at least four hours. Let’s try it, said I, see what happens.

The drive to the airport was smooth, as were the check-in and security lines. The airport was kind of creepy-cool without its usual hustle and bustle. The plane boarded easily and on time.

A Rocky Middle

Then the real fun began. I plopped on my headset, inserted meditation CD, and was drifting blissfully off to sleep when BLAM!

The woman behind me decided to use my head as some kind of kind of support shelf for standing up. Her entire forearm meatily landed across the entire top of my skull, knocking my headset asunder and any bliss right out of my mind.

She had apparently lost her balance or something and apologized immediately. But the damage had already been done.

A Horrific End

Sleep was lost, but I could at least still meditate, no? I continued to breathe deeply as instructed by the meditation stuff I’ve always read: in through my nose, out through my mouth. In through my nose, out through my mouth. Deeper and deeper, in through my nose, out through my mouth, as the Hemi-Sync CD played on.

At about the fifth inhale, I noticed a rancid stench permeating my nostrils. At first I thought someone just had gas and the odor would fade away. But instead it got stronger. Stronger. And even stronger. Inhaling through my nose at all was no longer an option, deeply or otherwise. Even breathing through my mouth was making my eyes water.

It ended up the kid next to me had pooed his pants.

By the time the parent woke up and took the tot to the bathroom, more damage had already been done from this one. Not only to the air around us, but also to the airplane seat. The kid, alas, had been beyond diaper age so the seat had no protection. The parent came back with a stack of airplane bathroom towels to cover the seat for the duration of the flight.

Although the odds of getting smashed across the the skull and permeated with poo smell may be slim on subsequent midnight flights, the flight can still be a painful experience if you don’t get any sleep. And based on the potpourri of pitfalls available, the chances of not getting sleep may be extremely high indeed.

Bon voyage!

Looking for something to pass the time on any flight? Snag one of rynski’s books today!

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