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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Panic in middle of the night



I awoke sweaty with my heart pounding. It felt like an irregular thumpty-thump-thump. Maybe I was having a heart attack. But I sure couldn’t afford to be having one.

That day I had gotten a refund of my health insurance premium in the mail. With no explanation other than “refund”. I wondered about the check and why I would be getting a refund. Then after I went to bed the panic started to set in.

I tried to ignore the thoughts. Perhaps I’d failed to properly register for my health insurance plan during the “open season”. Perhaps I had been disqualified for some reason I had yet to fathom. Perhaps this was the end of my happy retirement and life as I knew it.

I’d been able to retire a few years before I reached the age for Medicare eligibility because I had qualified for an early retirement package that included health insurance from my long-term employer. I had a number of health issues, some of which were problems that required surgery. With these pre-existing conditions I would never qualify for private insurance.

Even though my policy was a high deductible and cost me substantial monthly premiums, I was very happy to have it. The health insurance policy stood between me and being destitute in the event of a medical emergency. I know how health costs add up. Last year I had reached my high deductible limits by December. This year I’ve already met the deductible in February.  I didn’t think it was possible but maybe they had found a way to drop me because our medical bills were too costly.

After I had retired, originally I had paid my premium by deduction from my very small pension. But without fail, at the start of each year the pension people did not communicate with the health insurance people and the payments were not withheld. Then I would get a nastygram saying my insurance would be cancelled if payment were not immediately received.

The nice service reps who took my panicked calls always reassured me my insurance would not really be cancelled. That was just what the notices said.

But I still did not like the panic that went with receiving a nastygram. So I signed up to pay by monthly withdrawals from my bank account.  I did not want to inadvertently miss a payment and receive one of those nastygrams and maybe have the insurance actually cancelled. After all, just because someone told me on the phone “not to worry” did that mean I had no reason to worry?

But this refund was a new reason to panic. By the time I received the mail that included the refund check it was late in the day and the benefit office was closed. So I could not call and get some nice lady to tell me not to worry.  And for some reason or other, the health insurance web site also was not working. Or maybe it was just me and I did not have insurance any more and that was why I could not sign in to check my insurance status and try to find out why they had sent me the check. If one is a little paranoid and subject to panic one does not necessarily need a lot of reason to reach for the panic button.

 The night dragged on and it was a long time before the sun came up. But finally, the benefit call lines were open. I called. The service rep had no idea why I had gotten the refund check. But she would find out and call me back in a day or two. She told me not to cash the check. It probably was some mistake. But yes, my health insurance was still in effect. And there was no problem with my enrollment during the last “open season”.

I’m still holding the check. Still waiting for a call back from the benefit office to explain what’s up with the refund. But I was at least very happy the nice lady had reassured me on the phone.

I’m left with another reason to not panic besides the reassurance from a voice on the telephone. Thank goodness for the Affordable Health Care Act or Obamacare as it’s critics like to call it. And also for Medicare. One of the entitlement programs the far right likes to criticize and wants to cut.  Even though I don’t yet qualify for the latter. And the former’s guarantee of health care insurance without regard to pre-existing conditions does not go into effect until next year. The nightmare that I was envisioning in the middle of the night we as Americans will no longer need to fear. When everyone will have the right to buy health insurance and not need to panic in the middle of the night. At least about paying for health insurance. At least for now.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Communcation on Facebook?

So our Internet is now working. We are no longer out-of-touch. Bad router or some such. Took the techies a couple of tries to get it figured out.

So now I have no excuse for not paying bills. Or writing on my blog. No reason to go laze at the pool or on the beach when I could be surfing the only kind of waves that matter-- the Internet waves, that is.
Ok I won't belabor the play on surfing ocean waves and the Internet. It's been overdone. And by me on occasion. And you already get the drift. At least you don't hear on the news the Internet swells will be 10-20 feet and dangerous for all but the most expert surfers.

But let's do talk about surfing the Net and it's effect on our interaction in the non-virtual world. There is some correlation between having an Internet connection and lack of engagement with the real world and real people. And there is something happening when we mistake  posting on Facebook for real human contact. As an example, when I say I told my friends what I thought about something. Or shared an idea with my buddies. If all I did was post it on Facebook, or this blog, it's not the same as having lunch and talking with a friend. Or even taking on a phone.

And why is it that when I post a link on Facebook to a thoughtful article, along with my (I think they are thoughtful, but maybe not) comments, hardly anyone ever responds or even likes the post. But if I should post a photo, almost immediately a dozen friends will like it?

Is it because we are really a visual species and not all that interested in words, let alone ideas? Or maybe it's because when we are on Facebook we are not looking for substantive contact. Or the sharing of meaningful info. Other than the occasional rants. As when my husband made a comment about the need for sensible rethinking of gun control measures that resulted in an on-going tirade by a gun-owning, otherwise sensible friend. You would have thought my husband had suggested we should solve the world's hunger problem by shipping our babies overseas for slaughter. That type of overreaction would not be nearly as likely in face-to-face contact. At least I would hope not.

Leaves me wondering if Facebook posts are really communication at all. Maybe we should think of Facebook as just another alternative to one of the photo-sharing devices, like Flickr. Post your photos. We can all look at them and like the ones we enjoy. Might as well skip all the rest, the pseudo- communications as well as the rants. Maybe we then will have more time to get out in the real work and talk to real people. Maybe take some photos to post--on Facebook or wherever.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

"Christian-Hawaiian ancestor" minister, coincidentally advocating violent secession

We needed to buy some wine glasses. Some had bitten the dust before we arrived. And we had added to the  glassware carnage ourselves. Glassware and a few other items on our shopping list,  off we went to the mall.

First stop was Sears. I immediately was distracted by the display of housewares as soon as we entered the store. My husband, who shops like a guided missile, was hot in pursuit of glassware.

As I browsed, I heard a loud, happy laugh from behind me: an older, large gentleman, apparently of native Hawaiian heritage and wearing a security uniform with a badge. was laughing as he attempted to maneuver his shopping cart out of the shopping cart corral. As he did so he exclaimed he was a new driver.

His comment struck a chord and I laughed too. My 93 year old Aunt says the same thing when she goes shopping. She has never learned to drive so motorized shopping carts for the handicapped are the closest she comes to driving. And she always calls out a warning, as this older gentleman just had, of "new driver".  I said as much to him. I had no idea what I had started, or perhaps the better analysis would be what trap I had fallen into.

The security guard, if that is what he actually was, immediately rushed to my side and began to tell me about his unique blend of religions, "haolies", and the need for Hawaii's secession, by violence if necessary, from the United States.

My husband heard the commotion and returned to see the man towering over me and preaching.  At which point, "Uncle", as he requested we address him, asked my husband how long we had been married. Uncle then explained he would be happy to hold an ancient Hawaiian ceremony renewing our wedding vows. Our ancestors as well as the the Lord Jesus would be in attendance. Goose bumps raised on my skin.

You see, Uncle had a mesmerizing voice and elegant and towering presence. He also had hold of my hand.  As Uncle took my hand, he pointed out my pale skin, noting that I, like the early European settlers to the islands, am very pale. Such pale-skinned people were thought to be without breath. Hence, Uncle explained, "hoalie" is a derogatory term to describe us pale-skinned, no-breath,visitors.

Somehow I suspect that Europeans who were at sea for weeks or months were not as pale as I am who never goes into the sun without completely covering myself with sunblock. But that's beside the point of the story.

Actually, I'm not sure what the point of the story is. We did eventually find and buy more wine glasses and the other things we had come looking for. But not before I entered Uncle's phone number in my iPhone, as he instructed. So we could schedule that marriage renewal in the ancient Hawaiian tradition the next time we come to Maui. Who knows, maybe my ancestors will show up. I wouldn't mind seeing them.