29 September 2009

A Letter From Social Security

The mail yesterday brought a perplexing communication from the Social Security Administration. It has a magic number they tell me I can use to set up a password on the Social Security Administration web site. They tell me not to actually do this until I get the letter approving my benefits, or until I get my first benefit payment. OK fine. Since that's probably still three, or four, or six months away, if they decide to approve my application, I'll set it aside and try not to lose it.

Here's the perplexing part. The magic number is only good until the end of October. Since I applied for benefits September 10, that's less than eight weeks after I submitted my application. What the heck good is a magic number that's only good for eight weeks?

So, whatever. In the unlikely event that they make up their minds in the next month, I'm all set.

28 September 2009

Talking to Myself

Talking to a computer takes a little getting used to.

I started using voice recognition software a couple of years ago, when an occupational therapist told me she used it to dictate her notes. I figured if somebody used it who had the option of not using it, it must be ready for prime time. I could still move my fingers then, but they were really numb. I had never been a hotshot typist anyway and was going downhill from there, so I didn't have a whole lot to lose.

After spending the last couple of years getting used to it, I have to say it's way better than the alternative. My fingers are still mostly numb, and now I can't move them very much, either. That whole keyboard thing is just not workin' for me anymore.

I noticed a pretty gradual transition from using a keyboard except for when I was really tired, to using voice recognition except for when my hands are working particularly well. (In my case, 'working particularly well' means being able to poke keys one at a time with the end of a pencil. I'm not talking 10 fingers, 120 words a minute. Not that I could ever do that anyway.) As my hands got worse, I begin to rely on the software more and more. The more I used it, the better I got at it. Funny how that works.

I'm still mildly incredulous that people who are perfectly capable of using a keyboard would choose to use voice recognition. The people who sell the software say they sell it to doctors and lawyers and such, and I know they couldn't say that if it weren't true, could they? I may have mentioned that although I was never any kind of speed demon at the keyboard, I'm reasonably certain I could get words on a page faster that way. No matter. That train has left the station, so let's start from where we're at.

Voice recognition is better for dictating text than it is for editing or revising. Even though my job title was technical writer, I always spent a lot more time on the job tinkering with existing text or revising a draft than I did coming up with new words. You can use voice recognition for that, but it's just like work. Unless, of course, the alternative is poking keys with the end of a pencil.

Voice recognition is most accurate if you speak clearly. It also helps if you know what you're going to say before you say it. Late in the afternoon, when I'm tired, a little fuzzy, and my voice gets weak, recognition accuracy goes straight in the can. The good news is that I never misspell anything. The bad news is that typos look like typos; everybody knows one when they see it. Recognition errors are totally invisible until you click Send, and they make you look like a total bonehead.

I bet even the doctors and lawyers who use voice recognition for dictation don't use it for moving around a desktop or a webpage. You can use voice recognition for that, too, but I suspect the only people who do are those with a disability that prevents them from using a keyboard or a mouse. Slow and awkward ain't the half of it. If you can still use a keyboard or mouse at all, don't throw them away.

My introduction to voice recognition took place in an office, with a door.  Amazingly, it was only after I retired and began to use voice recognition at home that I realized it's a lot like reading all your correspondence out loud. For an audience. And even if they don't mean to, when I start talking anyone in earshot invariably says:

"What did you say?"
"Did you say something?"

I don't blog, IM, or respond to e-mail on weekends, and won't until we get an office with a door.

25 September 2009

Feeling a Little Vulnerable, Are We?

Scarecrow was sick on Wednesday. Staying-home-from-work sick.

It doesn't happen often. He's a pretty healthy guy. It wasn't bad; the usual cold, congestion, sinus-y kind of thing, and he was only out for a day.

Beyond the usual "Oh, poor baby" sympathy, I wasn't worried about him. As I always do when he's sick or otherwise unavailable, I was worried about me. Makes me feel like a self-centered jerk, (well, it makes me admit I really am a self-centered jerk), but there it is. He's my only care provider, 24/7, as we are wont say these days. We've got no backup. If something happens to him, I'm toast. This is not a good situation, and we both know it. He's really tied down. I'm really vulnerable, and I really don't like it.

OK, so why don't I get off my sorry butt and do something about it?

It's not like the situation just came up all of a sudden. The transition from being totally not disabled to needing help with pretty much everything was very gradual. Not much of an excuse, though, when I passed the point at which I need help for pretty much everything long ago.

I get little encouragement from Scarecrow. He says he's fine with things the way they are. That sure wouldn't be the case if I were in his shoes, but that's what he says. Still, we know we need to have a plan that we can implement at a moment's notice if, for some reason, Scarecrow can't take care of me.

Why are we so reluctant to do that?

Part of it is the expense. It comes out of pocket, and $15-$20 an hour  adds up fast. But that's just an excuse. It's like taking a dog to the vet. It's expensive and they hate it, but you just do it. It's not an option. If Scarecrow can't help me, I still need to go to the bathroom. It's not really an option.

The bigger problem is having another person in our house doing this stuff. I don't know why this would seem like such a deal. We've had assorted construction guys in and out of our house every day for the past nine months. And Scarecrow is not your shy and retiring kind of guy -- he's a total party animal. But this would be different. Way different.

Still, whatever it is that's hanging us up about this, we need to grit our teeth and do it. This was a gentle, polite reminder; next time we may not be so lucky. Being vulnerable is bad enough. But being vulnerable and not having a backup plan is just stupid.

22 September 2009

Fall is Here

Although I'm not religious in the conventional sense, I find something to celebrate in the cycle of seasons. This song by Charlie Maguire really captures the feeling of this time of year for me. Here's what he says about it: 

"I meant this song to be more than about a season of the year. It's about living on your own place, being your own boss, being proud of your work, and being aware of all the things that make up your world."

Gotta like that. 

I can't sing it for you -- a fact for which you should be profoundly grateful. (Scarecrow says I have the voice of the true instrumentalist. I'd be hurt, if it wasn't true. And he's no better.) But I wanted to share it anyway.

Fall is Here

When the cows no longer care to go
Out to their pasture far or near
But stand close in the last warm sun
Around the place, I'll know fall is here

And when the corn goes into dent
Across the fields like old men appear
And we pick it and store it all away
Around the place, I'll know that fall is here

When the limbs of the apple and the pear
Lean down with their fruit so near
And my children go a'gathering
Around the place, I'll know that fall is here

And when the hunters come from town
Seeking the pheasant and the deer
With their dogs in front to point the game
Around the place, I'll know that fall is here

And when the hay is in the barn
Stacked to the rafters, tier on tier
Smelling like a summer come and gone
Around the place, I'll know that fall is here

Around the place, I'll know that fall is here
When the evenings come early and the mornings are clear
Over all of the fields that I worked this year
Around the place, I'll know that fall is here

21 September 2009

Must Be Monday

On Saturday morning I realized that Friday was the deadline for my doctors to assure the disability insurance company that I am, in fact, still disabled. If the insurance company doesn't hear otherwise, they say they'll assume I'm going back to work. That would be great, but it ain't happenin'. Of course, I realize this on Saturday morning and can't do anything about it until Monday, so it bugs me all weekend. I really hate it when I do that to myself.

So this morning I call the insurance company and try to make sure they're not going to terminate my short-term disability claim because they haven't heard anything back from my doctors. Exactly what I want to do first thing Monday morning.

Ernie's stitches ripped out again, Tuffy's sick, Scarecrow's on a tear, library books are overdue.

I think I'll take a nap.

18 September 2009

Eight Pages of Details

I got a form in the mail from Social Security yesterday, asking for eight pages of details about my condition, and what I can and can't do. Scarecrow also got a form asking for eight pages of details about my condition, and what I can and can't do. He is supposed to fill his form out based on his own observations -- he's not supposed to ask me what I can and can't do.

Eight pages. I guess I'll stop worrying about whether or not I should have put more detail in my initial application.

Since they sent the forms at the same time to the same address, I wonder if it would cause any consternation if they came back filled out in the same handwriting? Paper forms are kind of a deal for me, because I can't do the whole pencil and paper thing anymore. I thought about asking Scarecrow to scan the form so I could use a graphics editing program put the answers in, and then print it out -- but that  seemed like a lot of bother. I finally just put all my responses in a text file. I'll print it out, stick it on the back of the form, and Scarecrow can write 'see yada yada' wherever appropriate.

Focusing on what I can and can't do is massively depressing, and the process of applying for Social Security disability benefits entails a lot of it. But hey, it's the weekend.

17 September 2009

Howling Before I Was Hurt

Honesty compels me to confess that my earlier rant about the cost of COBRA coverage was based on inaccurate information. The HR lady at work initially told me that the cost of continuing my health insurance coverage under COBRA would be $1200 per month. This was wrong for two reasons
  • I thought it was an all-or-nothing thing -- you could either continue your current coverage, or opt out.
Not so. Leaving my day job of 14 years constitutes a 'qualifying event', so I can choose from any of the options available at the beginning of the plan year. I don't, for example, have to cover Tuffy, who can get better coverage for less money through UW, where she is a student. Too bad I didn't know that last year.
  • The $1200 estimate assumed I would be covering the whole family for medical/dental/vision, which I wasn't doing anyway.
Scarecrow gets pretty decent medical coverage through his employer. He can't cover Tuffy or me, but most companies that size don't offer benefits at all. You take what you can get, and be glad you've got it.

If the HR lady had initially told me that COBRA coverage would be, say, $600/month, I would have gasped and complained and wondered how the heck I was supposed to pay for it on my newly-reduced income. But having softened me up with an estimate of $1200, something on the order of half that almost sounds like a pretty good deal.

It's all relative.

16 September 2009

Virtual Happy Dance

We moved into our new bedroom last night. The remodeling project we started last December has finally produced an accessible bathroom, and a bedroom I can get into without having to calculate the width of the doorway to the nearest angstrom. We're not done yet -- in fact, I guess we're still a couple of months out -- but progress is being made.

We moved here 3 1/2 years ago, from a house about a mile away. In our previous house, there were always stairs between where you were, and where you wanted to be. When I started having trouble getting around, that began to be a problem. It would have been possible to make that house accessible, at great expense, but it would never have been convenient. So we moved here.

This house is on a single level. We knew we'd have to make some modifications. The two concrete steps up to the front door would have to go. Getting in the front door required negotiating a very lumpy threshold and then making an immediate 90° turn to avoid smacking into a wall. Doors were kind of narrow, but that's a relatively easy fix. There was a bizarre 2 foot wide, 6 foot long hallway (we called it the habitrail) between the master bedroom and the door to the master bath. I still have no idea why that was there. But we knew we'd have to tear out the master bath to repair some rot anyway, so what the heck.

When we moved into this house, I could still walk, kind of, using forearm crutches, but I mostly used a wheelchair indoors, a scooter outside. I could still get in and out of the bathtub by myself, although I didn't feel particularly safe doing it, and shower without help. Fortunately we planned the remodel to accommodate someone who was more disabled than I was at the time.

We worked with an architect who is in a wheelchair himself, as a result of a spinal cord injury. His design preferences are somewhat different  from ours, but when it comes to adapting for a disability, he totally gets it. The planning/design process took almost exactly 3 years. We went through several iterations, but I'm glad we did it on paper instead of after we started to build.

So far, we've moved the front door, and built a ramp to it. We have an accessible bathroom, with a wall-hung sink that I can reach, and a roll-in shower. There are pocket doors into the bedroom and bath. There is more to do yet; we need to get the living room reassembled, sheetrock and paint and stuff. Of course, this whole thing cost way more and took way longer than we expected, but we're likin' it. We're likin' it.

14 September 2009

Old Friends, Old Friends

Last week, out of the blue, I heard from an old friend. The sinister people who orchestrate high school reunions -- you know the type -- have been looking through Facebook, tracking down people who were in our high school class. Not that I have any interest in going to a high school reunion; I can't think of anything I'd like to do less. But we were both caught in their net. Jumper and I went to kindergarten together, sometime back in the early 1600s. We were pals through elementary and junior high school, drifted apart in high school, and I hadn't heard from her since. Turns out, for the past 13 years, we've lived about 10 miles from each other.

We spent part of Sunday enjoying a spectacular late summer afternoon in Seattle, trying to catch up on many decades of life happenings. This was enlivened by the dogs' discovery of a huge caterpillar-kind of thing sticking out from underneath the house. I mean huge -- it must've been 6 inches long, maybe an inch in diameter, pale green -- I've never seen anything like it, and the dogs clearly hadn't, either. Ex-biologist that I am, I would've liked to get a closer look at it, but it seemed kind of rude. Scarecrow finally tossed it over the fence. I still wonder what the heck it was. Anyway, Jumper grew up to be exactly the kind of person I would've expected, from the girl I knew. I would have liked her, even if we weren't already friends. I'm looking forward to seeing her again. There are so many things I didn't have time to ask.

Meeting people I haven't seen in a while can be awkward. It's obvious that something is up. I can't stand, or walk, or move my arms, or use my hands. I use a power chair the size of a small subdivision. It's not like you wouldn't notice. If one were to look on the bright side, I suppose it's easy to pick me out of a crowd.

It's hard to suggest something we might do. Meet for lunch? I don't think so. It must be pretty weird, watching someone who has to be fed. My problem, I know, not theirs; but there it is. Meet for drinks?  I dunno. There's something so not-cool about drinking beer, or wine, or single-malt scotch, with a straw. Not that I've ever been any shade of cool, but there it is. Drinks that normally come with straws usually also have skewers of fruit and little paper umbrellas. So not-me.

This is somehow not such a problem with people I'm meeting for the first time. This is who I am, deal with it. It's harder watching people I haven't seen for a while process the fact that I'm not the person they expected me to be. I find myself resorting to the phone (I hate talking on the phone, but at least I sound normal. Well, as normal as I ever did) or the Internet (you can be a dog on the Internet) rather than meeting in person. My problem, I know, not theirs; but there it is.

Still, it was kind of fun talking to a real person, in person. I should think about doing it more often.

11 September 2009

Applying for SSDI

Yesterday I filed my application for Social Security disability benefits.

We had an appointment for 2:00 PM and, having put it off until the last possible minute, I spent the morning frantically filling out the Adult Disability and Work History Report online. I had already gathered the information I thought I'd need, and figured that entering it into the online form would go pretty quickly. For the most part, that was true.

The bits that hung me up with the parts where they want to know about my condition, and how that limits my ability to work. They allow 500 characters for each response. That makes me nuts. I know I have a tendency to run off at the pencil (you've noticed, you say?), but I can be concise when the occasion warrants. I was a tech writer for, I don't know, a really long time. It was my job to be clear, and get right to the point.

Begin digression: Long ago I had a job writing the text for museum exhibits -- you know, the stuff on those little cards and panels that nobody (except me) ever reads? For one exhibit, I had to describe the Civil War in 120 words. Now, it happens that I'm really interested in that period of history, and I've read a fair amount about it. That only made it worse.  120 words. I agonized over that text. By the time my boss finally threatened to rip it out of my hands, I had come up with 120 words that I thought did a pretty good job of conveying the essence of this conflict. (I'm sorry, I don't remember what I came up with, but I'm sure it was a masterpiece.) As I waited for my boss to be awed and humbled by my masterful use of the language under such stringent limitations, she told me they'd redesigned this section of the exhibit. There would only be room for 60 words. The lesson I took from this, boys and girls, is that you can always make it shorter. End digression.

Where was I?

So, OK, I describe my condition and its impact on my ability to work in 500 characters or less. If you need more space, they say you can continue in the Remarks section at the end of the report. Should I have done that, I wonder? Instead of cutting right to the chase, should I have gone on and on about every gory detail?

While I'm at it, I found the online report pretty darned user-hostile. Once you complete certain sections, they lock them and you can't go back. There's no way to print the entire form -- you have to print it one page at a time, as you work your way through it. Since I was in a hurry, having put it off to the last minute, I didn't do that. I figured I could go back to the form after I submitted it, but I don't see any way to do that. My bad.

So, are you still with me? (Whatever for? I mean, people, you need to get a life!) Anyway, after that, the appointment itself seemed anticlimactic.

We checked in at the touch-screen terminal, and our interview started pretty much on time. The waiting room was kind of tight to navigate in a power chair, which I found a little surprising considering the number of disabled people that must go through there, but I don't think I caused any permanent damage. The woman who took our claim was pleasant and businesslike. I had expected to have a chance during the interview to expand on the information I submitted in the online report, which was one of the reasons I figured it would be OK to limit my responses to some of those questions to 500 characters. That didn't happen. She just looked through the report for places where information was missing. That's when I started second-guessing my decision to be concise.

Anyway, it was less than a half-hour, start to finish. It goes by fast. I didn't do some of the things I meant to do. I'm not sure I got copies of everything. I feel really stupid that I don't even have a copy of the information I submitted to them, because, having submitted it online without printing each page, I can't go back to it. But it's done.

Now we wait.

09 September 2009

Getting our ducks in a row. Or not.

Last week, when our appointment to apply for SSDI was rescheduled, I promised myself I would use the unexpected reprieve to get all the paperwork in order. Of course that didn't happen. I have the information that I'll probably need written down in a text file, but there are two forms that I should probably fill out, and I haven't filled out either one.

The SSDI Starter Kit is a PDF I downloaded from the Social Security website. I suppose the done thing is to print the form and fill it out with a pencil or pen. Since I can't manage paper and pencil, I'd have to ask Scarecrow to help me with it. I hate to ask him to do this, not because he would mind, because he wouldn't, but because he has terrible handwriting. If they had put text input fields in the PDF I could fill it out on my computer, but they didn't.

They tell me I could also complete the report on the SSDI website, even if I plan to file my application in person. I can fill that out online all right, but they ask for different stuff than the Starter Kit. What's up with that?

I really need to deal with these difficult problems earlier in the day. So maybe I'll put it off to tomorrow morning, and be in exactly the same situation I was last week. Except maybe Social Security won't cancel our appointment, so we'll finally get this show on the road.

In chronicling my adventures with Social Security, I never claimed I would be a positive role model. Do as I say, kids, not as I do.

In other news, Ernie is doing well after his surgery, thanks for asking. He's pretty sore and he'll have a whopper of a scar, but the vet says he's in pretty good shape for an old guy. And he'll look really tough. Bareit the whippet wild man is being uncharacteristically respectful and polite.

08 September 2009

A Dog's Life

Ernie went to the vet today to have an owie removed. Just a benign tumor on his hip, but general anesthesia is always a little scary for greyhounds, and he is 11 1/2 years old. This is definitely not what the poor old guy had in mind when we asked if he wanted to go for a ride in the car.

The vet called a little while ago to say the surgery went fine, no surprises, he can go home later this afternoon. All good news. The vets at the clinic where we take our dogs are amazingly wonderful -- I wish I had a people doctor I liked as well.

After Ernie's previous sojourn at the clinic (he broke his tail and had to have it amputated) I was talking to one of the vets about pain meds, and a dog's perception of pain. Dogs can be incredibly stoic. (We are not talking about Ernie, here. Ernie is a total weenie. Scream first, ask questions later; that's our boy. But some dogs can be incredibly stoic.) A dog's perception of pain now isn't complicated by how it's going to feel tomorrow, how long it's going to last, or whether it's going to get worse.

As coping strategies go, that's not bad. Just deal with what you gotta deal with today. One day at a time. Take care of what's in front of you, right now. Worry about tomorrow, tomorrow. If I can do something to make things better, or to change the way things are likely to turn out, fine, do that. If the best laid plans, etc. etc., and I need a power chair, help feeding myself, or going to the toilet, or turning over in bed, or any of the other indignities this disease can dish out, just take it as it comes. One thing at a time. I never in a million years expected to wind up in the situation I'm in today, but I must be able to cope, because I'm doing it. Besides, what's the alternative?

I can scare the living wahootsis out of myself by thinking about what MS might have waiting for me down the road. They say you shouldn't ask a question unless you're real sure you want to know the answer. I don't ask how much worse it can get, because I do not want to know. We're living a dog's life, me and Ernie. Ernie's a little better at it, because he's had more practice. One thing at a time. One day at a time.

Is supper ready yet?

04 September 2009

Assisted Procrastination

I'm getting a bad feeling about this.

Around 9:30 this morning, the nice lady from Social Security called to say that they would be very busy this afternoon. She asked if we could move our 2:00 appointment up to 11:00 (no -- if we left right now, we'd be late), or do the SSDI application interview over the phone. She seemed very scattered, but hey, I've had mornings like that. We'd prefer to do the interview in person, so we rescheduled for next Thursday afternoon.

A while later she calls back. They don't make appointments on Thursday afternoon. Somebody made a mistake. (Uh... that was you?) They don't have a Thursday afternoon appointment open for another week. (Wait... I thought you said...) OK. Have they got anything sooner, if we come earlier in the day? She said she thought we prefer afternoon. Right. She said she thought we prefer to come into the office. Right. Kept coming back to this, without ever quite managing to get it together. Scarecrow said it was like trying to talk to a hamster on a running wheel. She finally said she'd have to call us back.

So, after all this, we have an appointment next Thursday afternoon. Go figure. And the person we spoke to on the phone is not the person with whom we will file our claim. Which I think will be a very good thing.

I intended to finish filling out the paperwork for this visit last night. Looking it over, I decided I could finish it up this morning. Fortunately, the Social Security lady called before I got started. I guess I can put it off for another week.

The reason that I want to do the application interview in person is that an old friend, a fellow Gordon setter person, has had a day job with Social Security for 30-odd years. The one piece of advice she offered when I told her I would be applying for SSDI was that I should apply in person. She said that when she and her husband were conducting these interviews, a face-to-face interview gave them a better sense of a person's disabilities than they could get over the phone. Since I sound pretty normal over the phone (at least, as normal as I ever did) but look totally trashed in person, that sounded like a plan to me. I have never much liked talking on the phone, anyway. She also said the online application, aside from not setting you with a real person you can contact about your application, is really not quite ready for prime time. I don't know what she meant by that, exactly, but since I wasn't going to apply online, I didn't pursue it. So, anyway. For whatever that's worth.

With all that put off for another week, our project for the holiday (US Labor Day) weekend is figuring out how the demented whippet is getting out of the yard. The fence that secured assorted greyhounds for three years is one that he has been over, and under, and through, apparently at will. It's not a disaster when he escapes. He just runs around to the front door and waits to be let in, but still. Why does a smaller dog need a taller fence? This place is starting to look like Jurassic Park.

03 September 2009

60 years? No foolin'?

My brother called last week to remind me that my mom and dad's 60th wedding anniversary is coming up. I live 1200 miles away, won't be there in person, and couldn't suggest any brilliant ways to mark the occasion.

They have an odd relationship, looking at it from the outside, but I guess a marriage that lasts 60 years must have something going for it. Underneath all the grousing and crabbing, and there is a lot of grousing and crabbing, they really do love each other deeply. They've cared for each other through some really scary health problems over the last couple of years. They're tough, the both of them.

Deciding I totally don't understand my parents' marriage got me started thinking about my own family-type situation, which I also don't understand. Scarecrow and I aren't married. We've been together -- let's see -- it would be 21 years this past January, and our daughter is 19, but I hate to rush into things. I don't know what kind of future Scarecrow might've been anticipating. He's not one to talk about stuff like that. But my increasing disability over the last couple of years makes it clear that, if he's with me, it's going to be way different from anything either of us would have guessed. We won't be doing any of the things we used to enjoy doing -- playing music, dancing, traveling. At least, we won't be doing them together. So, if it's still 'we', what will we be doing?

I've spent plenty of time lately thinking about how I'll be spending my time now that I no longer have a day job. I guess we'll want to think about what retirement will look like for us.

I'll put it on my list.

We have an appointment with the nice folks at Social Security tomorrow afternoon, to apply for SSDI. I can no longer put off looking through the packet of stuff they sent. I'm going to do that. Right now. It'll be fun.

02 September 2009

How it Came to Be Howling

The name of this blog, while not exactly original, is one to which I have a fond and long-term attachment.

It first earned a place on my list of favorites back sometime in the early 1600s, when several times a month I would lug boxes of live traps up and down a chaparral-covered hillside in the Santa Monica Mountains in pursuit of a dissertation. Another student, who lived at the site, built radio transmitters and used them to study rodent activity. He was a massive, burly guy with curly black hair, his rugged features largely hidden by an impressive black beard. A fierce aspect for a gentle soul. On my way back to my car after setting out my traps I'd see him bent over the workbench on his covered back porch, soldering iron in hand, attaching tiny radio transmitters to mouse-sized collars.

"How's it going, Smiley?" I asked.

"Oh, you know. The usual," he'd say, "Smokin' dope, and howlin' at the moon."

That pretty much summed it up. Long ago, and far away.

Slightly more recently I recycled the phrase as the title of an editorial column in the Michigamme English Setter Club newsletter, and then the Nodrog Gordon Setter Club newsletter. Howling at the moon. It was kind of like blogging, only, you know, not.

I'm not a zoologist anymore, and my last English setter died years ago, replaced by pointy-nosed dogs that require much less grooming. But when I decided to start a blog, the title was obvious. Three years later, when I finally get around to actually starting, it still seems like a good choice.

01 September 2009

I've Never Liked Snakes

I wonder if this whole health insurance thing would be less of a trial if they called it something warm and fuzzy, like "flying squirrel", or "sugar glider." Or "hippopotamus." Or maybe "basking shark." COBRA is just so off-putting. You know, I've really never liked snakes.

My previous employer offered pretty good medical coverage, for a small company. Our employee contribution toward the premium had crept up over the last several years, as had the deductible, and the stop-loss limit, but no worse than anywhere else, probably.

Now that I've joined the ranks of the disabled and unemployed, continuing this coverage would cost me $1200/month. My disability benefit is 60% of what I used to make (100% taxable), and if I were to pay $1200/month for insurance, there would not be a great deal left. If I were laid off I would be eligible for a subsidy, but no luck if you're disabled.

Lucky for me, Washington state has a high-risk insurance pool for people who can't get coverage elsewise. The premium for the basic plan for people my age is -- get this -- around $1200/month. For about half that, they offer a high-deductible plan that doesn't cover much, but would keep me out of debtor's prison if I get hit by a truck.

It's not like I don't have choices. I have choices. I just don't like any of them.