Total Drek

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Today on Total Drek: Emo shit!

Those who read the blog regularly know that I am not given to lengthy discussions of my personal life. Oh, they happen now and then, but as a general rule it's not my thing. Today is one of the occasional exceptions to that rule and, unless you have an interest in me and my family specifically, you're excused for the day.

So, as you know I am a graduate student somewhere in these United States and, as such, my salary isn't terribly impressive. Okay, that's an understatement: grad student salaries generally suck but, then again, not all of us work very hard so in a sense it evens out. One thing that has been a thin silver lining on this is that my salary includes health insurance. It is poor health insurance, true, and does not include any prescription drug coverage, but nevertheless it is at least something. During my recent medical fiasco this insurance served me well and, while I incurred a significant number of expenses, it covered the majority of them.

Sadly, however, my college has chosen to "upgrade" grad student health insurance. So far as we can tell, this upgrade mostly increases the amount of bureaucracy we have to suffer through to use our coverage and entails a reduction in benefits. The hypothetical exception to this general trend is that we now have a prescription drug plan... sort of. In theory, we pay full price for our prescriptions until we reach our deductible and then submit our bills for reimbursement. From then until the end of the year, the plan covers about 60% of the cost of drugs. Not ideal, since the reimbursement thing is kinda a pain, but it doesn't sound so bad. Until you realize that our deductible is about $2,000. Now, to put that in perspective, an awful lot of grad students don't make even $20,000 a year in direct salary. So, basically, our deductible is about 10% of our annual salary. And in an ironic twist, this new "benefit" actually harms us because- prior to this- those of us with chronic ailments made a sufficiently small amount of money to qualify for steep discounts from the drug companies. Now, because we have a "drug benefit" we no longer qualify.

And this brings us to my wife, who as some of you may know has asthma. This is a condition that is entirely treatable and livable so long as one has access to the required medications. Some of these medications, however, are a bit expensive. And now that our health insurance has changed, we now have to find a way to pay for these drugs up front and hope that the insurance company will reimburse us promptly. I imagine most of you can already see the problem here and, if so, you're right: while we racked up the necessary expenses fairly quickly, it has taken months to get the insurance company to grudgingly agree to pay us back and, along the way, they tried to deny us coverage entirely. Now, my wife is a good and decent woman. She- rather inexplicably- feels guilty about how much her asthma medication costs us and wanted to find some way to reduce the expenses. So she decided to simply stop using one of the more expensive of her prescribed medicines.* This saved us some money, but it also had the other result you might expect.

So, for the last week or so my wife has been in a bad way. Her asthma has been spiraling more and more out of control. She's developed a pretty serious respiratory infection. She's having to get quite a bit of her medications now via a nebulizer as her lungs are too closed up for the usual inhalers to work. She's coughing a lot now- deep, body-wracking coughs that leave her doubled up and nearly on the floor from the pain. We've had quite a few visits to the local asthma and allergy specialist, one late-night trip to the ER, and just returned from a visit to the x-ray machine. You see, after last night's most severe bout of coughing she developed an acute and enduring pain in her side. The doctor thinks she's probably torn the cartilage that connects her ribs but it's also possible she's fractured a rib entirely. No word on the x-ray yet, but since we haven't received any frantic phonecalls, I suspect it's just a tear. Regardless, however, the problem causes her substantial pain whenever she does trivial little things like "breathe," "sit up," and, my personal favorite, "cough".

For those of who know me, don't expect to see me around the office much today and probably for a few days. At the moment she needs me to help her at home.

And the really sad thing? Throughout this I keep thinking about all those Americans who don't have any health insurance. I mean, we have crappy insurance, but at least it's there. What happens to people who can't even say that? I think we all know the answer, and it isn't good.

Thank you, that will be all for now.


* I should note that she did so without mentioning the idea to me and I was rather cross when I found out.

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5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Best of luck to her - that MAJORLY sucks.

Monday, August 18, 2008 11:18:00 AM  
Blogger Mister Troll said...

Ouch. Hope she gets better soon.

Monday, August 18, 2008 7:04:00 PM  
Blogger Marf said...

My mom and I are without insurance. I've been pretty healthy, but my mom's going to have to pay about $17,000 in dental work.

Monday, August 18, 2008 11:21:00 PM  
Blogger TDEC said...

Health insurance in the US is without a doubt the most nefarious and obstructive kind of (legal) organisation, beating car insurance, banking and Hungarian bureaucracy. I guess it is better than nothing, but considering that people with no coverage can get some benefits, and considering the amount of suffering these companies cause for a profit, it is not much better than nothing. By suffering I mean the hardship, not just of debt, but of having to be mentally and emotionally up to challenging a system designed to deny you as much as possible when you are in pain, distressed and/or faced with complex decisions.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008 5:23:00 AM  
Blogger TDEC said...

By which I mean to say: I am so sorry that you are having to put up with this, and hope the evil folks do relent soon.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008 5:24:00 AM  

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