Looking for options

I cleaned out the shed today. It was near freezing yesterday and is cool today so I was hoping the wasps who made nests in there during the summer would not be active.  I needed to find my circular saw so that I could cut a hole in the laminate for the heat vent in the bathroom and finish the floor. I also wanted to go through the Tupperware tub that held last year’s warm clothes to see if anything would still fit the kids.  And I was avoiding facing the latest news regarding health care costs.

It’s open enrollment time at work and premiums always seem to go up with the new plans so when HR sent out the letter and forms and comparison charts I wasn’t looking forward to going through it all.  I downloaded it and printed it for later reading but one paragraph in the email caught my eye – the plans we had (Plan 1 and 2) were going away. They are no longer an option and if you don’t chose you’ll automatically be enrolled in Plan 3.  So I knew I had to read through everything sooner or later.

My current health insurance costs me $193 per pay period for medical and dental coverage.  The deductible for the family plan is $600. I went for the high premium, low deductible plan.  So I was initially pleased and surprised to see that the new premium on the offered plan would only be $141.  I calculated that my savings would be nearly $1,250 over a year.  My giddy excitement lasted a second or two before my usual skepticism set in and I perused the small print.  What else had changed?  Oh, the deductible was now $3,000! Five times as much as before and not nearly made up for in the lowering of the premium.  There are other changes as well – costs for prescriptions are up, as is the maximum out of pocket that you will pay. Mind you the corporation is saving $5000 by switching us to this plan.

All of this explained the 2nd email from HR reminding us we had the option of dropping health care coverage entirely! And to top it off when I got home there was a bill from the kids’ dentist. We’ve been going to this dentist for over a year and I’ve NEVER gotten a bill from them. Each time we go I inquire and each time they’ve said, “We’re waiting to hear from your insurance.” Well I guess they finally heard. And apparently they heard that the insurance won’t cover much of anything as the bill is for $1,287! That’s over 80% of my take home pay for a month (which, needless to say, has other demands on it) so the chances of being able to pay that within the 30 days they are giving me is pretty damn small! Since I got the bill Friday night there’s nothing to do for the weekend, other than worry and lose sleep.

Since I’d never gotten a bill I didn’t even know what they were charging me – they submit to the insurance and then send me a bill for anything not covered.  So I never even knew they were using nitrous oxide (laughing gas) on the kids during fillings and charging me $60 a time, which wasn’t covered.  When my daughter broke a tooth and needed a temporary tooth until they could get her in for a cap that wasn’t covered either.  I could have paid the $60 here and there if they’d billed me when the service was provided but there’s no way I can pay $1287 in the next 30 days.

Dentist bill aside, I have to figure out the insurance options. Does anyone know if you can buy insurance from the exchange if your employer provides some coverage?  It seems like if I drop my school insurance I’m saving them tons of money but naturally that won’t mean any more in my paycheck (other than the saved premium).  In another state I might try to get the kids covered by Medicare but Indiana’s a joke in that area. Before I got the teaching job I tried to get them covered and we were on a waiting list the entire time.

Honestly, I like teaching and I feel like I’m doing something worthwhile, but more and more I am seeing that not only is it not possible to get ahead as a teacher it’s not even making a living.  Getting a night job (by the way I wasn’t hired for the night security position) might help to make ends meet but frankly I’m not sure how long I could last running on 4 or so hours of sleep. I suspect it would be very difficult to keep up with lesson plans, grading, coaching, committees, etc., and my work would suffer. It would be ironic if getting a night job caused me to be fired from my day job!

There doesn’t seem to be any easy answer.  I did find a few things while cleaning out the shed that I can put on eBay – the rooftop tv and JVC radio that were in the van, a few little collectible porcelain houses (think Christmas village), some craft supplies that I don’t have time to use, but pretty soon I will have sold nearly everything worth anything and the little left will be things I intend to pass down to the kids.

I do want to thank readers who have recently reached out in support and who have sent us items from our Amazon wishlist.  Thank you so much! It’s lovely having coffee again in the morning – tea just wasn’t doing the job of getting me going at 5 AM.  And the colored pencils arrived the day before the students started doing a poster project – perfect timing.  It’s not easy to thank folks individually as I don’t receive any contact information from Amazon, just your name and I don’t want to put anyone on the spot by giving you a shout out on Facebook. Please know that we love your thoughtfulness and kindness and are deeply appreciative. We have only made it this far because there are kind people out there willing to reach out a hand. Thank you.

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9 Responses to Looking for options

  1. Laurie says:

    I am shocked that you and your children do not qualify for medicaid,food stamps and subsidized housing. That blows my mind. I live in NEbraska and I was looking at the max limit monthly to qualify for medicaid for my kids and it $3600mos. If I made about $10,000 less I would qualify and I am a nurse. Medicaid also covers some dental. Have you looked into a place like comfort keepers. They are an agency that employs people to come into the homes of seniors and helps do some basic caring for them. My families have used them to come in at all hours of the day to help get their loved one breakfast,lunch or dinner. They also can do light housework and just be company for those who need companionship. What is nice is that you could do this on the weekends,evenings and on vacation. There are many companies out there . They are becoming very popular as the baby boomers continue to age.

  2. DCC says:

    You’ve probably checked things like this out already.
    It’s an older article (Sept 2014), but have you looked into something like this:


    This one says “weekend” but then says “full-time”??? I believe it’s near you.

  3. Valerie says:

    I work for a dentist, and it’s common knowledge that insurance does not cover nitrous, which is why we tell parents up front. Did they ever prepare a treatment plan for any of you? That’s when we get an estimate of what the insurance will cover. It’s then printed out and the patient can see what exactly their insurance covers and at what percentage. We always tell patients it’s a rough estimate and have them sign it.

  4. Lili says:

    Dentists usually know exactly what insurance will cover and if they don’t they can call. And they should disclose additional charges that they know are not covered beforehand, like laughing gas. Both my dentist and the kids dentist provide an itemized list of all charges and make me sign before they do anything beyond our twice a year cleaning.
    As far as the health care deductible, that’s exactly where mine has been for several years now. Definitely sticks. I would definitely look into other options. Don’t assume because it’s offered you have to opt in under O’ care. Given your income and family size you just might qualify for something else.

    • boxcarkids says:

      Yes, they knew for example that the $37 fluoride treatment wasn’t covered and I opted out of that but that’s the only thing they ever mentioned.

  5. Katharine says:

    I am so sorry. I’d talk to your dentist and see about a payment plan/reduced charges. I used to work for a pediatric dental office and they should absolutely have checked first. But hindsight is 20/20. Set up a payment plan. As for extra money, can you do some tutoring? Advertise at your school or local paper or craigslist? I’m sure as a teacher you’d be able to something along those lines and you could meet kids at the local library? You could also offer services for proofreading/editing/or even typing papers. It wouldn’t be steady but it might be something. I am so sorry.. I can only imagine how frustrating it is to be continuously spinning your wheels and working so blasted hard to only keep getting knocked down.

  6. Holly says:

    I’ve read that if your employer options aren’t affordable, you can get insurance through the exchanges; but the specifics of what’s “affordable”…I’m not sure what that means. In your case, however, it’s definitely worth researching. Especially given that note from HR…if HR says you can drop insurance, to me that suggests that it’s possible to get something else on the exchange. But I am not an expert.

    Your dentist should have checked what benefits were covered before proceeding; mine does. (It also takes a long time for them to submit, get denied the first few times, and then eventually get paid something, before they send the final bill to me…but they don’t START ANYTHING until they understand what the policy covers.) Their choice to do otherwise was negligent, imo. You may need a new dentist, or at least a good long chat with this one.

    I don’t suppose it helps much, but you are an incredible inspiration to many, and in particular to your kids, who are growing up with an AMAZING role model of grit and perseverance. Yeah, I know — that doesn’t pay the bills; I just hope you don’t allow the bills to get you down so much that you forget what an awesome job you have done and are doing…..

  7. bogart says:

    Oof. I’m sorry. I’d talk to the dentist, explain that you wouldn’t have opted for the NO2 had you known insurance wouldn’t have covered it — something that, clearly, the dentist’s office did not do a good job checking on/informing you about! — and ask if they’d be willing to drop those charges.

  8. Cathy Dornon says:

    Sadly, if your employer offers insurance, you are expected to purchase there. Yes, the premiums seem to maintain or drop a bit to keep you happy, then the small print gives you increased co-pays and larger deductibles. Inidana has been taken over by the Tea Party and friends, as has much of the midwest. Medical Assistance or Medicaid is becoming increasingly difficult to enroll in. (Medicare is for seniors, a different program.) There is not even an illusion that most jobs can support a family. When the top 1% controls 90% of the wealth, we are all in trouble.
    Dental is always interesting. Insurances quit paying for Nitrous Oxide about 10-15 years ago. I never thought it did anything so I refused to pay for it. I asked for mild sedatives for the kids when needed – the prescription co-pay back then was about $3, much more now. Diazepam (Valium) is a very old and thus very cheap drug as a generic. My understanding is that you can’t go to collecitons if you are making some payment on an account. Don’t worry. Sign up to pay $25/month and more when you can. Always send something. That shows a good faith effort.
    You have come an amazing way. Keep on keeping on.

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