Episode 58: Money! – Show Notes

This particular Femoir: The Podcast is one that took me a little while to get together. Mostly because it took me a little while to get myself together after the hit that taxes took this year. money

So click here to listen to the latest episode (and click here to subscribe on iTunes for free!)

Learn about the history of money.

I talk about the fabulous podcast, Snap Judgment.

I also discuss Marianne Williamson.

I mention my father.

And of course the IRS, that pesky tax man.

How do you feel about money, friends? I’d love to hear from you.

Happy spending/saving/sobbing,

Briana

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Healthcare

This is not a political post. This is just a factual experience.

I was paying an expensive health insurance premium for basic healthcare. It was your basic plan. It was a little expensive, but I could choose my own doctor (PPO) and I loved her and saw her once a year for basic lady check up.

Then I got a letter that I had to switch plans because mine was being cancelled due to the new Healthcare law.

Fine. Cool. Whatever. I’ll opt in.

I researched plans based on my income level. It was a bit confusing because my income can fluctuate, but I went with a reasonable average and I chose something that seemed fine. It actually saved me $10/month and was a “better” plan! Only catch (I thought) was that it’s an HMO. Which means I have to choose in a specific network. Fine. I have so few doctor needs at this point in my life (thank goodness) that I didn’t think it was a big deal. When I was accepted into the plan, I researched doctors in my network who would be good for Primary Care doctors. They all got pretty terrible reviews, so I let my plan pick one for me. Again, I rarely go (thank goodness) so I didn’t see it as a big deal.

About two months after being covered by my new plan (and three premiums already paid), I had a minor medical issue that wouldn’t go away. It wasn’t a big deal, so I figured I’d check out my new doctor since office visits were cheap and just have him look me over. I’m going to use his real name because these are facts, not opinions, so people can hopefully learn from my experience.

I went to Dr. Mohammad Resvani on Motor Avenue in Los Angeles, CA. It seemed fine enough. I filled out a form and waited about 15-20 minutes before I was taken to my room. I wanted another maybe 10 before the doctor saw me. When he came in, here’s what happened:

He asked what was going on. I explained it to him. I also explained I had something similar before and what it was. I told him I thought it might be that thing again and mentioned it. He looked at me and said he had never heard of that thing. It’s a really common thing, so I was confused. Then I guess he figured it out. He then motioned for me to move from my chair onto the table. He asked me a couple more questions and started pretending to get out stuff to check me then his phone rang. He answered it. He turned his back to me and talked on the phone for a while. Probably around 3-5 minutes. I just sat there. Then he turned right back around, didn’t apologize or explain why he answered the phone mid-sentence and proceeded to put his stethoscope on top of my jacket and talk to me while I assume he was attempting to listen to my heart. The times I’ve been to my primary care doctor before, they put the stethoscope directly on my skin and have me quiet and breathe so they can actually hear my heart. Putting it on top of my jacket (which was on top of two more layers of clothing- shirt and bra) seemed ineffective. Especially since he continued to ask me questions while he did it. He then said he’d give me a prescription for what might be wrong with me and walked out. He told me he’d give me a referral to a specific doctor to help me with my needs. He said it could take a week or so.

Before I left, confused as to whether or not we were done since I had already paid my copay in advance, I stood at the attendantless office for a few minutes. He happen to walk by. I asked if I was done. He said they needed a urine sample. I didn’t know what that had to do with anything, but I said ok. And I went back to the office and waited for them to bring me a cup. Then I did it.

Fast forward- my problem seemed to take care of itself so I never used my prescription. I then get a bill from my health insurance that they only covered most of the mystery urine sample, so I’d need to cover the rest. So I paid $3 to pee in a cup.

I go to fill my regular monthly prescription a few days after that  (which was prescribed by my wonderful former doctor) and it turns out my health insurance doesn’t cover it anymore. I have to use their mail-in service. I was unaware of this. The Walgreens lady and I had a long discussion about it. She was nice and she explained to me the situation. So I coughed up the $45 for that month while I figured out what to do. I tried calling my insurance provider but got in an endless loop, unable to actually get a hold of anyone. I tried looking online and couldn’t figure out how to do it. When I tried calling general customer service, I was told by the machine that the estimated wait time was 2 hours and 45 minutes. Of waiting. To talk to a customer service representative. Who would probably transfer me back over to the prescription people. For more waiting.

A couple weeks later, I see that there has been a claim denied twice by my health insurance. Lo and behold, I get a bill from Dr. Rezvani for $250 saying my insurance didn’t cover a basic office visit. Had I wanted to pay $250 out of pocket, I would have gone to my old wonderful doctor and she could have actually helped me and maybe not answered the phone mid-conversation. And maybe she’ll actually give me a referral when promised.

I have to now spend more of my own precious time and energy (not to mention likely money) to cover a very basic, very unsatisfactory office visit that is supposed to the easiest, most basic form of healthcare. And because March 31 is the last day to “Opt In” to the new healthcare system, it is nearly impossible to get through anywhere without insane wait times.

I tweeted about it. And to be fair, I got a response. It basically said “Sorry you’re having trouble! We’re here for you anytime.” And I asked if we could just fix this over Twitter, since that seemed to be the most efficient way of getting through to anyone. I did not get help on that front.

I’m an intelligent, healthy, 20-something. I’m willing to pay for healthcare- I was doing so before it was a federal mandate. I understand healthcare. I understand the internet. I’m ideal for this new system. But it’s deeply flawed. If I can’t even figure out how to navigate it- and I desperately want to- there is something really wrong here. To the point where I’m going to have to take dramatic measures to get change my coverage and go back to other options that make more sense for my situation.

It’s no wonder that everything about this is messed up. If I’m actively trying to do the “right” thing and “save money” and have “better health coverage” and I have to pay significantly more money, what happens to the people who don’t have the tech savvy or intelligence or education or even desire to learn that I do? What happens to them when they get big bills they thought were covered that they simply can’t pay? They’re screwed. That’s what. Which isn’t the intention of the system, but seems to currently be the outcome.

I’m paying $10 less per month that I was before for a coverage that doesn’t actually cover anything my older “more expensive” plan did. And on top of it all- I don’t need that much coverage. I just don’t want to have to pay out of pocket for a doctor to answer his phone while in the room with me not answering my health questions. Money is tight. I have to be smart with it. And this healthcare choice, so far, has not been a good financial investment for me.

I take care of myself. I constantly write blogs about happiness, health and fitness. I want to thrive. And I want to be healthy. And I want a reasonable heathcare arrangement that everyone can be satisfied with.

I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

That’s been my experience so far. I apologize for the tirade and the general lack of hilariousness in this post. But I needed to put it out there.

Now back to your regularly scheduled poop jokes.

Ticket perspective

Last night, I came out to my car from an open mic in Santa Monica only to find I had a $53 ticket waiting for me. I made a mistake. I thought my meter had an hour more than it did. It was just an honest mistake. But it didn’t make the ticket suck any less.

I’m not exactly swimming in extra cash right now. I’m strapping up for an intense summer of car payments, credit card payments,  and a few weeks missing work to go home and visit. A ticket is not something I have in the budget right now.

I could choose to be very worried or upset and let the whole thing ruin my mood/day/week.

Or I could choose to have a little perspective on the situation.

While I’m not going to pretend that I was jumping for joy when I saw the ticket sitting on my car, I took a breath and thought about it. I was mere feet away from the ocean (a place I love) in one of the most beautiful cities on the planet (that I have worked hard to get to and continue to work hard to stay in). I just spent the past couple hours hanging out with like-minded spirits (comedians) and got to do what I love most (perform). I’m currently driving someone else’s car ( a close friend while he’s in Japan because he knows my card needs some work I can’t afford at the moment). He even gave me his credit card to give it a tank of gas for the month, even though I would be the one driving it. I was heading to another open mic that night because I’m lucky enough to live in a world where the chances to perform are plentiful and the ceiling for what you can accomplish is limited only to your imagination. I’m young. I’m healthy. I’m free. I know what I love to do and I get to do it often. I am constantly meeting new and interesting people and learning more about them and myself daily. I’m extremely lucky to live the life that I live, and am grateful for the joy and energy that surrounds me. I have a job. I can pay bills. I can pick up more babysitting if push comes to shove. I’m lucky to know some great families out here and have worked for some awesome references in the past. I’m also lucky to love children and not mind taking care of them for a little extra cash to help me pursue my dreams. I get to laugh all the time. I live in a world filled with people who love laughter and love to make others laugh. I also have awesome friends and family are are hilarious in their own right and give me unwavering support.

A $53 is just a minor inconvenience in a world filled to the brim with positivity and magic.

I’m lucky. And I know it.

And one little ticket is not going to screw all that up.

Besides, as I took the ticket off my window, a guy with a sweet, friendly golden retriever came up and started a quick conversation. His dog attacked me with kisses and affection and I loved every moment of it.

So jokes on you, City of Santa Monica. Your ticket didn’t ruin my day  at all.

But let’s not make this a habit, ok?

Thanks.

Woman feels accepted when homeless man recognizes her stops asking for change every day

After moving to Chicago over the summer, Amy Rosen has spent a lot of time getting acclimated to the city. She’s taken long walks around downtown and various colorful neighborhoods in order to learn more about them. She rides the CTA and rarely listens to her iPod in order to take in all the sights and sounds and possibly strike up any conversation that may come her way.

Rosen has also become used to the various panhandlers and beggars that tend to congregate in certain areas of the city. Including one particular man who stands outside the same drug store every night asking for money.

Though Rosen rarely gives the man money, she makes sure to always smile and say “Hi.” One evening, man simply smiled back and said “Hi,” rather than asking for money.

She was elated.

For Rosen, this signaled that she was finally part of a neighborhood, and therefore part of the bigger city she had grown to love and learn so much about over the past several months. This incident was the first time a stranger she had met actually recognized her and smiled back. She considered it a victory and a signal that she could truly start calling herself a local.

She continues to smile at the man every night, though he usually ignores her now. For Rosen, the ignore is at least an acknowledgement that he recognizes her and knows he knows it would be a waste of time to ask for money. And it still makes her very excited.

Adorable puppy dog picture takes a bite out of anger in getting a parking ticket

In an attempt to make receiving parking tickets a more enjoyable experience, the city of Chicago has revamped the entire face of the parking ticket. Rather than having an ugly orange envelope covering up a plain white receipt with the amount of the fine, Chicago parking workers have a new weapon. Adorable puppy pictures.

Now, when residents of the already expensive city walk out to find that they’ve incurred yet another outlandish ticket because of some minor problem or arbitrary decision made by a meter attendant in a bad mood, they won’t see the familiar orange sleeve on their car. They’ll see the big, brown, loving eyes of a baby golden retriever and a wide, slobbery almost-grin. Upon opening the ticket sleeve, they’ll see the puppy cuddling down sweetly, with its little pink nose pointing at the fine for your vehicle. On the top of the ticket, it will read, “It’s ok. I’ll still be your best friend.”

The Chicago parking businesses truly believe this will help people cope with their anger and negativity toward getting a ticket. They even believe that if it rains and the outside sleeve gets wet, it may look like the puppy slobbered all over it and make people think of how cute puppies are with their uncontrollable slobber and they’ll forget about the fine inside.

Because it is only a picture of a puppy, those citizens who are allergic or nervous around dogs will not be bothered by having an actual dog near. And, it will help weed out which citizens have souls and which ones don’t, by seeing which people find the puppy adorable and which find it annoying. Parking enforcers believe that anyone who finds a puppy annoying has no soul and deserves to incur more fines in the future.

The parking companies are even hoping that having the puppy pictures will make people almost look forward to getting tickets, since many are already receiving them on almost a weekly or monthly basis. They plan on dressing the puppy up for various holidays and celebrations throughout the year if the program proves to be a success.

So far, people have not yet begun to appreciate the new precious parking tickets. Most citizens continue to argue with meter officials who write them up and groan at any new ticket that appears on their car.

Discovery of penny on ground changes cursed man’s luck

Henry Miller was having a rough week. Everything that could go wrong, for him, seemed to go wrong. He was feeling sick, gotten in a huge fight with his girlfriend in which she kicked him out of the apartment, and was on thin ice at work. It seemed every human interaction he had, he was beaten down and criticized in some capacity.

That is, until, he was walking to the bus stop and saw a small, shiny, copper penny sitting there waiting for him to discover it. He remembered the old adage, “See a penny/ pick it up/ all day long you’ll have good luck.” So, he did just that. He picked it up and was pleasantly surprised to see it was heads up. He knew this was a good omen.

Just as he walked to the bus stop, the bus pulled right up without any waiting. He hopped aboard and saw that there was nobody else on the bus, which gave him the chance to choose any seat he wanted and kept him from having to smell some of the other regular bus customers. Just then, his girlfriend called him and apologized for overreacting, and asked him to come bak and live with her. When he arrived at work, his boss called him into the office and said he was very proud of the effort Miller had been showing over the past week and that he was being promoted-even in this economy! A co-worker also gave him a pack of vitamins to help out with the sickness that had been plaguing him for weeks.

Miller is grateful to whoever dropped that penny so that he could find it. A part of him, is sure it was an angel.