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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Blue and the Pink

The Blue and the Pink

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Hard Choices

Why I Might Need a Medicare Supplement Plan

I hated to admit it but after years of dodging the issue of some other kind of supplement to counteract the costs that Medicare parts A and B don't cover, I decided to look into it. For at least three years I stuck my head in the sand saying I couldn't afford a third premium.
In May of this year, the billing department at my doctor's office made me pay two years of unpaid visits totaling $96.36, which I paid in full. I called in October of 2007 looking for the first charge. The lady on the phone said Medicare would handle it and that I was fine. They called me into the billing department in 2008 and told me of the $49.30 I owed from 2007. After explaining to her that I never got the bill, she made me pay a $49 co-pay before proceeding to the triage area. I never received the bill from '07 or the new charges incurred from '08. I asked the new people in that office to find out why I wasn't getting my bill. All they would say was that Medicare had to refile in '08, and that we send out bills once a month. Something wasn't right because I never got a bill.
Now, for the reason I need a Medicare Supplement Plan, my doctor bill for May of 2009 was $139.82. That covered the May 12 visit and the follow up visit May 26 after the blood work. Medicare only covered $68 of this bill because on the bottom of the Medicare Summary notice, it said I have used $68 of the annual $135 deductible. The reason why I had a big charge was, the second visit ran 5 minutes over the traditional 10-minute limit. It cost me $8 per minute, which made my bill $40 higher. Medicare only paid $10 for the lab work and $20 for the first visit, there were probably a few other charges not marked on my bill but they are marked on the summary notice.
While a lot of people don't think a $140 doctor bill isn't all that bad, another bill like this in the same year would hurt someone on a fixed income. They seem to forget I paid a chunk in addition to this bill too of back charges. I want a supplement to cover what Medicare parts A and B don't, If I find a little coverage for Medicare Part D,
I won't complain. Because of all the procedures done on my lower extremities in 2005, I now know how it hurts to pay for meds out of my pocket. The blood thinner I took cost $91.40 for a 30-day supply. I split it into two payments of $45.70, putting it on a credit card. This happened two months before Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Coverage opened to the public.
Mom suggested I try to get Medicaid to pick up my expenses. In the state of Texas, under a program called QMB or Qualified Medicare Benificiary, one can do that, but they have income requirements. One can make up to but no more than $903. I make more than then that amount. Once they see my bank statement, it will show I can make my premiums. Full medical coverage wouldn't be possible. My friend at church, Ms. Charli Tulk who is on this program, discovered this when we discussed this issue two months ago on the phone.
I don't know how many online medical forms I filled out on Tuesday, August 25, 2009, but I was bombarded with calls starting at 11:25 a. m. with Medigap360. This man asked me the necessary questions to determine whether I was eligible for coverage. After 10 minutes of third degree, the agent informed me the only company in Texas that would insure me was AARP. Since he already knew my birth date, we both knew I was too young for that program. His advice was to sit tight, wait till I turned fifty, and sign up then. After what I went through in 2005 and a few months ago, that wasn't the smartest option. I had been rejected two times for supplement coverage before 2 p.m. because the agents that contacted me didn't do that. However, the agent from IMAC said he could place me in contact with agents that covered Medicare Supplement Plans in his company. By this time, I had decided to go with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas. Blue Medicare Rx covers me on Medicare Part D. Maybe they had Medicare Supplement Plans. As luck would have it, they did.
I filled out the form on line, but it wouldn't go through, so I copied the 1-800 number down and dialed it. That was a mistake, because it was the wrong department. I went through two more toll free numbers and a host of automated menus before getting to the right department, I begged the third operator to transfer me because my head throbbed so badly. She connected me to a lady named Sara. After answering Sara's inquiries on my health and whether I had Medicare A and B and what type of Social Security I received, she put me on hold, but not before taking my address and phone number. I also mentioned that her company covered my Medicare Part D Plan. After putting me on hold, she told me to expect a packet in the mail of Medicare Supplement Plans and premiums, with her card in it.
Right now, it doesn't hurt to look into the issue of Medicare Supplement Plans. I was warned that it wasn't cheap to do this, especially through Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas. Hopefully, by the time I need the above, there will be an act of congress forcing medical companies to low their rates so that everyone will be able to afford coverage. I forgot to factor in my $135 Medicare A and B Deductible. Prices get lower when it gets used up. Hopefully, by the time I need the above, there will be an act of congress forcing medical companies to low their rates so that everyone will be able to afford coverage. While it doesn't look like that will happen this year, there is a way to make your voice heard. I would read the Myths vs Facts page at the end of this article first and watch the video. I saw the video on television this weekend. Go to Healthactionnow at the end of this article. Click on your state of residence. It will give you the list of House and Senate Representatives. Use the form letter on the right to place those names in the form before sending.
Yes, this decision was very hard to make, but I'd rather do it before another medical catastrophe hits me that I'm unprepared for than afterwards. Now is not the time to stick my head in the sand or talk myself out of getting coverage by saying I couldn't afford it.

Video Game Passes Time, Offers Strategy, and Perks

Watching the Bots Help Improve Winning Stats

Most of my friends and family don't care for board games, so I play Scrabble on my desk top against Mavis and against the Bot. I play at the beginner and intermediate levels on my computer and on line because I can win. Any higher and I'll loose badly. I have an older desk top so the Scrabble game I have runs on Windows 95 through Hasbro Interactive.

Playing Scrabble on my desk top or on line passes the time because I don't get too many phone calls or visitors to my apartment. This is the only game where it is easier to strategize and sometimes win. One uses the tiles they are given to their best advantage, making the most points.

One reason why I like this as a computer game is that there isn't anyone to challenge the words created unless the player doesn't watch where their tiles land. There isn't a need for a dictionary, so their isn't any arguing over fairness or point count. On the desk top, Mavis will challenge a word she isn't familiar with and remove it. She will allow one to have hints as to the best word and best location on the board In the on line game, the play button will not light up if the word isn't recognized. In the on line game, the only hint the player gets is what tiles to use, not where to put them on the board in order to get the most points. It pays to watch what type of words both Mavis and the Bot uses in the on line game so the player knows what to do when they have high point tiles like J, H, and Z. Luckily, Mavis allows for some of the words I play in the on line version of Scrabble.

I like the perks in both the computer games. I get bonus points for using all my tiles. The biggest challenge I found is not leaving any bonus squares exposed, giving the opponent a way to make extra points by using high point tiles. I got 137 points with one word on the desk top. My high score in the on line game is 327 points. I don't win all the time, but by watching my opponent on the desk top and on the site, I can win through strategy.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Surviving a natural disaster

The fire raged since 1 p.m. Friday afternoon affecting some areas in Wichita Falls, Texas, and some surrounding areas thanks to the strong winds  reaching at least 58 miles an hour. My mother smelled smoke near Sheppard Air Force Base. She prepared to evacuate by pulling her Disaster Preparedness Kit from her closet in the bedroom.

It was important to have a plan if told to evacuate because of the fires or any natural disaster. When a Code Red was  issued, one should have in their kit :
A complete change of clothes for each member of the family. This included shoes socks, sweaters, jackets coats, hats, gloves, diapers and wipes.
2.   Medications/Vitamins/Supplements taken by each member of the family.  One might want to keep the name and number of their primary doctor or pediatrician handy too.
3. Emergency contact number A cell phone number/ pager number, name and number of  a neighbor or next of kin.
4.  A stash of money Keep it simple, just focus on the essentials.
5   Important paperwork like Home Owners/Renter’s Insurance policies, shot records,
wills, This also included the dog’s or cat’s shot records, license.
6.  Canned goods, non-perishable snacks, or treats. Lets face it people did get hungry during their long wait after hurricane Katrina. The pet’s food and or treats were included here also. One would need a  small can opener too don’t forget.
7.  Water One to two gallons for each member, including the family pet per day.
8.  Stuff to do. Everyone should chose their own activity. Keep it simple, electronics should have had batteries just in case there is no electricity to use adapters or chargers. Books, toys, activity books, favorite blankets, stuffed animals, pacifiers, doggy toys leashes or harnesses.
9.  A First Aid Kit The unthinkable always occurred so it was best to keep this fully stocked and ready to go, just in case.

Luckily, my mother didn’t have to evacuate. The winds carried the fires away from her neighborhood. Because of all the fires, they closed Sheppard Air Force Base to all no essential personnel, so going to the Commissary had to wait for another time.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

More work needs to be done with the transportation system.

Something has to be done about the transportation situation in Wichita Falls, TX. I'm reduced to using cab service because the city bus is still elusive after four years, due to my shoulder injury. I've lived here at the same location for almost ten years and don't have the network of people to call on Most of my encounters are the "Over 60 and Unable" or "Under 50 and Too Busy'

In May of 2009, I injured my shoulders while opening my living room windows. Since that time, rolling on the grass whether wet or dry and getting to the bus stop around the corner is impossible without a sidewalk of some sort. More work is needed in making the transportation system more efficient. I don't have a car, and the small network of people I usually call on for help has thinned out.

I don't mean to categorize or bash anyone for their age or medical conditions because I'm in a wheelchair, disabled, and under 60. During the hours of 8-5 p.m. at Sikes Senter Mall., one runs into the "Over 60 and Unable". Remember, I'm only guessing about their ages. Because of their medical situation, they are unable to lift a wheelchair and put it in a car(assuming they drive a car I could get into in the first place). Lots of people are on a cane or a walker. I don't expect them to do that.

Then one runs into the "Under 50 and Too Busy". These are the people that work, volunteer and have families. This doesn't mean that the "Over 60 and Unable" don't have families and don't work or volunteer. Climbing into a big 4 X 4 truck SUV, or its hybrid equivalent is impossible because the step is three inches off the ground. It seemed more like three feet. Unfortunately, most of the people at my church drive cars like that, old and young. My Sunday School class is defined as a "working class." They either have a job or volunteer. A lot of people that come for church service on Sunday don't come on Wednesday night. My options are limited there too. I refuse to intrude on someone with a family, now that the Wednesday van only picks up Awana members.

 Last Wednesday night, I found out that it would cost anywhere from $9-$12 one way going six miles to Lamar Baptist Church, depending on the time of day and the cab driver. Luckily, the driver gave me a flat rate of $9. Going from my apartment on Maplewood Avenue to my doctor's office on Indiana Avenue is the same distance But, the Wichita Falls Public Library is 6.1 miles. That extra one-tenth of a mile would add to the price, and they are two blocks away from each other. During Spring Break, one of my Sunday School Class members were hosting a party in a house by Memorial Stadium. The dispatcher at Skylark Taxi quoted a price of around $15 just to get there. Had I said it was 5.1 miles away from the house, I probably would have been given a reduced rate somehow. Unfortunately, this was found out after I hung up. It pays to map things out on Google.

The meter started at $2.50 for the first mile and 33 cents each additional mile. The ironic thing, this is the same price of a deviation fee on the local City Transit System. Deviation fees add up just like cab fare. In order for this to work, I'd have to be dropped off or picked up on the other end. The bus stops running at 7:30 p,m. during the week and does not go near the church on Harrison Street. After four years, that hasn't changed.

More work needs to be done with the transportation system.


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