Tag Archive: stress


Rabbit holeHelp! I have fallen down the rabbit hole. My husband is self-employed and has insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace.  We actually enrolled him during the initial roll out. There were no problems.  Signing up was quick and painless.  This year I received a letter, in my name, that we needed to resubmit his application through the government Marketplace. We wanted to carry the same policy.  Yikes! The only time I have ever encountered customer service this poor was dealing with disability insurance companies when filing a claim. Those of you following my blog know what that was like.

First I tried to renew through the website at 8:00 a.m. Everything went fine till the financial portion.  Because my husband is self-employed as a sole proprietor, he does not get a monthly paycheck.  The first question was asking the monthly income.  We base our income on the profit for the year before so I divided it int0 12 months. The same way I did it the year before. After completing this it said I had to send in a W2, pay stub, business ledger, or 2014 tax return. He is self-employed so he doesn’t get a W2 or a pay stub! I ought to copy our business ledger and send it to them, but I don’t want to kill that many trees or pay that much postage.  Obviously we don’t have a 2014 tax return. I gave up and decided to call the number provided.

It was now 8:45 a.m.  After a 10 minute hold time a very courteous young lady answered the call. She took all my information then told me she couldn’t discuss my husband’s insurance with me.   I reminded her that I received a letter to me for my husband’s insurance.  She absolutely would not, could not speak with me without my husband with me.  Thank you very much for the help. It was now 9:15 a.m.

Now for the biggest fiasco yet! At 9:30 I decided to try to call one more time and get another representative a try.  This time there was a 15 minute wait time. The call was answered by a young man that confidently responded that he could certainly help me with the task.  Everything went well till we got into the financial portion.  Once again he asked for the monshooting-starthly income and I explained the self-employment issue.  I stated our income hadn’t changed.  Finally after 2 hours going back and forth, we get his insurance set up for $325 a month.  But I still have to send in nonexistent paper work! Plus there is another number I have to call to get it started.  Wonder how long that will take? It  was now 11:35 a.m.

But it gets even better.  The same day I received a letter in the mail from my insurance company stating that if we didn’t renew it would automatically renew for $183 a month! If you saw a shooting star that night it was just the top of my head exploding!

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Trying New Things

Painting, gardening and crafts

As I continue to define my role in life as a disabled retiree, I have tried several alternative directions. I have tried tutoring, sewing, painting, care-giving, volunteering, and gardening. Oh yeah, I blog. There just hasn’t been anything that cranks my tractor yet. I know I have a hidden talent that is just waiting to be found.

Tutoring went well and I enjoyed it.  The point of tutoring is to get the student to the point that they don’t need to be tutored.  At first, I got several calls a week requesting tutoring. I had 4 or 5 regular students for 3 or 4 sessions.  Each student became confident enough to end the sessions.  The school hired another math teacher and I quit getting calls.  Guess I was too good for my own good! I even tutored a few adults that wanted to learn different technology. While I enjoyed that, adult students taking private lessons can be truly demanding and required too much babying.

I thought I knew how to sew.  I made pillows and seat cushions.  I even taught a friend to sew.  We made at least 5 summer dresses and tops.  She wears the dresses all summer and they look great on her.  They just look like sacks on me!  I tried to make my great-nieces clothes.  I only saw them wear them a few times.  I suspect their mother made the girls wear them then.  I left wads of elastic in the waistband because I couldn’t get it back around to cut it off.  The seams were too large making the legs tight.  Honestly, I wouldn’t wear them and I won’t even display them here!  And my bloody fingertips became too sore.

 

crafts displayed on a table

Countless hours and burnt fingertips produced an array of crafts to sale.

My latest effort was crafts.  A local church was having a bazaar and you could rent a booth for $20.  Great. I was excited. A friend of mine decided she would do it with me. We spent a week gluing, painting, and tying.  We collected craft ideas and were diligently preparing to sell our first million, or a 100 at least.  I found it very painful. Hot glue and hands that shake or drop things should not be in the same room together. I think I lost the fingerprints on at least two of my fingers. The big day came and we went to find our booth.  It was at the very end of the booths, behind the musical equipment for the band that was playing.  And it was farther from the door than any other.  I think we sold $120 but spent $60 on materials and paid a $20 booth rental.  We cleared about $30 each and I got rid of those pesky fingerprints!

So far I haven’t found my next calling, but I am certainly going to keep looking. The desire for individuality and purpose is uniquely human. As long as my fingers hold out, I am going to keep searching for what I want to do with my life when I grow up!

Wet cat

Ordinarily I do not write about my family, but the past two years have been a wild ride for our family.  Life has been a tiger that we just had to hold tight for the ride.  Our youngest was in Afghanistan, and our oldest was out of work.  I am disabled and receiving Social Security Disability but still, after nearly three years, considered able to work by my disability insurance company.  We have been building a new house and trying to sell our home of 20 years.  My husband wants to retire but the tiger came in and made that impossible for now.

I have not posted while my son was in Afghanistan as my sacrifice to honor his service.  A Mechanical Engineer with a wife he served for one year, and completed his Master Degree while away.  He is in the National Guard serving when there is only moderate personal gain and much sacrifice.  His poor wife had to maintain the house, the yard, the finances, two vehicles, and take time for her own career while he was gone! All these men and women that serve in the Armed Forces have my gratitude and respect.  They leave their homes, their jobs, their wives and children to fight wars and protect us during those times when we are most vulnerable.

The economy has definitely been felt in our household.  My oldest was out of work.  He went through 12 years of high school, passed all the grades, but could not pass the required exit exam. He has a learning disability which makes passing standardized testing very difficult for him. He tried for 10 years and finally got a GED this year!! He has been hired on a temporary job but definitely a step forward.  I am so proud of them both. They aren’t shy about hard work and rode the tiger down!
Happy-cat
I live with active sarcoidosis and severe bilateral Meniere’s Disease. I do not drive to protect the safety of the other drivers on the rode, so it has been a blessing to have an offspring available.  It has been liberating to have a driver available whenever I needed or wanted.  And I didn’t feel guilty since he was eating my food!  Now that he has gone to work I am once again confined to socializing and shopping through technology. (You can spend a lot of time shopping and money on the internet!)  Most of the time lately I am in too much pain and fatigue to do anything.  With little time to accomplish anything, it is hard to get anything done!  Unfortunately, recent bouts with pneumonia and bronchitis have set me back. I am back on track now and hope to be back up to mischief.

There is always hope in everything. That is what makes us keep riding … the hope of a future!

 

More to come about this year!

Surprised?

Well, Cigna canceled my disability insurance payments.  Surprise!  I am initiating an appeal. My doctors have not changed their positions. Cigna Life Insurance coverage is no longer in force, as they have canceled the premium waiver.  On top of all this, my COBRA health insurance coverage expires the first of September, but I can’t get Medicare until November. I am about at the end of hope.

I expected my disability payments to be canceled.  That is how the insurance game is played. But they canceled it because the strength in my legs had increased. I never knew that leg strength helped to type or hear! Once again my ENT and rheumatologist had to fill out forms and send in letters. They make it so difficult to get and keep payments coming.  The reason I signed up for disability insurance was to make sure that I would have enough income to pay my bills.  These payments are less than I draw from Social Security, but they are needed to cover the bills for insurance.

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I cannot get life insurance coverage outside what I used to have.I received a letter from Cigna stating that they had also canceled the premium waiver for my life insurance.  The letter said I had the right to appeal the decision, but I had to apply for conversion to a private policy within 30 days.  AND I had to send in the first three months payment with my application which would run about $1400.00!  I am fortunate to have some room with my finances but that and my health insurance run more than I draw from Social Security. Our home is on the market and we are building a smaller, handicap accessible home to lower our expenses.

You have to be on Social Security for two years to be eligible for Medicare.  COBRA coverage last 18 months and cost me about $900 a month.  That means that for 6 months I will not have health coverage.  I cannot possibly afford insurance that will cover my pre-existing condition (about $1300).  Believe me I have checked. I went through the procedure to try to get COBRA extended but they denied it because they weren’t notified within 60 days of receiving SSD.  That also has an appeals process.

The Sarcoidosis is in the joints of my fingers and my wrists.  I cannot type for more than 30 minutes without pain. I lose my grip at all the wrong times.  I can’t sit comfortably due to pain in my hips. I can’t walk without pain in my knees or feet.  I can’t stand still without falling because of the Meniere’s. I can’t walk without looking at my feet.  I can’t drive more than 10 miles from home.  Yet Cigna thinks I am faking and can work a full-time sedentary job.

I don’t have the energy on a good day to be active for more than 4 or 5 hours.  Someone is with me whenever I leave home in case I fall.  The medication I take is messing with my body and the disease markers keep going up.  The doctors tell me to avoid stress.  The insurance companies count on people either giving up or dying.  And the way this is going I think they are literally killing me!

 

 

Here We Go Again

doctorMy private disability insurance policy from my former employer finally approved my long term disability payments.  The Social Security Administration, SSA, approved my disability coverage six months ago and ruled “disabled without hope for improvement.”  This means that SSA will not need to reevaluate my disability for five to seven years. After receiving one monthly payment from the private insurance, I received a call from their representative that I will need to be reevaluated due to criteria changes.  It is a wonder that I didn’t have a stroke right then.  I know my blood pressure must have been elevated because smoke was coming out my ears.

I don’t understand insurance companies.  Disability insurance is gambling, period.  The insurance companies are betting that you will not be disabled before reaching retirement at 65.  You are betting that you will be disabled.  In my case, I won the wager, but I have to prove that I won.  Unlike bookies that pay out winnings, insurance companies do not simply pay out winnings.  You must prove you won and guess who decides whether you proved it.  That’s right.  It’s the insurance company.  Even the law is on the side of insurance.

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act, ERISA, was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1974 and applies to most insurance obtained as an employee benefit. According to the website of Pillsbury & Levinson, LLP, ERISA is one of the worst and most poorly understood laws ever passed by Congress. ERISA gives insurance companies enormous advantages that may actually encourage them to deny claims unfairly.  It would appear there are no penalties for the insurance companies that deny benefits.  After 2 years, I am finally approved but must be re-evaluated because they changed their criteria.  The insurance companies can decide to change the requirements for disability at any time without notice to you.

US SenateUnder ERISA, a policyholder may NOT sue an insurance company for any damages caused by the wrongful denial of benefits no matter how egregious, outrageous, or malicious is the conduct of the insurance company.  Under ERISA there cannot be a jury trial, the policyholder must sue in federal court and there is no pretrial discovery.  If you sue the insurance company, under ERISA it must be filed in federal court and heard by a federal judge.  I had to go through this process in order to received short term disability from the same company that is providing long term benefits.  You do not get damages for the time without an income or the cost of filing the law suit.

ERISA covers retirement, health and other welfare benefit plans (e.g., life, disability and apprenticeship plans). Among other things, ERISA provides that those individuals who manage plans must meet certain standards of conduct,  detailed provisions for reporting to the government and disclosure to participants, assuring that plan funds are protected and that participants who qualify receive their benefits. As pointed out above, this law actually encourages abuse by insurance companies instead of assuring that qualified individuals receive benefits.

ERISA has also been expanded to include new health laws. The Affordable Care Act addressed pre-existing conditions, coverage of adult children, and other protections to ensure affordable health coverage for all.  The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA) amended ERISA to provide for the continuation of health care coverage for employees and their beneficiaries (for a limited period of time) if certain events would otherwise result in a reduction in benefits.  The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) amended ERISA to make health care coverage more portable and secure for employees.

Wet cat

My benefits were reduced by the amount of my Social Security Act Disability funds so the amount to be paid by the insurance company is rather small.  They are supposed to pay for about eight years.  It appears that the eight years will consist of constant harassment, evaluations, and forms.  My employer paid for this benefit, but I wonder if the harassment will be worth it.

The really bad thing is that there isn’t a thing I can do about it. We are always told these laws are to protect us, but who do they actually protect!

Brain Fog

out of orderIt has been over a year since I have went shopping on my own. It has been over a year since I drove myself to the doctor. It has been nearly a year since I went by myself to visit a friend. It has been almost a year since I have done anything unplanned. It has been over a year since I had to think!

Everything seems slowed down, almost like swimming in hard set jelly. I hear people tell me things and react as one should react. Later though I can’t remember them telling me and I have to ask again. I never remember people’s names, but then I never did in the past either. I have a degree in math, taught high school math, and did graduate work in computer science, but I find myself stumped when trying to figure out the difference between two prices. I used to always be elected to keep score during game night. Now I am accused of cheating because I add wrong!

I truly do not believe it is due to any physical calamity, although God has given me a few. I think this “brain fog” is just laziness. I have set and hibernated for the past year.  Am I better physically? Maybe in some ways.  Mentally?  Definitely not. Because of my physical limitations, I have allowed my brain to atrophy. I have not been challenged with true problem solving. I let my physical dependencies morph into emotional dependencies. My brain became a couch potato.

So I need to get off my rear and motivate. I am not sure how to go about it. I know exercise is in order in some format. Balance and fatiguing the muscles are issues. I need to find some way to volunteer for something even though I can’t get anywhere or predict if I will even be able to volunteer on any given day. Crossword puzzles and smartphone games are gwoman holding shopping bagsreat, but lack that charge you get from social interaction.

Recently I did go on a shopping trip with two other friends. I was out of the loop when they began talking jobs, shopping, or anything outside our little group. I quickly tired and began walking slower. How do people do this?

How do you become a healthy shut-in? I do not live near a metropolitan area. My husband would not move to the city. There is no public transportation. My husband works long hours and has to rearrange employees to take me places. I want to get healthier and continue to grow stronger. I want to grow sharper mentally and to continue to live independently. Any suggestions?

Sometimes Life is Good!

Islands, mountains and lakes

A view of Guntersville Lake in Alabama

There are times when life is such a struggle for us all. Then there are those moments that are so wonderful it takes your breath away. But sometimes, life is just good!

Early summer in the southern United States is like that. The sun shines and the birds sing.  The squirrels scurry from tree to tree, chattering to each other along the way. The insects chirp and the frogs bellow.  Sounds of life fill the air and force us to stop and listen.

Sitting outside listening to the sounds of nature in the rural south feels good.  It calms the nerves, relaxes tension and slows the heart rate. Somehow the air fills our lungs more fully and clears the negative thoughts from our minds. Life seems to slow down.

Sometimes we can get so wrapped up in our daily struggles that we forget to appreciate life around us. There are so many beautiful things all around us. When we are struggling we only need to stop, look and listen for a few minutes to find the calmness and renewal to continue.

Stress is your worst enemy!

A doctor told me to avoid stress because it was my worst enemy.  I have sarcoidosis with secondary Meniere’s which can flare up at anytime.  The thing that seems to trigger it the most is stress.  Lucky me.    I think its stressIt is easy for doctors to tell you to avoid stress, but how do you avoid work, children, aging parents and life in general.  I think if you don’t have any stress in your life, you are probably are not alive!

I have tried yoga, massage therapy, meditation, prayer and all the things that the experts tell us to do.  Just when I think I have it under control, the bottom drops out!  In the last year, my mother had her third cancer scare, my mother-in-law became feeble, my husband broke his foot, I have changed employers, and of course, I had a flare up!

No matter what you do stress cannot be avoided.  To tell a person to avoid stress is like telling a person to stop living.  I think it is a matter of how you deal with it.  For me, a strong belief that somehow God is going to take care of me helps.  Having a husband to help handle the stress helps.  Each time stress comes up I try to tell myself, this will pass.  I say it over and over till I can get a calm feeling.

My husband runs and runs.  He says this helps him.  I can’t run but I pace which probably isn’t the best thing to do.  My best stress reliever is to get out and get away from it.  I try to do something where I can stop thinking just for a little while.  I paint with oils or pastels.  I craft, mostly junk.  I watch the deer or rub my cat.  Anything to give my brain a rest.

Does it help? For a little while.  Does it make the stress go away? Not at all.  Can I avoid the stress?  I would rather live!