Sunday, April 24, 2016

Obamacare Alternatives

It isn't the worst problem to have: to be so healthy you don't need medications or regular medical care. Even so, in the US under Obamacare, you are required to have a medical maintenance plan through a health insurance company. Not traditional insurance that protects you against catastrophes like accidents and serious illnesses, but a maintenance plan that covers, among other things, childbirth, drug and alcohol rehab, and prescription medicines, regardless of whether you need or want any of those things. Scofflaws are subject to the smug-sounding "shared responsibility penalty" regardless of whether they cost anybody anything by giving birth, drying out or needing pills.

Lest anyone think uninsured people are all deadbeats, I for one paid all my dental bills from my bike accident a few years ago that weren't covered by my insurance. So far, those bills have been about $8,000 for braces (not covered), a dental implant (not covered), a tooth extraction and a root canal (the last two only partly covered). Long ago, I was charged full freight and paid cash--my life's savings at the time--for an emergency room visit. I have never dodged any bill that was legitimately charged to me.

So I know the value of being insured against catastrophes; I just don't need a maintenance plan, especially at $400 a month through COBRA (continuing my health insurance through my last regular employer) or $385 a month through Obamacare. That kind of money, even earning just 1% in a savings account, would amount to over $50,000 in ten years. That'll buy a house in Indianapolis. (Four hundred a month will also go a long way here towards a higher-quality diet, safer neighborhood and better schools for your kids--in other words, staying out of the ghetto.) Invested in the stock market over 20 years, assuming 10% annual returns, that's $300,000, or a big chunk of a retirement plan. Healthy people need money to retire on.

What to do? A blog called Self Pay Patient has a few suggestions: short-term insurance, joining a health sharing ministry, and alternate insurance products like accident or critical care insurance. I chose short-term insurance. It covers major medical expenses and some prescriptions after a deductible and cost less than $300 for six months' coverage. It's almost exactly the kind of coverage I used to buy as a student at $50 a month before the great state of Colorado dictated that health insurance had to cover a variety of procedures and medications whether consumers wanted the coverage or not--and regardless of the fact that such insurance was already available for those who wanted to buy it. After changes to the law, I couldn't afford health insurance at $300 a month as a laid-off engineer making a living doing odd jobs. Not if I wanted to buy groceries or keep the utilities on.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Regaining Health after Antibiotics and a Lot of Stress

Readers know I've had a stressful 18 months: family problems, a root canal that took three rounds of antibiotics to clear up, a move across the country, and a job change. My job back in Denver saw me going at ramming speed, spending two hours a day commuting, and dealing with a couple of vile coworkers. House cleaning and repairs took up my weekends and evenings for a few months, my realtor wildly overpriced my house, and I stepped on a nail a few days before I moved. I ate a lot of take-out while my house was for sale and figured I'd get back on track when I got to Indiana.

It's taken five months to get back to normal. My stomach and skin were a mess from the antibiotics--I had cystic acne and just thinking about eating a lot of fat turned my stomach. I couldn't stand for long without a backache. I was so exhausted when I got here that it was a few months before I felt like working full-time again.

Probiotics really helped my skin and stomach. I started taking two per day (Nature's Way Optima) but I've cut back to one a week. I'm eating a lot more home cooking and my stomach feels pretty good again. Getting more sleep has helped in general, too. But the yoga classes I was taking here sometimes left me with aches and pains I didn't go there with.

About a month ago, I took a temp job testing voting machines, which required me to stand all day. Surprise--no back ache! Maybe it's from leading a lower-stress life: ten-minute commute, sufficient sleep, pleasant coworkers, and work that goes at a reasonable pace. And over the past few weeks, I've been taking part in neighborhood cleanups and spent time over the past few days mowing my lawn with a manual mower and weeding my yard and the neighbor's yard. (Their house is for sale and I'd rather attract high-quality neighbors, not people who don't want to do any upkeep.) Surprise--no aches or pains and I feel great!

One good thing about Indianapolis is that if you need exercise, you can just clean up a park or walkway. (Be careful where you go.) There is so much to clean up within a few miles of my house, plus keeping my own property neat and repaired, that I don't see a need for exercise classes. (Aside: want to buy a house in an up-and-coming neighborhood on the cheap--I mean really cheap? Got more time and energy than money?  Homestead an abandoned, historical house here in Indy.)

I've started watching only shows and videos that make me feel good. Watch people who are smart (interviews with Judge Judy, Thomas Sowell), funny (Stephen Colbert, Seinfeld, WKRP in Cincinnati), or go-getters (Better Call Saul, Streets of San Francisco) or can teach you something (Wise Owl tutorials, for example) or otherwise lift your spirit (the guitarist is as good as Eddie Van Halen--who says Japanese musicians aren't passionate?), and the depression box becomes a source of inspiration. Facebook? All I ever hear about it is how depressing and annoying it is. Chat rooms? In my experience, they have too much emotional thinking by what I call "not-willings": people who are very limited in what they're willing to do to improve their lives, then complain about their lack of success. All the otherwise well-done shows where people do rotten things to each other? Pass.

Am I eating clean and avoiding processed foods? Not really. But I'm eating a lot less take-out and more grass-fed beef and free-range eggs and cooking with pastured lard. I'm also eating Quest bars, dark chocolate, take-out French fries, potato chips and meaty, cheesy sandwiches on gluten-free bread from the little co-op where I shop. I avoid nuts--they're worse than wheat for me. I inhaled five slices of pizza at work when I didn't eat enough breakfast--and I didn't regret it. I'm not making a habit of it, though: I still remember how sick I ended up on a high-carb diet several years ago. It doesn't take many meals like that for my stomach to start punishing me for my debauchery. Just being pretty good works for me.

So far, I've been working part time, so I've been able to relax and take care of myself. Going forward, I'm starting a full-time job in a week. There's 15-minute commute and a 30-minute lunch, giving me back two hours a day of my life compared to my job in Denver. Once I'm trained, I'll be working afternoons and nights. In other words, I can sleep as late as I want and run errands when stores and offices aren't busy. I've worked the same shift before and loved it. It's a lot less money than my old job, but with the lower cost of living here, my house being completely paid for and not requiring any significant repairs like the old one, it's more than adequate. I was literally coming home and falling on the bed every day in Denver. It was time for a change.