Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The True Cost of Pneumonia

If you follow me on Twitter or are friends with me on Facebook, you know that I've had pneumonia, bronchitis, and an ear infection in the last three weeks. Fortunately, I'm fully on the mend now and feeling about 95% like myself.

Now that I'm close to well, I've started to notice all the bills arriving from the plethora of doctors, nurse practitioners, x-ray technicians, radiologists, ENTs, and pharmacists who have treated me since September 25th.

Let's take a peek at my bills. These are all retail prices, but of course, BCBS has the established rates they will pay and the rest gets written off by the provider.

  • 4 Prescriptions . . . $235
  • 2 Walgreens Take Care Clinic Visits . . . $178
  • 2 Primary Care Physician Visits . . . $315
  • 1 Chest X-Ray at the Hospital (does not include Radiologist). . . $550
  • 1 Ear, Nose & Throat Doctor Visit . . . $190
TOTAL MEDICAL BILLS RELATED TO PNEUMONIA: $1,468 (excluding the Radiologist)

Fortunately for me, I have great health care insurance. Sure, I have a $2,500 annual deductible on top of my monthly premiums, but once I pay my deductible, I don't owe another penny unless I go outside of the vast BCBS network. Because I'd already fulfilled my deductible requirement, I owe exactly nothing on all of these bills. I don't even owe the difference between what BCBS paid and the actual bill.

I've got awesome medical insurance and I didn't give one ounce of thought about could I afford to go to the doctor. But if I didn't have insurance, I'd have thought long and hard about going to the doctor. Close to $1,500 would have been a very difficult pill to swallow.

And I know that for a fact because there were a number of years, in the not so distant past, when I did not have insurance. I worked for myself and could not afford it. Plus, I had a pre-existing condition that either made it nearly impossible to get or grotesquely expensive. I didn't go to the doctor for preventative care and only went to the doctor when I was sick in dire emergencies, which meant almost never. When I had no insurance, no health care provider gave me discounts. I paid full retail value.

Let's contrast this with the recent experience of my friend Sarah. Sarah lives in Toronto, Canada, where she is fully covered with the universal health care that Canada offers. I know what you're thinking. You think Sarah waits six months to get into the doctor and has to appear before multiple death panels to determine whether she deserves treatment or not. That could not be further from the truth.

When I had pneumonia recently, by coincidence, Sarah had it too. I swear I didn't give it to her. Sarah called her doctor and got in on the same day. In addition, she was allowed to bring her entire family with her so they could receive flu shots. The doctor examined her, diagnosed her, gave her family flu shots, and set Sarah up with prescriptions to make her healthy again.

The only cost Sarah paid for all of this medical care was $84 which was the co-pay for her prescriptions.


I pay more than $84 in health care premiums monthly in addition to the almost $200 per month I put into my Health Savings Account to cover my annual deductible. So annually, I spend close to $4,000 in out of pocket health care premiums and my deductible. This does not include my dental insurance or vision care.

Quality health care insurance changes lives. People are healthier because they receive preventative care.   Preventable diseases are prevented. Chronic diseases are treated at lower costs. They stop worrying about whether Sally's emergency appendectomy will bankrupt them. They have dignity.

It boggles my mind why we spend so much time and energy in the United States arguing about whether or not we should allow everyone to receive quality health care. Do we believe some people are less deserving than others? Who are we to decide that? And how do we decide where to draw that line about who is more deserving and who is less deserving?

Health care is not a luxury. It's not a "nice to have" or an "extra." It's also not an "entitlement" in the condescending, dignity stripping way we talk about entitlements in this country these days. Health care is a human right. Period.

The Affordable Health Care Act (aka Obamacare) isn't perfect. I'll admit that. It's also not the plan I wanted. I wanted Universal Health Care for everyone. For now, we've got the ACA and although it's not perfect, it allows millions and millions of people to get insurance and stop worrying about whether they'll go bankrupt from an unexpected medical procedure. I just wish people would give it a chance. And maybe, one day, the USA will join the rest of the developed world and provide Universal Health Care for everyone.

Monday, October 14, 2013

100 New Experiences: I'm Half Way Done!

As you know, I set a goal to have 100 new experiences between April 11, 2013 and April 10, 2014. I'm thrilled to share with you that over the weekend, I reached the six month mark and I've also completed 50 of my 100 new experiences. Yay for me! And yay for my incredible time management skills!

At the halfway mark, I can tell you that I've become more confident, less scared, less self-conscious, more adventurous, probably more fun, and I'm definitely thinking outside the box to push myself. I've even been told by a few people that my adventures have inspired them to step outside their comfort zones and try new things. That's the best compliment in the world.

Thank you Amy Guth for inspiring this incredible year of adventure and growth!

In case you were wondering, here's what I've done so far:
2. Vacation by myself and take care of only me. - DONE April 11 - 15, 2013 (Read the blog post
3. Vacation in Nashville - DONE April 11 - 15, 2013 (Read the blog post
4. Go on vacation and leave work 100% behind (i.e., don't check email or voice mail) - DONE April 11 - 15, 2013 (Read the blog post
5. Stand in the center of both the Grand Ole Opry and Ryman Auditorium stages - DONE April 12 and 14, 2013 (Read the blog post
6. Play Elvis's piano at the RCA Studio B - DONE August 12, 2013 (Read the blog post
7. Sit on the stage at the Civic Opera House during a performance - DONE June 16, 2013 with Christopher; saw The Second City Guide to the Opera 
8. Play with the beluga whales at the Shedd Acquarium - DONE May 18, 2013 
9. Take a cooking class - DONE May 21, 2013 at David's Bistro in Antioch 
11. Climb the main dune at Sleeping Bear Dunes - DONE August 17, 2013 with Dave 
12. Learn a new skill - DONE April 24, 2013 Learned how to make a floral centerpiece 
14. Max out my employer match for my 403(b) in 2013 - DONE Increased my contribution to max out the match May 2, 2013  
21. Take the ferry from Milwaukee to Muskegon - DONE August 16, 2013 & August 24, 2013  
40. Have High Tea at the Peninsula Hotel - DONE June 2, 2013 with Lisa and Kim 
44. Attend the Book of Mormon - DONE October 6, 2013 with Laurie  
48. See Oklahoma at the Civic Opera House - DONE May 3, 2013 
50. Pet the stingrays in the Stingray Touch exhibit at the Shedd Aquarium - DONE May 18, 2013 
51. Use my Passport - DONE July 6-7, 2013 with Christopher  
52. Sit in the 3rd row for the Joan Baez and Indigo Girls Concert at Ravinia - DONE June 9, 2013 (Thanks Jeff!) 
53. Have drinks at the Trump Tower Terrace Bar - DONE June 16, 2013 with Christopher 
54. Visit Niagara Falls - DONE July 6-7, 2013 with Christopher 
55. Make homemade Granola - DONE May 27, 2013 (Read the blog post
57. Kayak to Camp Lookout and all the way across Lower Herring Lake (from the southern most tip to the northern most tip)- DONE August 18, 2013 with Dave 
58. Kayak on Lake Michigan - DONE August 24, 2013 with Dave 
59. Kayak from Lower Herring Lake through the inlet to Upper Herring Lake - Attempted August 24, 2013 with Dave, but unable to complete because the Inlet was too shallow, the current was too strong in the opposite direction we were going, and there were trees blocking the Inlet; will not try again 
61. Have a reunion with my cousin Ginny (have not seen her since 1998) - DONE July 7, 2013 
62. Have a reunion with my friend Christy (have not seen her since 1984) - DONE July 21, 2013 
63. Have a reunion with my cousin Sharon (have not seen her since sometime in the 1990s) - DONE August 2, 2013 
65. Get my work email inbox to ZERO - DONE May 24, 2013 (Read the blog post
67. Attend the Randolph Street Market - DONE June 29, 2013 with Tony 
68. Have a booth at the Allstate Arena Flea Market - DONE August 11, 2013 with Christopher (I made $212 profit!)  
71. Have a reunion with my friend Kalee (haven't seen each other since the late 1990s) - DONE April 11 and 14, 2013 (Read the blog post
72. Meet Crystal Gayle - DONE April 12, 2013 (Read the blog post
81. Win a game of Words With Friends by more than 400 points - DONE August 19, 2013 (it was less satisfying when I learned I had just played a 10 year old) 
83. Visit South Manitou Island - DONE August 21, 2013 with my dad 
84. Have dinner at Lovell's of Lake Forest (DONE July 2, 2013 with my dad) and meet Captain Jim Lovell
85. Attend the First Presbyterian Church of Lake Forest Rummage Sale - DONE May 4, 2013 with Tony 
86. Use a Port-a-Potty - DONE May 4, 2013 
87. Teach two LinkedIn classes at work - DONE July 23 (LinkedIn 101: Building Your Profile) and August 7, 2013 (LinkedIn 201: Advanced LinkedIn) 
88. Take Amy Guth's Crane #693 on adventures - had cocktails at the Trump Tower Terrace Bar, sat on stage at the Civic Opera House, gone to Niagara Falls, rode the Ferry from Milwaukee to Muskegon, climbed Sleeping Bear Dunes, visited South Manitou Island, watched the Watervale sunset, Richardsons Adventure Farm, so far. 
91. Recover gracefully from a very embarrassing work faux pas - DONE August 2, 2013 (trust me, this will be a great blog post) 
92. Visit the Mars Cheese Castle - DONE August 24, 2013 
94. Visit the Shedd Aquarium - DONE May 18, 2013 
100. Complete a corn maze - DONE October 12, 2013 with Chris, Alan, Jen, Katie & Steve 
106. See the band Alabama in concert - DONE August 30, 2013 at Ravinia  
111. Invent a holiday - DONE September 19, 2013 International Stay In Bed and Read A Book Day 
112. Eat dirt - DONE September 23, 2013 (Don't ask how or why) 
113. Drive a Tesla - DONE October 9th, 2013 Thanks Bobby!! (Read the blog post.) 
114. Have pneumonia. DONE September 25th - October 6th, 2013. 
116. Play on a Jumping Pillow. - DONE October 12th with Chris, Katie, Steve, Alan, & Jen. 
117. Have a new experience that cannot be shared on Little Merry Sunshine. - DONE August 16, 2013
50 new experiences in 6 months. Damn. I'm good.

I also have another 14 new experiences scheduled or in progress now:
13. Increase by savings account by 2 months worth of expenses - In Progress 
15. Try 20 new foods: Pork (DONE May 2013), Milk (I've just never liked the tastes), Eggs (I ate them up until 6th grade home ec class) (DONE August 18, 2013), White Fish Pate (DONE August 16, 2013), Cabbage, Kale, & Leek Soup (DONE August 20, 2013), a 7-11 Slurpee (DONE July 11, 2013) (National Slurpee Day), Tim Horton's Donuts (DONE July 7, 2013), Chocolate Cheese Fudge (DONE August 24, 2013), 14 Year Aged Sharp Cheddar Cheese (DONE August 24, 2013), Cheese Curds, Poutine, Ethiopian Food
29. Reupholster my dining room chairs - In Progress 
37. Give up Diet Coke (and all soda) for 30 days - This re-starts November 1st! 
38. Drink a minimum of 64 oz of water each day for 30 days - This re-starts November 1st! 
56. Visit the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum in Springfield, IL - Scheduled November 2013 
69. Open and stock an Etsy store. My store name is Vintage Frances. Look for it by December 1, 2013. 
73. Make at least three new friends - In Progress (2 new friends made) 
74. Attend the Chicago Architecture Foundation's Open House Chicago - Will be done October 19-20, 2013 
76. Host a Navy sailor from Great Lakes for Thanksgiving - Will apply October 2013 
82. Fly a kite - Attempted August 23, 2013, but failed (will try again) 
95. Create an awesome list of new experiences for April 11, 2014 through April 10, 2015 (started the  list August 25, 2013) - In Progress 
97. Complete Hike Lake County with my friends Jen and Alan (see August 12, 2012 blog post; we did not do it last year; best intentions, blah blah blah) - Scheduled August 15 - November 30, 2013 (Hike 1 done 9/8/13 at Independence Grove; Hikes 2 & 3 done 10/14/2013 at Old School Forest Preserve)
108. Take a glass blowing class - Scheduled for November 3rd with Marci
I'm feeling pretty confident that I'll make 100 new experiences before the year is up. Are there any experiences you want to join me in? Just let me know. Life is more fun when it's shared with friends. If you've got ideas for additional new experiences I should have, I'd love your ideas.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

New Experience #113: Drive a Tesla

Bobby's Tesla after I safely returned it.

The Tesla car hood logo.

Last night during my monthly massage with Bobby at Northwest Massage Therapy (go see him and tell him I sent you, trust me), we were chatting as we often do about politics, religion, world events, etc. when Bobby mentions he and his wife recently bought a new car. Then he casually tosses in that it's a $94,000 car.

A what? That's more money than my condo cost and more money than I've ever made in a year.

And then it hits me . . . he bought a Tesla. He'd been talking about it for awhile and I was thrilled they'd finally gotten it.

As he continues to tell me about all the bells and whistles this car has, he says, "would you like to drive it after your massage?" Um, Hell yes! That's not what I said though. I hemmed and hawed thinking, "I could never drive a $94,000 car!"

After my massage, we went outside so I could see the Tesla and so I could go home. Bobby unlocked the car so I see inside and then tells me to get in.

Thinking I'm just going to get in so I can see better, he walked around to the passenger side and got in. He showed me how to turn it on and taps the enormous dashboard screen to adjust the car for his wife (she and I are similar height). Suddenly the seat starts moving forward and up, the steering wheel adjusts, and all the mirrors move into place.

The next word I hear is "drive." So I did. I drove all around the parking lot and then Bobby says, "take a left on Irving Park." Okay.

So I drove to the Schaumburg Regional Airport (about a 5 minute drive).

The Tesla is completely silent and could have almost driven itself. It has a sunroof that is more like a convertible top in the way that it opens the entire roof. It goes just under 275 miles on one full charge and charging it for a month costs about $18, Bobby told me. He also told me that if he's driving from Chicago to Michigan, there are Tesla Supercharger Stations across the country that will charge the car for free and take about 30 minutes to fully charge it. The car goes from 0 to 60 in 4.2 seconds. Don't ask how I know. Take your foot off the gas and the car slows down as if you'd pressed the brake peddle.

I tried to convince Bobby to let me take the Tesla home and he could take my Camry. They're practically the same car, I argued. My powers of persuasion failed me and I drove my Camry home. Trust me when I tell you that driving a Camry after driving a Tesla feels like you're driving a horse and buggy.

I have to tell you, the Tesla is the greatest car I've ever driven. If I could afford a Tesla, I would buy one in an instant.

Thank you Bobby for giving me this awesome new experience!