Friday, January 23, 2015

Health Care NOT gov part 3

After smashing my left elbow to smithereens, I entered the health care system.  The dizzying world of forms, tests, questions, forms, people, forms...

Now I have to say everyone -to a person- was wonderful to work with.  The nature of my injury inspired sympathy and great care.  But there is a lot of waiting.  Waiting and paperwork.

Samaritan's was fantastic during this time.  They promptly told me what to do and got the paper work to me.  After the initial phone menu, I was always directly connected to a real live person and I do not recall being put on hold.

I was instructed to say I was a self-paying patient and to ask for a discount.  This was incredibly empowering.  There was only one instance where I had to ask to speak to a supervisor.  My discounts ranged from 15-50%.  The only thing not discounted was the internal hardware (pins, plates, screws and coral) which cost a daunting $3,771.  Yikes.  And it just looks like a bunch of stuff from our local Ace.

Anyway.  My costs before discounts totaled about $20,000.  With discounts I was able to get it down to about $15,000.

Our insurance companies and Medicare and Medicaid negotiate with our health care system all the time.

And you can too.

If your next medical bill does not reach your deductible?  Tell them you are self-paying, which you are at that point, and ask for their best discount.  Heady stuff.

I am practiced at saving money at the grocery store and aim for about 40% savings.  But in medical costs when you can save 25%,  you are talking some real  money.

We went ahead and paid my bills on our credit card and we will get one percent cash back (what is in your wallet?).  One percent of $15,000 is $150.00.  Also, all my discounts get applied to my $300 deductible so if I understand this correctly all my deductible will be wiped out.

The Samaritan's share checks for my need will start arriving next month and should all be in just in time to pay that credit card bill.

Stay tuned to see if everything works out according to plan.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Health care NOT gov part 2

                                                   red-bellied woodpecker

see health care NOT gov part 1 here

I was searching for a rare bird, much like the red-bellied woodpecker above.  That rare bird was AFFORDABLE insurance.

It was an elusive thing.

Then I remembered that my son's brother-in-law and sister-in-had some sort of alternative to 'regular' insurance.

I sent a note with some questions to Kelly:

  • What 'insurance' do you have?
  • Are you happy with it?
  • Is it affordable?
  • Have you used it?
  • How does it work?

She answered these questions and more.

  • Samaritan's Ministries
  • Yes.
  • Yes.
  • Yes. 
  • It works beautifully 
They put their Samaritan's Ministries to the test.  Read their miraculous story here.

I was privileged to witness this incredible event.  Really, read it.

I began investigating Samaritan's Ministries to see if it would suit my purposes.

Long story short?  It would.

The language is different for Samaritan's.  Not insurance, but health care sharing.  Not premiums, payments are called shares.  You don't file a claim, you make known your need.

It follows the Biblical model of Galatians 6:2., bearing one another's burdens.

Here is how it works in a nutshell:
My individual share is $180 a month.  My first three shares were sent to the corporate office.  After that I send my $180 directly to an individual or a family with a need.  Addresses provided.We are encouraged to send a note along with our checks. For example, I recently sent a check to a couple that had a miscarriage.  I was able to send them verses and lyrics to a hymn that were particularly  comforting when I had my miscarriage.

To become a member of Samaritan's, you have to agree to a few things.  You must be a member and regular attender of a church (your pastor signs a form for you stating that this is so).  No tobacco or illegal drug use. No alcohol, although an occasional celebratory drink is

No pre-existing conditions are covered, although they will make needs known and  individuals who are able may send you a check to help with expenses.
For example, because the published needs were lower than anticipated, our share rate dropped last month from the standard $180 to $149.  Below the address I was to send my shares to, was an unpublished need of a lady who had a pre-existing condition of uterine cancer. We invited to send our extra $31 dollars to her.  Since that money was already budgeted for my health care shares, I did.

Yes, I signed up. Last May.

When I first signed up, there were about 36,000 members.  Now? 40,000.

And soon, I would be putting my Samaritan's health sharing network to the test.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Health care NOT gov part 1

                                                      In the backyard on any given day

Before we moved from Tennessee, I started checking to see if my health insurance coverage would transfer to Wisconsin.  It would not, but I was told I would be given a 90 day grace period to find a new policy.

Imagine my surprise when I received a letter at the end of January 2014 telling me that my coverage had been terminated on January 7, two weeks into my 'grace period'.

Suddenly uninsured, I went on the popular (snicker) health care dot gov site and plugged in my info.  Previously my monthly premium was $338.  I was dismayed to find that new premium would be $568.

No good.

It was a Friday afternoon.  The end of the month of January.  The deadline for having one's health insurance in place. I could tell I was going to need something fast.  I don't do fast well.  More of a tortoise than a hare.

Not comfortable making a snap decision I purchased a three month non renewable policy, major medical, high deductible.  Really high.

Thankfully I did not need to file any claims during this time.

And the hunt was on for something affordable.

Monday, January 19, 2015


We moved into this house in the middle of September.  We unpacked, set up our new systems for this house, worked around our friends hired to do the remodeling.
We continued our volunteer work – at Needs ministry and at church.  Things were busy.  Just the right kind of busy.  A great mix of Bible study, children’s church, Needs and time with friends.
We became more and more acclimated to and in love with our home.  No longer a project – but ‘home’.
Our past two homes had vaulted ceilings.  Not necessarily the most energy efficient, but great for a sense of space and also for bringing in light.  In this house, we had standard 8 foot ceilings and we were both concerned about missing that sense of space and light.  I know, first world problems, right?
To combat this, we had a wood plank ceiling installed – painted a semi-gloss white.  It is very reflective and with all the windows we have in the living/dining room areas,  it feels quite light and airy and we don’t miss the vertical space.
Living in the woods is such a treat; we often see deer meandering through our back yard.  After my injury, when I spent a lot of time recuperating on the couch recuperating, Pat put two bird feeders up in the yard – a suet feeder and a sunflower seed dispenser.
It took a few days, almost a week – but the birds found us.  First the chickadees, then juncos, nuthatches, goldfinches and purple finches.  The suet feeder regularly hosts the woodpecker clan –  downy, hairy, red-bellied and pileated.  The woods is alive and it is easy to spend significant amounts of time watching the birds come in and take turns at the feeders.  The squirrels are active too, both black and gray, and so far have not proved the squirrel proof claims of the sunflower feeder wrong.

Last week Pat printed out our credit card activity for 2014.  We do not carry a balance on our card, but use it for most purchases because we get one percent cash back. We use that to our advantage.

Many of our new home purchases were put on there – lumber, cabinets, glass, - whatever we could to earn that 1%.

And then there was my elbow injury.  I am a self paying patient (that is a long article for another day) and  I put some of my surgical expenses on there

The print out Pat gave me was daunting.  The money spent for the house was planned.  The surgery was not.  The inconvenience of moving (oh, yeah and the vertigo I experienced for several days prior to our move), and the elbow injury let us rationalize  some rather lazy habits of grabbing fast or convenience foods, which brought our credit card expenses higher.

Again, we are so thankful that GOD has given us the ability to pay the balance off each month.  But I am DETERMINED to bring our costs down this year.  Way down.  I want to get my tightwad mojo back again.

I was very tempted to be worried about our spending the other day.
Until I looked out the window. Dozens of birds flitted back and forth.  They would take up a perch on a tree down the hill or off on the knoll and when they sensed the time was right, swoop in and avail themselves of the free food provided for them. 

Where one month ago there was nothing.

Oh me of little faith.
  Watching the birds reminded me of Matthew 6:25-34.  

You should read it.

Thursday, January 15, 2015


We had a delightful time last night celebrating a sweet young mom-to-be.  There were 15 or so of us gathered into a cozy home.  We ate delicious food, played a few fun games (oh, and?  I won.  :) ). It was wonderful to be in the company of so many young women who love Jesus.

The age range was twenty- something's to sixty-something's .  I reconnected with a good friend whom I have not seen in 7 years.  Nancy and I quietly chatted throughout the evening catching each other up on her four and my three children.  Celebrating God's goodness through the years.  Rejoicing in our blessings and affirming that even in painful, difficult times, God had not left us or forsaken us.

The hostess of the event called us together for a devotional time.  She read a Scripture passage - Psalm 127.  We moms, nodded and agreed that children are indeed a blessing from the LORD.

Then she pulled out a familiar looking book.  Her father bought it for her in an antique store, she said.  When she had her first born she said.  I did not know our hostess well at all, but saw one of her children last evening and he appeared to be 8 or 9.  Whether or not he was her first born I do not know.

What I do know is that as soon as Nancy and I saw the cover of the book and heard it had come from an antique store, we exclaimed.

We couldn't help ourselves.  This book was given to us by our local hospital when we had our babies.  Not all that long ago.  At least that is how it feels.

And now, it resides on shelves in antique stores.

We laughed so hard.  Our sweet little hostess apologized, afraid of offending us.

We were not offended.  We have learned to delight in our advanced age.

The blessing of old age is seeing GOD work.  Through the years and now through the decades.

I may be old; books I received what seems like only yesterday may be old; but seeing 
GOD at work?

That never gets old.

A picture of a very old book.  :)

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

No nukes

When we bought our home last summer, there were many things we wanted to update. The house is 20 years old and needed some fixin'.

The kitchen was basically fine. Good cabinets, great layout. The appliances, however, were all 20 years old and all mismatched. Black dishwasher, and microwave. Biscuit colored stove, white fridge. All had seen better days, but still worked. The resident cheapskate (moi) lobbied to keep them until they died and replace them as needed
I was overruled, but did not argue. J

We donated the appliances and starting shopping for new appliances. Stainless steel. We got a great deal at a local appliance store. Since we were buying a stove, fridge, dishwasher and microwave, we got a decent discount. Also? Rebates. Yes.

As we shopped for specific models we ran into a problem. None of the stainless steel microwaves fit over the stove. They fit width wise, but came down too far. No room to lift off a large kettle.

So, instead, we got a nice range hood.

We continued to investigate solutions for a microwave, but I was unwilling to give up counter space for a big appliance.

So? We have been living without a microwave since September. And I haven't missed it a bit.

Microwaves are a relatively new convenience, although it seems really hard to remember not having one. I think we have probably had one for 30 years.

Somehow, we manage to cook and reheat without that modern gadget.

Household microwaves were first available in the mid 1960's.

A lot of folks probably remember how to cook without a microwave.

And some folks are afraid to use a microwave.

I don't worry too much about microwaved food, but I do like having the space on the counter and appreciate not having lotsa dollars deducted from our account.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Witnessing faithfulness


Last night we had the opportunity to see our older two boys' first youth pastor and his wife. They currently serve as missionaries in eastern Europe, so it had been many years since we have seen them (7?).

We sat around the dinner table with other friends whose children had been privileged to learn from this couple.

Mel taught both older boys to play guitar. The boys play their guitars and lead worship to this day. Mel took them on their first mission trips. They have a passion for missions to this day. He taught them to love GOD, love people, love GOD's Word. Those lessons stuck.

We are so grateful.

I looked around the table; the couple to my immediate right were very instrumental in getting Mel and Amy to our church.

The couple to their right were very instrumental in getting our current pastor to our church. People of vision.

Next were Mel and Amy – it would be impossible to measure or exaggerate their impact on our family.

The next couple have shown their generosity and faithfulness in many ways. She is still recuperating from donating a kidney to a lady in our church. Extreme love in action.

Next sat a woman of prayer and great faith. Her husband was ill, but her 20 something son sat next to her. You should see this young man worship the LORD. Unabashedly, unashamed, enthusiastically. His love for GOD is contagious and obvious.

Next was our pastor, who faithfully brings the Word week after week.

What a blessing to be surrounded by such faithful, obedient people. I have to pinch myself sometimes.

I'm simply amazed that GOD has allowed me to count such wonderful people as friends.