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Thursday, March 25, 2010

And so it has passed...

Many acquaintances and coworkers have asked my opinion of the Healthcare Reform Bill, mostly because of my position as a Patient Account Representative at our local clinic.  To be honest, while I followed the coverage to see if it would pass, I hadn't paid much attention to the details of the bill.  I'm under no delusions that the United States Government has my best interests at heart, but that being said, I'm not a Republican.  I agree the Healthcare system is badly broken and needs to be fixed, and it will take the government to straighten it out and make it fair for everyone.  Insurance companies do not look out for their insured’s best interest and health, regardless of what they tell you.  I see too many instances of surgery being denied and the patient limping away, only to injure themselves because of their instability and go through more surgery later that was emergent. They deny care everyday to thousands of individuals, citing their medical policies and review by a physician that is paid by said insurance company.  I’m sure if said physician wishes to be paid, he will not approve everything that comes across his desk.  Insurance companies have been allowed to run amuck for too many years now.  Despite this, I grew tired of hearing both sides bicker back and forth and getting nowhere, but sadly this seems to be the norm in Washington.  I tuned it out and went on with my life, trying to help those I could with charitable foundations.  A list of those will be at the end of this post.

Well, now it's been passed, and I'm left wondering...how is going to affect me the patients that come through my door?  This is important to me, because day after day patients come to me because they have no resources to pay their bills.  They have been denied state Medicaid, they can't afford the HIP program, they are not working, and so they have no employer coverage, they've applied for disability and it's in appeal...the list goes on and on.  I won't go into a rant about those individuals who are on state Medicaid and come in with fake nails, the most expensive cell phones, and drive a Cadillac.  That's for another post.

So, what's in this mysterious reform bill?  I refuse to trust biased media outlets to get my information, despite their claims of being "fair and balanced".  So, I went straight to the PDF file of the bill, and realized that I've never liked, nor been able to coherently decipher the language they use.  But, let's see what I can come up with.  It’s 1,018 pages, to be exact, so this won’t all be in one post.  And don’t plan on me reading every single page!

RESTRICTIONS ON PREMIUM INCREASES.—

The issuer cannot vary the percentage increase in the premium for a risk group of enrollees in specific grandfathered health insurance coverage without changing the premium for all enrollees in the same risk group at the same rate, as specified by the Commissioner.

 Hrm…well, good and bad.  One person won’t have higher premiums than the other, but the entire group’s rates could go up because of one person being chronically ill and requiring constant treatment.  I think this happens quite a bit with group health insurance plans.  I think the Insurance industry’s response will to just raise all rates across the board. 

SEC. 111. PROHIBITING PRE-EXISTING CONDITION EXCLUSIONS.

A qualified health benefits plan may not impose any pre-existing condition exclusion (as defined in section 2701(b)(1)(A) of the Public Health Service Act) or otherwise impose any limit or condition on the coverage under

the plan with respect to an individual or dependent based on any health status-related factors (as defined in section 2791(d)(9) of the Public Health Service Act) in relation to the individual or dependent.

I’ve heard conflicting accounts of this very important bit of this bill.  It’s for children only, and adults will be added in about four years or so. Not sure about that because I’ve not read further.  But, this is a very good thing!  I have patients who cannot get coverage for RA biologic infusions because it was considered pre-existing.  It should be across the board for everyone, no matter what their age. 

That’s all I’ve time to decipher at the moment.  I did save the bill in its entirely on my flash drive, so I’ll be reading it from time to time and posting about it here.

Now for a list of those charitable organizations.  These links are for help with the cost of medications only.  Some have fees that roll on a monthly basis, so if you need this help, make sure you are applying at the beginning of the month.  Many only cover certain conditions as well, so check out their disease pages before applying.

Healthwell Foundation

PAN

PAF

NeedyMeds

Remember to always check with the company that produces your drug for their assistance programs.  Many are based on income, and you may qualify for free medication.  If you’re on Medicare, Medicaid, or any other federally funded program, you will need to contact the Healthwell Foundation or PAN for assistance.  Government regulations prohibit drug companies from providing assistance to federally insured people.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Retrospection on the eve of Accomplishment...

Yesterday evening I attended rehearsal for the 2010 SMWC Ring Day Ceremony. This event will take place tomorrow- *gasp*! Distance students, graduate students and the campus Junior class all mingled in preparation for this ceremony. I can happily say the campus students were very welcoming to those who only show up a few times a year. We walked up and down the aisles of The Church of the Immaculate Conception about twenty or so times, making sure our processional and recessional was perfect. I swear the music was from The Sound of Music, and expected at any moment to hear "How do you solve a problem like Maria?". We sang the Ring Song, once very badly, and another time quite well, with the help of the SMWC Madrigals. During this I learned that we have all much in common despite being from a multitude of different age ranges and goals in life, and my shoes are very uncomfortable when standing for long periods of time. Oy.

In an earlier post I talked about how long it's taken me to get to this point, and now it's the eve of the ceremony, and I have many emotions running through me. Happiness, because it's a symbol of accomplishment, something that I have so little of in my life, with the exception of husband, baby, etc. Nervousness. Why? Many reasons. I had thought to volunteer to take part in the ceremony, as there were speaking parts available, but when the email came asking to confirm volunteers, I decided not to, and I am glad. I am nervous enough about walking on what I realized last night is a very slick floor. Imagine my nerves if I had a speaking role?! Mrs. Bennet would have nothing on me! Plus, this way I can sit back and enjoy the ceremony, and not worry about whether or not I'll get tongue tied at the lectern. So nervous, yes, but just because there is the opportunity to fall flat on my face in a spectacular fashion in front of almost 500 people.

I'm also nervous because deep down I wonder if I truly deserve this. I was the college student that sat in the commons during class, talking with friends and eating Subway for breakfast. My friends claimed to be a bad influence, but really it was my own fault for not having the motivation to attend class. I wasn't mature enough to attend college, because I lacked the discipline to go to class and do the work. High school was easy for me, and I passed with little effort. College was another matter entirely. Add to this I had no idea what I wanted to do, and very quickly I was working full time and not attending college at all. Do I regret this? Yes and no. Yes, because at 34, I long to be in a career of my choosing, and not a job that just pays the bills. Bill paying is important, of course! But being happy in one's job is also important. I have to wonder what kind of career I'd be in now if I hadn't of sat in the commons stuffing my face.

And the no? If I hadn't of done all of that, I may not be where I am today; on the cusp of achieving a wonderful accomplishment for me personally. It's a double-edged sword I suppose.

So I will take a page out of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, "Think only of the past as its remembrance gives you pleasure." Chapter 58.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Taking the leap...

So I am about to take the leap into website writing, or what you may recognize as content writing. In a recent interview with the career center at my university, where I conveyed my panic to the director of the career center because I don't have any practical experience to back up my love for reading, writing, etc., I was given many ideas to further my knowledge outside the "classroom" and gain some experience. Talking with other writers within the college, speaking with publicity and see if they needed a creative writer for any of their projects, chatting with the head grant writer, speaking with alumni who work in the publishing industry... The list is long and the people on it are strangers to me. Ergo, my first dip into the frigid waters of cold calling, or cold emailing, in this case. Brr!

One of those ideas that has bore the most fruit was to assist in the rewriting of several pages on SMWC's website, mostly the majors and minors. Okay...I can do that, I think. The leap I am about to take will throw me into the world of META keywords and a little SEO writing. Oh yes...panic set in as I frantically Googled META keywords. Having heard of them, but not knowing what exactly they were was a cause for concern for me. How could I help rewrite a website if I had no idea what on earth they were talking about?! Then self-doubt crept in ever so slowly, winding its way through my brain. I had no idea what any of this was, and despite my warnings to the webmaster that I was virtually clueless when it came to website design, I knew for sure that this would end in disaster. I've not even started yet and I get nervous when I see the webmaster has emailed me. I'm hopeless it seems. I plan spending the weekend submerged in the world of SEO and META keywords and maybe I can get a grip.

And to further my portfolio, I hope, after many years of procrastinating, I finally submitted a short story to the Aurora, SMWC's literary magazine. I've not heard anything yet (not even confirmation that my submission was received, grumble, grumble...) but I hope my little bit of happy fluff might catch someone's eye and end up in the publication. I've also been trying to work with the newspaper, The Woods, into maybe doing some work for them, but the faculty advisor hasn't gotten back with me yet. It's a busy time of year, so who knows what will happen with that. I have some ideas, but no confidence they would fit in with a student newspaper. I'm not on campus, so I have no idea what the important topics for students much younger than me are.

I feel very old when I read that sentence.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The world of Jane Austen fan fiction, from one who has been living there...

As many of you know, I am a HUGE Jane Austen fan, and an avid reader of Jane Austen fan fiction (JAFF) and sometimes writer of them as well. This little addition helped fuel my passion for writing and I only have Amber and her beloved Hyacinth Gardens to "thank" for that. Since my introduction to this genre, I have spent many happy years reading about Darcy and Elizabeth, in many, many different forms- duchess, cowboy, journalist, cellist, etc. The creativity of those who write JAFF astounds me, and I commend the entire JAFF community for such artistic works. One never knows what to expect, or what kind of twist you'll see next. This humble writer could never aspire to such talent as seen on many JAFF sites.

What is it about these characters that inspires us so? The majority of JAFF are stories based on Pride and Prejudice, Austen's most popular novel. Darcy and Elizabeth have a tight hold over readers and writers, and those who dare to stray from cannon Darcy should expect many cries of outrage and questions into their reasoning. Fitzwilliam Darcy, gentleman, is allowed, but any other Darcy in any shape or form is critically analyzed and the writers integrity sometimes called into question. Why? What is it about this fictional character that drives grown women to argue over how a fan fiction author has portrayed him in a fictional story? To quote myself, it's not as if Darcy is going to walk out of a pond in a post-modern moment, ala Lost in Austen. The JAFF is a world where Darcy is always the hero, and Elizabeth always the witty, intelligent heroine. But what happens when a writer decides to push boundaries and make Darcy into something darker, and sometimes more fitting with how gentlemen actually were in Regency times? The author gets page after page of horrified comments mixed in with those eternal optimists who declare they will wait it out for the perfect Darcy and Elizabeth ending. Darcy can be redeemed and then they can have their storybook happily ever after ending. Why? What is it that makes us require a Darcy and Elizabeth only happy ending? Being one of the two most beloved characters in literature, it's hard to imagine Darcy and Elizabeth with any other person, and many refuse to contemplate such an ending. I am heartily amused by those readers, and love them dearly, for there are none more loyal than a Pride and Prejudice purist. I myself am not one, but I respect those who cannot handle anything other than a "D&E ending."

What about Austen's other books, you ask? Well, there is a smattering of fan fiction based on Emma, Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion and Mansfield Park, and perhaps one or two based on Northanger Abbey, Austen's satire on gothic novels and my personal favorite among her works. These are few and far between, and all are delightful looks into the what-if world of these novels. All have love stories, of course, and their share of witty ladies, elegant gentlemen and charming villains. And of course, each book has been made into at least one TV series, some multiple times, and Pride and Prejudice can claim its own motion picture. These productions and their actors have inspired many a story. Anyone ever hear of some bloke named Colin Firth?

The world of JAFF is a fun one, and can provide many years of enjoyment, especially now that many of these stories are being picked up by publishing houses. JAFF in print is becoming very popular and you can find many books to purchase at various sites, and many directly from the JAFF forums. Almost two years ago, I was given the opportunity to become a moderator on my favorite JAFF site, and I took the chance happily. In those almost two years, I worked with sensational women who are not only talented writers themselves, but readers of the fandom. So of course, we got along famously! I made friendships to last a lifetime. I'm sad to say I am no longer a moderator on that favorite board, but I can look back on my past with pleasure, and feel proud of what I accomplished for the JAFF community. There are many, many sites devoted to JAFF, too many to list here, and ones coming online all the time, but a quick Google search of JAFF will bring up enough to get you started. Then you can access the amazing Jane Austen Fan Fiction Index (JAFF Index), run by the lovely Victoria. (each site has its own password) This index is a treasure trove of links to stories categorized by their themes. If you want an angsty, dark Darcy, or a fun-loving romp, you can choose your category and browse at your leisure.

So, go forth and read! Or, if you are brave, go forth and write! There's room for everyone!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A long time coming....

In a little over a week, I will become one of the many who wear a St. Mary-of-the-Woods College class ring. It's a well-recognized piece of jewelry, and symbolizes my academic achievement. Of course, I've not completely achieved what I want academically, but I guess it will show that I am on my way. I've determined I won't graduate until 2012, and while that may seem a long way off, when I look at the amount of classes I have left to complete in between now and then, I start to panic...only slightly. It will pass...

This is something I've worked very long and hard for. I can't remember when I decided I wanted to go to SMWC, as I had spent time at two other local colleges trying to obtain an education. Community college- Ivy Tech- worked well, but it didn't give me what I wanted, and I could only get an Associates degree. Nothing against Associates degrees or anyone that gets them, but I wanted more, and I couldn't explain why- it was just what I wanted. I wanted a Bachelor's degree, and would have it. Ivy Tech had an agreement with SMWC for transfer students, and I jumped at the chance. I suppose I could have stayed at Ivy Tech long enough to earn the Associates and then move on to SMWC, but I had no desire to. I wanted to be back at SMWC and in the WED program, again, for good. Yes, again...I was there once before in a misguided attempt to become a paralegal. I have no idea what I was thinking, but I'm glad I came out of my misguidedness. I would have made a horrible paralegal, despite how good of a legal assistant I was. Coincidentally the paralegal program at SMWC is one of the best in the country...go figure.

It's finally becoming real, and I have no idea what to do about it. There's a reception with the President of SMWC on Thursday before the ceremony, where he will meet and greet WED and graduate students that he does not get to see on a daily basis. This is the first male president for the all women's college, and already I have seen some of his goals come to life. It will be an honor, albeit a nervous one, to meet him. I'm looking forward to meeting other WED and graduate students as well.

Anyway...here I am, 11 days from the Ring Day Ceremony, dress purchased, and shoes...well...I'll find some eventually. Here is what Caris is wearing to the big day. Now if I can just find something to wear to the reception...