Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Money: Who has it and where it goes

A short reflection today on two events from the past 24 hours...

#1 was a unforeseen consequences of something really good that went sideways, but then straightened out.  Last month, the MRI bill was just north of $2k. I figured I'd do half at the time and then half again. So I sent $1000 via my bank's bill pay system.

But THEN I got an EOB from my insurance carrier detailing a recoding and indicating the new MRI balance would be just over $340. (Thanks, MB, for the work on that end, btw!!!)

THEN I got this month's MRI bill showing that $340 amount and no recent payments.

Turns out that the account I had with the same provider was NOT the account number for the current visit. So my $1000 had gone into the ether to whence, we knew not. But phone calls were made and payment details passed on and today, I have been credited with the payment; MRI is paid in full and refund is en route via EFT and can be applied to something else.

#2 was a note from our friends at the IRS, wishing to confirm the return filed in my name and with my SS# was in fact filed by me. I am not due a refund this year (I underwithheld), but someone else submitted some other numbers that apparently supported them getting a nice comfy refund. And while they have been waiting, the IRS decided it was fishy. Good IRS. Let's make sure they remain adequately funded, shall we? The only real consequence for me is that I may NOT file electronically this year or possibly in the next several years. BuhBye TaxSlayer :P

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Spring! Good & Less Good things make for interesting days

I'm back to work as of yesterday. Have had a good couple of days catching up with all my students and the cast of my show. I am so very pleased with the accomplishments of the music director and choreographer, who've been running rehearsals while I've been gone. I had an amazing substitute (who is also one of my theater parents) who did a great job keeping my groups going up to spring break and then she teamed the final week with my student teacher, who has already started on his lesson for my Intro class. There are some challenges at work, though, so we'll see how that all shakes out.

I spent the weekend and part of the previous week, doing productive, but relatively undemanding work at my house. Some gardening and landscape work, but no heavy lifting (20# restriction was the thing for the last part of my time away from work). The home front has challenges lurking, too... spring break was supposed to be 8 days of being on top of my sloth-like remodeling effort, but that is largely on hold, as the reserves that were paying for it have been exhausted paying instead for this other thing. Thus the projects with no price tag except time and (eventually, now that I am cleared to do some more actual work) sweat.

Also spent some of the weekend sorting through various tupperware / rubbermaid containers, figuring out which connected to which MealTrain providers (that was an amazing several days of very good, no hassle food... so much thanks to Kirie for organizing it and making several deliveries). Going to return those this week.

Some of the bills are still just arriving. Saw first bills today from pre-op labs and anesthesia ($272.38 and $462.00). Also got the updated balance from the pre-op MRI ($340.80). On the bright side, two providers are paid in full: the hospital & the eye doc, and I have balances partially paid, though with very close to $1200 remaining, collectively: neuro & ENT surgeons, who haven't sent updated bills.

The most troubling thing to come in the mail today was the note from the IRS indicating someone has already filed a return this year using my name and social security number. So yeah. That's fun.

Looking forward to having a regular month that only sees correspondence from the water district, Rogue Disposal, Pacific Power, and the internet provider :)

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

One Week Ago

It was this time last week that I was emerging from anesthesia and getting my bearings in the ICU at Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center. An update on what's happened since then:

I am largely OK. Using pain meds at a far lower rate than Rx allows, eating normally, taking my antibiotics. Vision didn't come back as quickly as last time (when it was noticeably better upon awakening), but it has crept back over recent days and I no longer have the cloudy sense when things are happening wide right of me. It may not recover fully, but it will again be functional for at least another seven years. Speaking of another seven years, I will plan my insurance package purchases more in tune with what might loom, so the deductible and out of pocket hits are far less extreme. I also don't want this to become a routine, so here's hoping science and technology gains some ground on my condition in the next half decade.

The effort to raise money to help me online is keeping pace with the bills. I haven't received the 'next wave' yet, and have gotten the 30 days or older notice on the MRI. That is my next payment, just over $2k. I expect I have about $1k per surgeon still to go. I'll post some specifics when I get the next round. The fundraising and what I've actually sent out are within a few hundred dollars of each other, so that's been a real help, but the woods are not behind me, yet. The remaining effort is about $5.5k from met and the remaining bills are about $4.5k known and a still some unknowns. My hope is I won't /need/ to raise it all, but it will sure be a relief if I do.

The MealTrain effort has been wonderful and tasty. Good food so far from families of a couple of my students, both of whom I have broader connections to that predate the current kid in the classroom. It's made life much easier to simply heat up some chicken or soup rather than wonder what there might be to eat.

My classroom is well in hand and my sub is a wonderful facilitator for my lesson content, as well as for communicating directly and for helping students to stay in contact via the appropriate school mechanisms. Makes this a lot easier than it might otherwise be.

I am enjoying spending time with Robert and look forward to being able to supervise (though not really pitch in) on some work being done here at the house. 

Thursday, March 3, 2016

My morning at RRMC

This AM has been spent at the hospital. The good news is that the overall billing has hit my cap and I will not be seeing a bill for the CT I just had. The other (not bad, per se) news is the surgery itself is what's hitting my cap and it IS being billed and will be the next thing I need to take care of. The estimated charges are just north of $70k, with allowable charges a tad over $58k, and when the dust settles, the amount left on my cap that the hospital actually expects is $4376. IF I can get that paid by the 13th, I can save nearly $600 (a hospital discount) and still have the full amount count toward my cap... So that is the next amount we need to hit and we are partway to it (with the movement on the YouCaring effort on my behalf, we've raised just over $4700 and that has all been applied to existing billing aimed at the $10k cap). Some of my own money also went there in January ($1200 down for the MRI), before the YouCaring effort launched. Some of that $10k is still 'pending' form the vision field test and the initial MRI ($2036 still owed there -- got that bill today), which haven't been paid in full, as yet.

My child care situation is stable, so far, but post-op could make it more complicated, so our next push needs to be to get to the $10k number, so I can get the hospital taken care of, then the final $2k may be far less urgent and may even be un-needed. Fingers Crossed!!

Monday, February 29, 2016

Social Media does things I didn't even know about

First, a big thanks to the care team for my son, who are keeping his life as normal as possible while his mom and I ramp up for me going in for surgery in a week. We have his day care split among three different providers (due to limits in their schedules): my mom (who will also be looking after him over night twice next week), the North Medford CDC, and a local in-home provider named Michelle (who we found on Craigslist). With my wife and I working the crazy schedules we do (me with a HS theater, her with an overnight 40 hours a week at the hospital), these folks see Robert for portions of 6 days each week.  I am actually really looking forward to getting some days with him in the coming weeks. The CDC can't do anything extra to help, schedule-wise, but they are a rock when it comes to being stable and supportive. Michelle is able to accommodate a lot more weirdness and I hope to be able to make that flexibility not be a hardship for her. And obviously, my mother will go from 8 hours a day two days a week to 21 hours each for the day of and day immediately following the surgery. And then she'll get to care for me, too, a couple of evenings after that.

Then the other thing that happened to today that I need to express some amazement and gratitude about is a thing called where one of my former students is coordinating meal prep for me and my family on some of the high stress days coming in the next two weeks.

I've had some amazing response and comments from people I'd lost touch with for years, including SCA friends I last saw in 2001, Wesleyan classmates I've only occasionally sparred with in facebook threads over the last 25 years, and SCA folks I've never even met in the context of an event. At least two former students brought me to tears with reflections of my role in their life that I had no awareness of...

A week from tonight, I'll be finished getting everything ready. I'll be in the hospital by 6am the following morning. If things go like last time around, I'll be under by 7:30am, and awake again around 4pm. Last time, I then watched the season premier of Battlestar Galactica on the tiny TV across the room form me in my recovery room and spent one night in that room before moving upstairs and having and additional night in a 'regular' room while they made sure everything was working right with me. Not sure what I'll do this time, but I am three weeks behind on Agent Carter :). Last time, Jenny Warren dumped all the Harry Potter books on me and I read the lot during my recovery. I started the series again just after Alan Rickman's death and am (slowly) repeating that effort. Feels like I should just call the Potterverse my recover reading for all things.

I do have one more pre-op appointment later this week... a Sinus CT and meetings with the anesthesiologist and the admit team. Not sure how and when the next wave of billing will hit, but as of today, all the things that are already due have been paid for by this online effort ($3200 of it has made it through to me, so far.. more should be in my account tomorrow AM). There is still a fair amount to go before the out of pocket cap is met, but my level of stress has plummeted over the past few days and that can only be a good thing!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Crowdsourcing Some Peace and Calm

A few days ago, I posted here about my recurring tumor and the complications it was causing for my life and wallet. A fundraising effort launched  over the weekend and as of this minute has raised nearly $4000 of a $12000 anticipated need. As a result, I've been able to keep my regular paycheck paying my regular bills on time and at normal amounts and I've also been able to pay 100% of the pre-surgical bills (vision screening, MRI, initial Neuro and ENT consults and surgical down-payments) incurred thus far. I do have one more pre-surgical appointment with the hospital in the middle of next week, but I should be OK for that, too, as far as immediate payment goes.

The truth remains that between the at least four different providers (Neuro, ENT, Imaging, Hospital), I am still working toward my out of pocket cap and that the combined total will exceed it, so by the middle of April, I will need to have sent $10k to these folks. A week ago, I had no idea how I would possibly manage that, but it seems the light at the end of the tunnel turned out to be more than 30 of my friends with metaphorical flashlights and a map of the way out.

Thanks again and I'll write more as I know more!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Once More, With Feeling.

UPDATE: Sunday, 1:34pm, Feb 20, 2016
My friend and colleague, Kendra Taylor, reposted this blog to as part of a fundraising effort on my behalf and so far, it's been a success. The effort has raised enough money to cover the pre-procedure costs and there is still time to maybe cover all or a good part of the rest. That campaign can be found here.Thanks to the 27 amazing people who've given thus far and the 252 times folks have shared to social media and encourage their friends to pitch in, as well. Some of the words that have been shared on my behalf are truly humbling. I am sure I will never be able to properly express the gratitude I am feeling about how this is unfolding, but for now, my many many thanks.

In 2007, I started to experience weird symptoms with my vision: I misjudged balls in flight in both my soccer and softball leagues; I couldn't hit a nail with a hammer, missing to one side or the other five or six times per nail; I had students 'appear' out of nowhere who'd been waiting patiently to speak to me, standing off to one side. I chalked it up to 'getting old' and looked for a good time in my relatively busy schedule to have my eyes checked. Nearly nine months of these symptoms persisted before I scheduled an appointment on the first day of Spring Break in 2008. After a local optometrist gave me a vision field screening, I was immediately referred for a: a second, much more specific vision field test b: an MRI of my brain and c: a neurological consult. Ten days after that first test, I was in surgery to have a tumor on my pituitary gland reduced (not removed...more on that below). The tumor—an adenoma, not malignant, but still—had grown in the space between the hemispheres of my brain and had pressed my optic nerve, causing a total loss of peripheral vision on both sides...

Fast forward to now. Some of the same vision issues emerged again in the late summer. I had a screening in the week between Christmas and New Year's: Same loss of peripheral vision is well on it's way (right side nearly gone, left side still relatively functional, but measurably deficient). MRI scheduled: Same tumor size and location confirmed. The previous effort was not able to remove 100% of the otherwise benign mass, due to proximity to major blood vessels as well as the gland and optic nerve, so the decision was to get as much as possible and then wait for (estimated) seven years or so until it was again big enough to cause problems. It's been nearly eight and the next round of surgery is scheduled for March 8, 2016.

I've been living a decent, but financially strained life. Since 2008, I've been engaged in a protracted remodel of a home (still unfinished), gotten remarried, and had a son. We have our resources at close to maxed out on a month-to-month basis and only become a two income home in October.  The past couple of years have seen us absorbing costs of college for my wife, the new baby, and unavoidable overseas travel following the death of my mother-in-law in Russia. Shouldering the additional costs of this medical procedure are going to be crippling. 

All of the pre-procedure costs will apply to, and likely meet, my $3000 deductible. Then many of the procedural costs are covered at 80/20, rather than fully. Insurance will cover every approved cost incurred after an annual out of pocket cap of $10000, but there are some other non-medical costs, like added child care expenses (since I will be on a lifting restriction and my wife cannot take 15 days off of work to care for me and the kiddo), ranging from maybe $500 to in the neighborhood of $2k over the months of March and April.

If I could spread $12k out over our next 12 months of paychecks, it would be barely manageable, and some of my other debts would have to be carefully prioritized and juggled and postponed... but I will be billed for over $5k it prior to March 8. The remaining $7k (estimated) will be billed by the end of March. At least $3500 of it (portions of the initial MRI and both of the surgical specialists) must be paid in advance (I still don't know about the hospital advance costs). None of my providers is able to extend repayment beyond 90 days and several won't go past 60. 

Clearly, I don't need help for ALL of this, but I sure do need some of it, and I need it soon! Thoughts?