Some things I wish were covered by health insurance

January 28, 2014

I look at the many, many medical thing I pay for that aren’t covered by insurance, and I wonder why they aren’t covered. I would think that most of these would be cost-effective for the insurance company. I won’t go into the financial aspects now, but I just want to mention a few of the things that I think should be covered. Please add your own in the comments!

  • Supplements. If prescription medications are covered with a copay, why aren’t supplements? My doctors all want me to take multivitamins, vitamin D, calcium, and others. They tell me to. Yet the supplements aren’t covered.
  • Massage therapy. Ok, I found out yesterday that it’s covered, but only if I get a prescription for physical therapy, find a physical therapist who does massage therapy, and get it billed as a physical therapy session. And it counts as part of my physical therapy sessions for the year, which aren’t unlimited, so that means I’ll get fewer other physical therapy sessions. But I think it’s necessary. It’s expensive, so I only do it 1-2 times per year, even though my doctors and physical therapists say I should do it 1-2 times per month. A few days ago, my neck hurt so much that I could barely turn my head. After today’s massage therapy, I feel so much better. I can turn my head again!
  • Acupuncture. This has been one of only two things that has ever helped my chronic pain, and yet it’s not covered! I can go to a pain clinic under insurance, even though it won’t help, but they won’t pay for acupuncture treatments.
  • Marijuana. In fairness, medical marijuana is new in my state, but I still doubt insurance will cover it any time soon. They pay for all sorts of painkillers that have lousy side effects and that don’t do much to help me, but they don’t pay for marijuana, which is the only thing besides acupuncture that helps the pain. I don’t use it often, but when I need it, I want to have it handy, without worrying about the ability to pay for it.
  • Orthodics. My insurance covers a visit to the podiatrist and it covers physical therapy. But for some odd reason it does not cover my orthodics, even though they are completely necessary to prevent all sorts of problems. I am completely lost as to why they aren’t covered.
  • More mental health visits. I get so few, it doesn’t even seem worth going. I’d run out just as the doctor was starting to know me, and I wouldn’t be able to pay out of pocket, so why bother? So I’m missing out on useful treatments because of inadequate coverage.
  • Naturopaths. I can’t really blame the insurance company here, but I still wish naturopaths were covered, like they are in other states and in other countries. Unfortunately, the state of Massachusetts won’t license naturopaths, despite all of the good they can do, so insurance doesn’t cover them. That means that I have to pay out of pocket, even though my naturopath has been more helpful than the 10 previous doctors I had seen, combined.
  • Various tests. There are many very valid tests that aren’t covered by insurance. Some are used in medical research. For certain things, they are more accurate than the covered blood tests. The insurance company will cover the inaccurate blood test, but not the saliva test or urine test that’s more accurate. Lovely.

Those are a few of the things I wish my health insurance covered. I know I’m lucky. I have one of the best health insurance plans in the state, and access to pretty decent care. Still, after rent well over half of my spending is for medical care, and that’s even with health insurance. So yeah, I wish this other stuff was covered. What about you? What do you wish was covered by your health insurance?

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How chicken ruined my laundry plan

January 22, 2014

The plan was simple: breakfast then rest then laundry then lunch then more laundry then more rest. I’d scheduled today for laundry several days ago. I was ready. I was desperate. I was running out of clean, comfortable underwear.

It started out ok. I ate breakfast, and rested, but then I was really cold so I took a hot shower, so I had to rest some more. I was starting to get the clothes ready, but then I remembered that I meant to get dinner started in the crockpot. I set aside 20140102_214125the laundry prep and headed to the kitchen. This is the easiest way for me to “cook.” I just throw some ingredients in the crockpot and then leave it for 6 hours or so. But as I was getting it ready, I realized what the odd smell in my kitchen had been – the chicken was no good.

Crap. Now what? I had two issues: I couldn’t make dinner and I had smelly, expensive chicken in my kitchen. The first wasn’t too bad. I had other food, so I didn’t mind waiting. But I needed to return that chicken. It was too expensive to throw out, and I didn’t want it smelling up my kitchen. I was too tired now for laundry, so I figured I’d do that after lunch, then return the chicken. But that was no good. What if I was too tired to leave the house? Better to do the thing that meant leaving the house, I decided, and do the indoor chore after. So I returned the chicken.

Once I got to the store it was quick and easy. I bought new chicken breasts that I can put in the crockpot tomorrow. No worries. I needed to stop at another store while I was out, but I was just too tired. I’d been pretty active the last 4 days, and 4 consecutive days of leaving the house is my limit. Often I can’t even manage 4. Today was #5. Oh boy. So I skipped that second errand.

And now it’s almost 4pm. My neighbors will be coming home in the next couple of hours, which means I’ll have more competition for the washing machines and dryers. My brain is saying I should just do the laundry and get it overwith, but my body is just So. Damn. Tired. I’m still hoping to do laundry later today but first, I think I’ll go lay on the couch and watch some tv. It’s not my first choice. In fact, if I’m not going to do laundry then I’d rather read my book, make some phone calls, work on an article I was asked to write for a newsletter, or even play solitaire. But I’m just too tired, so I’ll be resting on the couch. And if I can’t do laundry today, then tomorrow I’ll just have to wear the too-small underwear that rides up my butt. So be it.

I blame the chicken.

Note: If you’re tempted to suggest I use a laundry service, read this.


Why I can’t get comfy for sleep: too many body parts

January 19, 2014

When I got into bed last night, I went through my nightly ritual of trying to get comfortable. And I wondered how many other people go through the same thing night after night.

Some nights I have a lot of extra pain. I’m not talking about those nights. No, I’m talking about the nights that I have my 20130828_171154typical levels of aches and pains. These are the aches and pains that I can mostly ignore while I’m sitting up and moving around, but it gets harder when I lay down and gravity seems to work in different ways.

The lower half of my body isn’t too bad. It’s achy, but I can rearrange myself easily enough. It’s the top half of my body that just feels too crowded. I have to find places for my arms and for my hands, and I have to arrange them around, over, or under my head. My too-big boobs always get in the way. No two nights are the same. One night I can have my hand under my head, the next night that hurts. Some nights I can bend my fingers, some nights I can’t. Some nights I’m feeling overheated and I keep my arms out of the covers, other nights I’m cold and I curl up tight under all of the blankets. Some nights the weight of the blankets feels great, and some nights it causes extra pain. Some nights I can sleep on my stomach, others I need to sleep on my side. Some nights I sleep naked, others I sleep with pjs. Some nights I can shift my boobs around, others they just won’t get out of the way.

Maybe healthy people have this problem too. I wouldn’t know. What I do know is that every night I play a little game of body origami as I try to stretch, bend, and rearrange my body parts in a way that lets me sleep somewhat comfortably without triggering extra pain, and without my body parts getting in the way of one another. So far, most nights, it works out in the end. I sure hope that continues!


Why I haven’t showered lately

January 16, 2014

This is the kind of stuff I wish the social security and insurance folks would see. My hair is stringy and I just feel sort of, kind of, well…. gross. I’m sure you know the feeling. We’ve all had to go days without a shower before. It can be because of the flu or a sprained ankle or stitches that can’t get wet. It happens. And this is one of those times for me, but the situation is less acute.

Earlier this week I made the mistake of taking a shower. I shower most days when I can. I know it’s not good for my already-dry skin or for my terrible body temperature regulation, but I find it refreshing. The other day, though, was a mistake. I’d been home for most the previous week because I was in too much pain to go out. That day, I felt like I might finally be able to manage a trip to the grocery store, but the shower destroyed those meager hopes. Suddenly, I was in so much pain I could barely stand, never mind walk to my car and then walk around a store. And forget about actually driving. I thought I might go later, but the combination of the shower and the pain were so exhausting that I just didn’t have the energy.

Yesterday I figured I should try going to the grocery store again. This time, I skipped the shower. I thought I might shower later, but I was just too tired from shopping. Still, I had groceries* and, even better, I’d gotten out of my apartment and experienced fresh air. Finally!

Today I had to make another choice. I could feel that if I took a shower, that would be it for me, and I had a family member I really needed to visit. I debated, then skipped the shower. Tonight, I thought about showering, but had to choose between that and cooking dinner. I chose to cook dinner.

I am not complaining about the lack of showers. Talk about a first world problem! I’m so fortunate to turn the faucets and have clean water come out any time of the day and night. I once lived in a place that was prone to droughts. No one there ever showered two days in a row, so I didn’t either. That was fine. Really, I don’t mind the lack of showers too much. What I mind is the reason for the lack of showers. My choices shouldn’t be

  • groceries vs. shower
  • family vs. shower
  • cooking vs. shower
  • feel not completely horrible vs. shower

These are lousy choices. Just pitiful. These are the choices that most people don’t know we have to make regularly. They don’t see this part. They see me walk from the car to the grocery store and give me a dirty look for parking in a handicapped parking space. They don’t know what I had to give up just to get to the store, or how tiring and painful it will be for me to get home again. They don’t understand the constant decision-making, prioritizing, choosing. They don’t understand that working at a paying job is completely out of the question, because even getting to the job every day is impossible. These are the things most people don’t see.

So the next time a doctor or an insurance person asks for an example of why I can’t work, I won’t bother to tell them about pain and exhaustion. I’ll just tell them I had to choose between taking a shower and cooking dinner. Maybe that will help to clear things up.

*For those who read the last post, yes, I finally have some bananas!


All I want is a banana!

January 13, 2014

The title of this article isn’t a euphemism. I mean, I’d like sex too, but right now, I’d just really like to get my hands on a banana.

Within 2 blocks of my apartment building there are at least 4 places where I can buy bananas. Groceries, pharmacies, and convenience stores all them, so they’re easy to find. Unfortunately, these days they aren’t easy to get to. Thanks to pain in my toes, walking is really difficult. I’m managing to get to and from the bathroom, kitchen, and living room in my fairly small apartment, but it still hurts. Walking all the way down the hall, down the stairs (or standing in the elevator), down the walkway, and to my car is a horrible experience, and that’s before I even go anyplace. I keep thinking I’ll drive to the grocery store, but getting to the car feels too hard right now, never mind actually walking through the store. And the truth is, I’m not able to stand long enough to cook, anyway, so I’m just eating a lot of leftovers from my freezer these days.

The thing is, I want to make a fruit smoothie. And I want to put a banana in that smoothie. I have the rest of the fruit in the freezer, but I need fresh bananas. On a good day, this is easy. I pick up bananas while I’m at the grocery store, or I walk down the street to pick them up. But when walking is impossible, then even a banana is beyond reach.

There are a lot of place I’d like to go this week. I’d like to get to the library, visit a sick relative, and run some errands. But the banana is my measuring stick. If I can’t even manage to get a banana then I know I can’t manage the other things.

So as frustrating as it is, I am staying home. I am sitting and keeping my feet off the floor. And I’m eating oatmeal instead of a smoothie. But one day soon, I hope, I’ll get that banana.


Guilty until proven innocent

January 8, 2014

Doubts. They come from parents, friends, children, siblings, doctors, co-workers, classmates, bosses, teachers, and strangers.

I get dirty looks when I park in a handicapped space. Doctors have questioned if it was “all in my head.” My sister thinks I exaggerate my problems.

And then there’s the government and insurance companies. I was denied long term disability insurance, but incredibly, I won the appeal. I applied for the disability version of medicaid and was denied. Luckily, I qualified for and received the low income version. I applied for social security disability insurance and was denied. I appealed and was denied again. Now I have a hearing coming up very soon.

I know this is considered standard practice, but it’s not right. They are so concerned about fraud that truly sick people go without the benefits we deserve. There was another article in the paper today about a massive fraud scam. These people are scum. But just because they fraudulently got SSDI, does that mean I should be scrutinized so much harder? There will always be assholes and criminals in this world, but I’m tired of being treated like one just because others exists. I’m tired of so many people assuming I’m not truly sick. They seem to assume I’m guilty of lying to them, of fraud, until I convince them otherwise. The burden is on me to convince them that I’m sick, even as I’m too sick to do so properly.

The system is broken. Anyone who has tried to get through it knows this. And I’m so damn tired of being punished because other people  get away with fraud. Don’t punish me for their guilt. I didn’t do it. I’m innocent. And I deserve to be treated as such.

If only others felt the same way.


Broken leg vs. chronic pain

January 7, 2014

It was unseasonably warm here in Boston yesterday, so of course I was in excrutiating pain. It’s an odd symptom, but it’s a consistent one. I made a comment about how I was probably the only person in the city who was looking forward to today’s brutally cold temperatures. A neighbor pointed out the risk for slipping on the ice and breaking a leg.

I understand why he was concerned, since he had a bad fall on the ice once before and did break bones. On the other hand, he just wasn’t listening to what I was saying. Yes, today he might fall, and if he does then he might get hurt. But yesterday I was definitely in horrible pain. I won’t debate which kind of pain is worse, since I’ve never broken a bone and have no way of knowing. But I do know that his healed and he’s now pain-free. I can’t say the same.

I’ve encountered this kind of thing so many times, and you probably have, too. People assume that their potential for pain is to be avoided at all costs, even if it means I’ll definitely be in pain. In this case we’re talking about the weather, so we can’t control it, but it happens in other ways, too. They think they’re worse off having to climb 5 flights of stairs with a healthy body than I am if I have to climb one flight with a sick body. I remember climbing 5 flights with a healthy body. I used to do it a lot. I didn’t like it, but 10 minutes later I’d forgotten all about it. I can’t say the same now. Now, 1 flight could hurt for the rest of the day.

Other people’s pain matters. I’m not saying that it should be ignored. But just because I’m in pain every day, doesn’t mean that I don’t want to avoid making it even worse than it already is. It’s not a contest. Really, it isn’t. But shouldn’t the definite be avoided even at the cost of creating a possibility?


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