Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Random Musings

The snow geese have arrived. 

They arrived later this year than in past years.  Probably because of the unseasonably warmer weather we have been having here in southern Delaware.  

I took this video last week, during my morning walk through the development where I live. My morning walk is one of my pure pleasures this time of my life.  On this particular morning, as I was completing my two and a quarter mile walk, the snow geese flew overhead. I looked up and let that good, natural feeling of communing with nature envelope me.

Lately I haven't been in much of a mood to pound this keyboard to punch out a blog posting.  Not that I don't have anything to write about, I do.  I always do.  That's one thing I never lack, subject matter of what to write about.  But for some reason, and I think I know what it is, I just haven't been in the mood to put my mental musings in a blog. But I feel a responsibility to keep it up.

In three days we'll have a new president. I'll be very frank with you folks,, I am fearful, very fearful.  Talk about the "end of times."  I am THAT fearful.  I hope my fears are overblown but I do have this sinking feeling they are not.

So what have I been doing these days?  Playing online Scrabble with my Travel Sidekick, Pat, an always enjoyable and soothing past time. 

I've also been organizing my 86,000 some photos and videos on my computer.  A YUGE job. Sometimes I wonder why I am doing that because after I'm gone no one cares what I have on my computer.  But for now, I care and I also derive pleasure looking at all those photos, especially the older ones, tagging them and putting them in some kind of order.  Who knows, maybe one of my great-nephews or great-nieces will have an interest once they get past their young years.  By the way I am now a great-great uncle.  Two of my great nieces have daughters of their own.  Man oh man am I old.

My current challenge is to get a handyman to install a bidet on my toilet.  Talk about a change of subject.  You know me folks, I veer right and left, sometimes with a very sharp curve.  

Next up is taking Bill for his first visit to a cardiologist. Bill and I both have irregular heartbeats.  I was hoping to get Bill to see my cardiologist but he's booked up until May.  Bill's cardiologist is in the same practice though.  Thank goodness the VA Choice program is covering the expenses.  This visit to the cardiologist is more to prepare Bill for his cataract surgery. Then maybe after his surgery we can get his driver's license back.

Well, this is enough musings for now folks.  I have some Scrabble games to catch up on before Trump blows up the world while I can.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Trump's First Press Conference as President-Elect

Donald Trump finally has a press conference!

Watch out Alex Baldwin, Trump will get you.

By the way, when Trump inaugurated next Friday, he is no longer the boss, he will work for us.  This is going to be interesting.  Let's just hope he doesn't blow up the world.

Friday, January 13, 2017

A Crises in American Democracy

Regular readers of my blog have probably noticed that I haven't been posting regularly.  There isn't a reason why I haven't been posting.

I have this impending sense of something is drastically wrong in this country.  

Yes, Donald Trump won the presidency and Hillary Clinton lost. But this feeling I have is more than just "Hillary lost and Trump won." I have this feeling that a foreign power interfered in our democratic process.  

We all know who that foreign power is, Russia. 

I'm going to try and make this post concise, which I am finding very hard to do.  

After the election Donald Trump had a chance to bring this country together. But what has he done?  He has been consistent in defending Russian president Putin and the Russians.  This is the only area he has been consistent. 

There are so many reasons to state about Trump as to why he is unqualified to be president. From his refusal to release his tax returns to his bragging about sexual assault on women. But his consistent refusal to recognize that Russia interfered in our election should concern all of us.

Today, John Lewis, the civil rights icon said what many of us think.  He said he didn't view Donald Trump as a legitimate president. I agree.  

I've had this sinking feeling for quite a while now.  This sense of impending doom.  Not just because the Democratic presidential candidate lost but because I have this feeling that something is wrong. More than just losing the vote, which I think the votes were accurate. I think there was a genuine dislike of Hillary Clinton and that she was the wrong candidate and the wrong time.  I think there was a genuine desire for change from many voters.  I know myself I felt the same way.  In fact I still feel the same way.  I want things "shaken up" but as I got to know more about Trump I realized that he was just a charlatan, a con man who recognized an opportunity and took advantage of it. 

This story isn't over folks.  I fear for myself, my fellow citizens and the world.  We are entering dangerous times folks.  

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Snow Is Gone!

Well, not quite but it's almost gone.  Thank goodness.

Ever since I fell two years ago (January 17th, 2014) and tore my left leg quadricep muscle, putting me out of commission for twelve weeks, I'm fearful of snow and ice.  I'm not like the earlier years of my life when I was fearless when it came to walking on snow and ice.  

The snow storm came late last week.  Fortunately for me I wasn't scheduled for work at the hotel. I went back to work this past Monday.  The road out of our development and the back road I take to work were not cleared.  Only the main road Route One was cleared, just enough to get salt and frozen slush on my red Subaru Forester.  

I felt like I was in Alaska, going about fifteen miles an hour on those ice covered roads to work.  Normally Bill would drive me to work when it snows like this (he has experience having worked and lived in Alaska in his earlier years). However, since he lost his driver's license I'm on my own now.  I have to put on my big boy pants and navigate those snow and ice crusted roads myself.  I managed and got home safely after my shift ended at 11 PM.

Tomorrow the temperatures are forecast to go over 60 degrees.  I'll take it!  We'll celebrate by going to BJ's in Millsboro.  

Every day I take Bill out for a ride. When it snows we stay in.  The only time I drive at night now is to and from work.  I don't drive at night any other time.  Too much glare from the incoming headlights.  Just another factor of getting older.  

Monday, January 09, 2017

Annual Trip To Los Angeles

Pat standing in line at the Veggie Grill at 8000 Sunset Boulevard last year, our favorite place to eat when we're in West Hollywood

Talk about good timing! Originally I had planned our (me and my Canadian sidekick Pat) annual trip to La La Land  (West Hollywood, Los Angeles) for this date.  For the last two years Pat and I enjoyed the easy freedom and balmy breezes of southern California in early January.  However, I decided this year to go in February. 

Pat and I meet up four times a year.  

In the Spring we meet in Philadelphia and stay at the guest suite of my long time friend Don McK.'s co-op on 21st and Chestnut Street. We make a side trip of a few days here at my home in southern Delaware to sample the delights of Lewes (the Nectar restaurant) and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.  

At the end of summer, Labor Day I fly to Buffalo, New York where Pat picks me up and we cross the border to Canada and stay overnight in Niagara Falls Canada. From Niagara Falls Pat drives me to his very cool minimalist home in Toronto where I spend a week enjoying the famous Canadian hospitality.  While there we take in the annual Canadian National Exhibition. 

Then, during my birthday in early November we return to Philadelphia and the guest suite at my friend Don's co-op in Center City, Philadelphia.  

Originally we got together again in January to celebrate Pat's late December birthday. However, I noticed last year the long gap between January and May so that's why I decided to forward our departure date for the land of warm breezes and palm trees to the middle of February.  

Wasn't I lucky this year not to have planned to leave for Los Angeles in early January?  If so I would have had to manage to get to the Philadelphia International Airport through all the snow and ice.  Thank goodness I don't have to do that.  But . . . . . who knows what the weather will be like here February 12th, when I am scheduled to leave.  It's always a roll of the dice when one decides to leave the cold of winter for the tropical weather of southern California.  But you know folks, it's worth it!

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Those Medical Bills

When I found Bill at the bottom of the stairs to the cellar Sunday evening, November 27th, prone on the floor leading to his bathroom, screaming in pain and coughing up blood, I knew that we were going to begin the long dreaded journey into the labyrinth of medical billing system of this country.

I called 911 and an ambulance was here within ten minutes.  They transported Bill to our nearby hospital which is only ten minutes away.  Bill was admitted into the Emergency Room.  The doctor on duty diagnosed his emergency as atrophic gastritis, esophagitis, hematemesis, multiple gastric ulcers and peptic stricture of esophagus.  Translated that means one of more of his ulcers had hemmoraged. They gave him a high dose of pain killers and admitted him to the hospital.  

Bill had a three day stay in the hospital.

Thankfully they got his condition under control and I took him home on November 30th.  

Now to await the bills.  

Bill doesn't have Medicare Part B. 

Bill has been under VA care for thirty three years.  

The VA will pay for using local emergency room costs if he meets eight requirements, which I won't list here because this blog post is going to be long enough as it is.  But the main reason is if he fears for his health or life which coughing up blood would qualify. 

The first bills arrived January 2nd.  Happy New Year.

Bill #1 - Ambulance service $585.80

Bill #2 - Anesthesia - $900.00

Bill #3 - Emergency Physician - $949.00

Don't you love the way our medical system unbundles bills?  Remember when an emergency room visit resulted in ONE bill?

We didn't receive the emergency room bill, which would be the BIG one.  

So, my challenge in the new year was to get these bills paid.

I'm happy to say I resolved those three bills yesterday but not without jumping through flaming hoops and over six foot hurdles.  

The ambulance service in particular concerned me because my understanding was that if I contributed to the local ambulance service annual fund raiser I was a subscriber and thus entitled to free ambulance service for myself or any member of my household as long as either one of us didn't have Medicare Part B.

Time for a phone call.  I called yesterday morning to the ambulance service billing department and told them I was a subscriber.  The woman who answered the phone checked and sure enough, I was.  She said to disregard the bill.  One down.

Now to call the VA billing department.  I tried earlier in the week, twice.  Couldn't get through.  I left a message for them to call me back. They didn't.  I called again after settling the ambulance bill.  I got through! And just as I got through I saw another call coming through on my iPhone.  This one from the doctor's office who was going to do Bill's cataract surgery on January 18th.  A cataract surgery that was postponed from the original date of December 5th because of Bill's emergency.  I hope I'm not losing anybody here with this narrative.  It gets complicated and I gave it a lot of though, trying to condense it.

I took the call.  The eye surgeon's coordinator ("Anita") said Bill has to see his cardiovascular (heart) doctor to get permission to undergo surgery.  I told her he already got that in November.  She said "Why didn't someone tell me?"  I told her I went to the heart doctor as she requested and Bill got his EKG.  She said he has to actually see the doctor.  Several phone calls later to the heart doctor's office I found out that Anita had sent the wrong request to the heart doctor's office.  I asked "Amy" at at the heart doctor's office "Did I do anything wrong?"  She said "No, you did everything right. The request form was wrong."  

Now we had to arrange a date for Bill to see the heart doctor.  The earliest availability he had was in May!  Obviously too late for his scheduled January 18th cataract surgery.  Several more phone calls later we arranged a March 1st date (tentative) for his surgery, dependent on the VA Choice program approve.  Which, by the way, two days ago I just got the notice that Bill was approved by the Choice program to see a cardiologist.  I told Amy (at the heart doctor's office) we'll just wait until that process of authorization is complete.  Of which I had to call the Choice number and tell them.  

Lots of phone calls here folks.  Trying to keep this all straight in my head (I take notes) is becoming a challenge to me even though I have a background in being a master of paperwork in my previous life as a bank trust operations manager.

Once I got that straightened out I called the VA again about the two $900 bills.  They said they would pay them, just to notice the two different entities and have them send the bills to the VA in Wilmington.  That I did, encountering a few heavily accented Spanish speaking folks on the other end of the line.  And extra layer of difficulty I didn't need yesterday.  

That whole process took about three hours out of my morning yesterday folks.  Not any time to update my Facebook Scrabble games.  

I had lunch and checked the mail.  Oh no, another bill just came in.  This one from the hospital for Bill's hospital stay.  

With much trepidation I opened the envelope containing the bill.  Guess how much his hospital stay was?


No breakdown, just that figure.

Bill does have Medicare Part A, which covers his hospital stay, but not all of it.

The rest of the Bill said total payments of $17,929.07 were made.

Medicare payment:             $2,952.19
Sequestration Red:                    60.25
Medicare discount:              14,916.63

Balance due:                      $ 1,288.00

I called the hospital billing department.  I informed them to send the bill to the VA (as per my previous instructions from the VA billing office).  She told me "The VA doesn't pay secondary billing."  

Well, I have to admit that makes sense.  They VA paid Bill's emergency room visit because he has no other coverage.  That was one of the requirement he had to meet.  But he does have coverage on his hospital stay from Medicare Part A.  First time he's used it by the way in twenty three years.  He was eligible when he was sixty-five and now he's eighty-eight.  

So we're on the hook for the $1,288.00 which I actually don't consider that bad in the overall picture of the expenses incurred for Bill's emergency.  

Now here is my question folks.  What would Bill have done handling these bills and all the necessary phone calls if he had to do it himself?  What does any older person do, especially a vet?  I am so thankful I am here to do this for Bill (and for me because I care so much for Bill).  

Our medical system is a disgrace, that most of you know.  We are the only industrialized country in the world who doesn't provide medical coverage for all its citizens.  And now the Republicans in Congress, drunk and crazy with power, "first order of business" is to repeal the Affordable Care Act, thus taking away health care coverage for over twenty-million people.  

Smug Republican leadership who can't wait to repeal health coverage for over twenty million fellow citizens - Paul Ryan's life long dream of destroying the social safety net - this is their "first order of business"?  Then cutting taxes for corporation and the very rich which they say will "create jobs."  This the "You're on your own" party folks.  Not interested in rebuilding the infrastructure in this country or protecting us from terrorism (and taking off one's shoes at the airport doesn't protect us from terrorism).

We're going to have an infantile, thin-skinned, ego driven, psychotic for president and a Republican dominated Congress intent on rolling back the social safety net.  A president who is more concerned with Arnold Schwarzenegger's ratings on the new "Celebrity Apprentice" than he is with the Russian interference (hacking of e-mails) in our election.  

Donald Trump - incapable of embarrassment

I fear for you, I fear for me and Bill and I fear for this country.  

I was able to resolve several bills yesterday but what about those folks in Kentucky who are going to lose their black lung coverage insurance?  Those Trump voters who bought the con that Trump sold them?  

I'm stopping myself now folks before I go off on another tangent complaining about the results of this election. Me complaining us about as useful as pissing in the wind, it won't make any difference and only succeed in getting piss all over myself.

I hope any of you who have to traverse our medical system have an easier time than what we're going through now.  Thank God I'm here to do it for Bill.  I just hope if and when I'm his age someone is around for me.  Maybe I'll be lucky and just pass quietly in my sleep one night, pain free and not dependent on anyone.  Go out with dignity I say.  That's my goal.

This is the form I prefer when I ascend to Heaven, thank you

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

New Year's Challenges

Happy New Year folks! 

I have my first challenge of the new year. Yesterday I received the three (huge) bills that resulted from Bill's emergency room visit of December 1st.  Now the challenge to get the VA to pay for it.  

Bill doesn't have Medicare Part B.  Fortunately for us he's never needed it since he began Medicare at sixty-five years of age, twenty-three years ago.  Medicare Part B would cover the emergency room costs plus the ambulance cost. We got that bill yesterday too. 

The VA says they "may" pay for non-service related emergency room visits if eight conditions are met.  I won't relate all those conditions but Bill meets all of them.  

It's interesting all the bills one receives for an emergency room visit. A bill for anesthesia.  A billfor the emergency room doctor.  We have yet to receive the one for the emergency room services, which I expect today.  

I'm glad that I can navigate the system to take care of Bill.  He wouldn't be able to do it.  I wonder what other senior citizens who live alone handle something like this.  Those poor folks.  Not even senior citizens, how about a younger vet who has PST or other problems?  Our health care system is a challenge.

Sorry folks, not in the mood for one of my usually light and interesting blog posts.  I'm waiting for the billing department of the VA to call me back. I hope we get the resolved soon.  I hate something like this hanging over my head.