Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Adios Quality of Life

I'm trying to avoid a rant here, but at the rate things are going I won't to be able to risk riding horses anymore. We just received notice that thanks to our state politicians getting us billions of dollars in debt and thanks to changes resulting from the federal health care reform, state employee's health benefits are being cut in drastic ways. Here are just a few examples:

-No more dental coverage beyond routine cleanings.  (I guess those of us with bad teeth will just have to let them rot and fall out.)
-No more visual coverage beyond eye exams. We have to pay for glasses and contacts out of pocket.  (This is especially bad for us because all four of us wear glasses and/or contacts and my son's prescription is changing just about every four months.)
-No more lab testing coverage in hospitals with a few exceptions.  (Isn't that the most important place where they need to run tests?)
-Our family deductible is being raised from $1,600 to $4,000.  (Most families in our area don't even have $4,000 in the bank!)
-Increase out-of-pocket maximums from $3,900 to $7,800 per year.  (See above comment.)
-Reduce co-insurance percentage from 80% to 75%.  (This may not seem like much, but one day in the hospital costs around $10,000!  If you do the math, that means we pay $2,500 a day out of pocket.)
-Life insurance cut from $20,000 to $10,000.  (Everyone knows that won't even cover the funeral costs, none-the-less support a family for a while after a loved one's death.)
-Long Term Disability is cut from 60% of the pre-disability earnings to just 40%.  (Hopefully, the injured party has some loved ones who can work while he/she takes care of himself/herself... if he/she can.)

This is shameful! Between this and the fact that our vehicle insurance is charging us an exorbitant amount each month because several years ago the wind blew our car door into a car next to us and left a tiny dent, I'm thinking there is no good reason to even have insurance anymore. At the same time, I really don't know if I want to risk having my son in sports or having me riding horses anymore.

I don't even want to start about the grocery bills.  There is a worldwide food shortage and somehow our grocery bills have jumped from around $180 a week for food for three to $300 a week for food for three in just a couple of months, and that is with coupons and intentionally buying the lowest priced generic brands.

Have you also noticed that not only are we paying more for food, but we're getting less?  It's all packaging with only a tidbit to eat inside.  Portions are shrinking in restaurants too.  I remember when I could barely hold a Big Mac together with two hands, and I recently saw a commercial in which a woman was holding a Big Mac in one hand.  The bun was the size of her palm.  I made grilled cheese sandwiches the other night and the cheese was not only a smaller square, but it was sliced thinner.  I know smaller portions are good for us, but must we pay more?

We are in a time of inflation while losing jobs and getting pay cuts.  My husband is facing a 5% pay cut on July 1st.  All I can say is that I had better get a regular paying job by then or we are going to struggle putting two kids through college.  We're in trouble.  I suggest that everyone start stocking up on food.  We have plastic bins filled with bags of rice and beans, because they last a long time.  We also keep water in storage.  We started that habit years ago when a flood turned our neighborhood into an island and no one could get to the store.  They had to airlift food in for the residents.  Anything can happen, and now, it just seems more likely that it will.


Mikey said...

Very true. It's going to get a lot harder I'm afraid. I worry about what this next year will bring. Estimates of $5 a gallon gas by next year? or earlier..

Caitlin said...

What state do you live in if you don't mind me asking? As a GA state employee I'm always nervous when states begin changing benefits because chances are sooner or later my own will follow suit.

fernvalley01 said...

The days of excess are gone, I agree portions needed to be smallre , but the cost should follow the size not the other way around. Your health care costs seem so out of this world to me .But our health care system is vastly different ,plus I work for the Health region(essentially the provincial govt) and get excellent benifits.Maybe you should consider a move to Canada?? you might freeze to death ,but it will be paid for!

achieve1dream said...

Oh wow. That's depressing. I'm glad I'm growing a garden this year . . . :( I really hope they don't do that to our disability because with my husband out of work with a bad back we would be screwed!! I'm sorry you're having such a tough time. :(

Lisa said...

Unfortunately the times are a changing and not for the best! The American Dream has changed and we have government to thank as well as us being complacent and not speaking up sooner. The "myth" that one day after working all our adult lives, we will retire into a life of leisure aka the golden years, is just that...a myth. I have resigned myself to the fact that as I turn 50 this year I have to face the fact that I will die working. There won't be a retirement so I had better find something fun to do and support myself with that. Not even knowing what I will do for insurance. I work 2 parttime jobs to make full time wages and one job gives me benefits but they both cut my hours so I have a 3000 deductible for medical that I can't even come up with the deductible because of the cutting and I pay for my daughters contacts, thank God they are cheaper than they used to be. Dental? Can't afford the out of pocket. It's tough out here and I think it's going to get worse as we age(which is backwards in my opinion).

Ms Martyr said...

The women who work at my beauty shop are saying that the health insurance changes may force them out of business. They simply can't afford it.

You have an award waiting for you on my blog. Hope that's okay.

BrownEyed Cowgirls said...

Now, now NM...Obamacare is going to fix all of your insurance problems in no time.

Sorry, I know that was probably in poor taste, but I do think it ironic that everyone is purported to be able to get insurance...No one said anything about it being GOOD insurance.

I actually got into a conversation with a guy in the Wal-Mart checkout line the other day and he said he and his family had been stocking up on the kinds of necessities that people would need to survive for at least a year. He firmly believed that we are going to see hyperinflation THIS year and that people will end up fighting for food.

Now, I don't know if I think things are going to go that far, but for the last couple of years MH and I have accumulated multiple items that would ensure we could survive for several months if the need be. We also put together a 'panic' list, that is we had to stockpile in a hurry, we would know exactly what to shop for. It sounds a little wacky, but it never hurts to have a game plan.

lytha said...

this is such a fascinating topic to me because i was so shocked by both of your points on return to america.

first, i asked my parents to explain how their health benefits have been affected since the changes in the system. they went over a list that sounds like yours and they are not government, they are/were boeing employees. i found it hard to understand, maybe you can help me - the problem of the insurance companies' competition with each other??

i went to a doctor and said i live in germany and the lady said "oh, we aren't that far advanced in our system yet!" and i said, "you consider socialized healthcare, a GOOD thing? do you know about it personally? let me tell you about it..." so i told her and she said it is still better than what america has.

an expat blogger friend of mine just had a baby in germany and it was a "horrorshow" of being neglected by the hospital staff. this is why i wait and try to go to the doctor/dentist in america whenever possible.

foods: i was so pissed to find the prices in my favorite affordable restaurants have skyrocked (8$ for a glass of wine at a mexican rest.?) and the portions are way down. i was torn up about it cuz one of the best things about my trips to america is indulging in the cheap plentiful food! i did my best (as my belt can attest), but things have definitely changed.

Promise said...

Yes, some of the things happening are ridiculous, and very unfair to the lower and middle classes. I think the next time the government thinks a bailout is necessary, they should help the people, instead of the banks. If they paid off student loans and mortgages for those of us struggling to make ends meet, the money would go to the banks and help them, while simultaneously helping those in debt. In theory, it would be a win-win.

While I admire you and your husband for helping your kids through school, and I'm sure your kids appreciate it too, maybe you guys need to look for alternative means? Tuition is expensive. Do they have scholarships? Tuition assistance? Financial Aid? I would look at student loans as a last resort, but there are still some low-interest options out there...and maybe paying on the interest while the kids are in school would be cheaper than paying the tuition bills in the short term?

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Caitlin - I'm in Nevada and our state is 2+ billion dollars in debt.

Lytha - Part of the problem, as I understand it, is that the Feds are forcing insurance companies to lift their caps and support more long-term and more expensive medical care, which causes them to take common care benefits, such as for root canals and glasses, away from the rest of us. The Feds are also making the States pay for much of the health insurance coverage for people who couldn't afford to be covered previously, and the States are already in debt.

Promise - You are assuming that we aren't already utilizing scholarships, aid and loans. We are. It still costs a lot of money even with help. With all that the universities are taking out of our pockets, it's difficult to understand why they are shutting down portions of their campuses and laying off teachers, then giving pay cuts to the ones who remain.

Promise said...

Yes, I guess I did make that assumption. But, the way I read it, it sounded like you were paying tuition out of pocket. :) All I could think was "OUCH!"

I am swamped in student loan debt - and I went to a state school with resident rates after 1 semester with out of state tuition when I transferred in. My mother couldn't financially help me, but also made too much money for me to get much financial aid.

Crystal said...

Yikes, kinda makes me glad to live here where health care is relativly cheap, and our province in not in debt at this point in time.

Since we butcher our own beef and grow a garden, we often have enough food to last us a long time (as long as we have electricity). I don't realize how much money it saves us in the long term until I hear about how much someone else has to pay.

City girl turned Country Girl said...

GREAT post NM!!! This whole insurance stuff really gets under my skin!!! We are seeing the same kind of *guidelines* in our health insurance too thanks to *Obamacare* LOL! We have had a rate increase and the same as you deductibles tripling and no eye/dental coverage...I would sure like to see another "new" change and get it back to good news for us!!

BEC~ You are cracking me up!!

Robin said...

It's insane! It really is. We have state health insurance for our son, even though I freelance and work from home full time and my husband works full time in the mill. We still don't get enough to afford insurance for us all! They just upped it again through the mill and even with hubby's raise, if we get insurance for us all through his work place we'd be going...hmm...do we eat this week, pay insurance, or pay rent?

Thank god our son is covered, and I don't feel bad about using the state insurance because we pay into it too. But I have nothing except dental/vision through my husband, but he has to carry all b/c of his workplace. (Go figure.)

Personally, I joined Ameriplan. It's helped us a lot. It's not insurance, but it will give you discounts on eye doctors, dentists trips, etc. I mean, it's not going to knock the price down to nothing, but it does help. It knocked the price of my husband seeing a chiropractor from $120 to $45, and saved me $220 on my eyeglasses. Even has things to help with prescriptions, diabetes, lab work, hospital stays, etc.

It's a thought, and it's affordable. It has really helped us out so it might be something to look into. With the way things are going, every little bit saved helps.

I'll link through my name so if anyone is interested you can find out more that way. I hope it might be able to help someone else. Things are just not right anymore and I fear they never will be. We can even afford to stockpile and are in an apartment and can't find the room!

June said...

It's not right how things are. I don't understand how they can lie constantly and say things are getting better. Everything has gone up - insurances, gas, bills, food...How is anyone supposed to even catch up, let alone get ahead!?

I worry about it a lot. :(

Sally said...

Well said. Just getting by with the basics is getting to be a struggle, and I don't know anyone I talk to that isn't having the same problems financially. It puts a strain on home life that frankly shouldn't be there, all the while creating what I call a "worry" in the back of my head that just doesn't go away - if that makes any sense.

Cheryl Ann said...

It's worse in California! Tuition has gone up, gasoline has gone up, EVERYTHING is going up! My wages are frozen, hubby's too...We'll have to worn until we are 85!!!