It's not about the house.

Friday, July 17, 2009

I've Had A couple Beers

I figured I might's well come right out and say it. Because things are going to get pretty weird around here pretty fast, and I didn't want any of you to sit around there wondering to yourselves (or each other, if the series of tubes still works the way I think it does) "Hey, do you think EGE has had a couple beers?" The answer is yes, all right? And I know it's only Thursday. And also yes, or rather no, it is not yet five o'clock. So what? No sense making a great big stinking federal Soto-major case out of it. Let's just all hold hands and move on from here, shall we? Ready steady go!

Although I'll understand if you don't want to touch me. I am a little sticky, after all.

I'm drunk because -- well, actually, I feel the need to emphasize I'm not drunk yet. It takes more than two IPAs to fell this horse. But by the time I'm done writing I sure expect to be, so let's just take that as the premise and move on. Again. Ready? Steady go!

I'm drunk because I just heard on the radio that Johnny's about to lose his health insurance. Know why? He weren't borned here. Little Miss Massachusetts, who decided to show the nation she knew what was what, passed this Health Care For Everybody law a couple years ago. "You must sign up," she said, "or else we'll charge you fines." So we signed up.

That's a lie. Dang this vino veritas. Or beero. Or whatever. The point is we were both already on the books somewhere as charity cases -- Free Care, they called it. Johnny learned about this loophole from his doctor back in the days he was illegal, and although I was never the type to see a doctor about anything, when we bought this house I stepped on three rusty nails in quick succession, and Johnny quickly inculcated me.

Inculcate? Is that the word? Hang on. Merriam-Webster: "inculcate - to teach and impress by frequent repetitions or admonitions." Eh, what the fuck. It's close enough.

So we were on the Free Care books already, but when they said everybody had to sign up for insurance or be fined, we both signed up.

And lordy knows I don't mean to complain. Free Care is Free Care, no matter what they call it. I, personally, have still not seen a doctor since 2006 -- or 5, or whenever it was I had this damn IUD put in (that's my own fault, and has nothing to do with this Health Care Gripe whatsoever, and if you feel the need to scold me you can do it to my email) -- but we've both seen our share of dentists, and we've only had to charge the worst of that to Visa, who is very understanding as long as we keep sending them $92 a month.

Oh, and speaking of monthly payments.

Our signed-up-for, poor-people, mandated health insurance that we had was flat-out free for the first couple years. Or however long it was. I don't remember now. And I don't feel like looking through my files at this moment (which I do have, thank you very much) because I'm a little drunk. But it was free-free-free until three months ago, at which point we started getting bills.

They were small -- $29.55 a month for each of us -- but nobody told us we were going to get them (give me another beer or two and I'll say "gonna" like I always want to). When the first bill came, I went back through the correspondence and found a line in a letter that said something to the effect of "you may be charged," but it was otherwise the same letter we'd had the other years. And I'm sorry, but I don't imagine I'm the only person who does not scrutinize these things.

Let me reriterate (ha. I actually spelled that wrong as a joke, because it's the way I pronounced it when I said it out loud (yes, I sometimes write out loud and just transcribe my ramblings), but the spellcheck didn't catch it. Spellcheck doesn't like "spellcheck" but reriterate is fine. Maybe Mr. Spellcheck himself has had a few.) So what was I reriterating? Oh: I do not begrudge the state the $60. We didn't have it, but we were figuring it out. And I was actually pleased to get to pay something, because I don't like the idea of being a charity case. Neither of us do. We feel more like people for having been given the privilege of paying for it, as little as we pay.

And then this happened:

The bill that came this month was for $6.89. Two bills for that, one bill for each of us; $13.78 all told (I did that in my head; are you impressed? Is it right?). I thought the bill had to be wrong. I thought they thought I hadn't paid the full $60 last month. I called them. I was put through a phone-system-hell I won't subject you to right here except to say I wound up in tears wiith the operator, and when I finally spoke to the right person, she said:

"Yes. The costs have been lowered in your area, and that is your new monthly bill."

Well, imagine how pleased I was! I still get to pay and feel good about myself for that, and I still get to shave my legs!

(The joke there was that I'd given up razors, see, for the sake of health insurance? Except that's dumb. Because I hadn't. Even if I had, I am not so hairy that it costs me twenty dollars a month in razor blades. I may be Albanian, but please.)

So that was I think on Tuesday, and then this afternoon on my way home I heard this.

And so I started thinking: Why did they lower our bill if they can't afford us in the first place? Not that the $23 difference would make a difference, but still. How am I going to carry on not seeing a doctor (which is what I do) while Johnny can't see a doctor (which is what he does)? Are we finally, like we've always talked about, going to move home? And for "home" in this situation, you should read "261." The house Johnny was literally born in, in Dublin. Will we go home?

{{This is the point at which I gave up and went to bed. That's not quite as bad as it sounds, because it took me three hours -- and eight beers -- to get this far, so it was almost 9:00. Past my bedtime on some sober nights, I tell you what.}}

I woke up this morning -- with a headache, and weighing five pounds less than I did yesterday -- and did some googling. It turns out I overreacted. The New York Times says they're only gunning for those who've had their green cards for five years or less. Johnny has had his since 199something-I-would-look-up-if-he-were-awake-or-if-I-weren't-so-jesus-christ-hungover.

So phew. They're not coming for us. This time...

So I guess I went and got all drunk for nothing.

Update: The mail came today with an official-looking envelope from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Revenue. I made Johnny sit with me while I opened it, because I'm tired of having to deal with bad news by myself. It turned out to be a check for $332 -- about three-quarters of the amount we paid the state in taxes this year. Apparently, they've decided they don't need our money. I guess we qualify for a "Limited Income Credit" that we didn't know about and didn't claim, so they're giving us a rebate. This is nice. It means we'll be able to pay our mortgage this month after all. But still. Something very strange is in the air.


Hubert said...

In, arguably, the richest per capita economic area on the planet Universal Free Healthcare is not only plausible but desirable. Living in fear that illness or accident will render you to permanent poverty is a social ill that cannot, and should not, be tolerated. The bizzare, and outrageous, behaviour of any elected representative disargreeing with that sentiment when it clearly goes against the interest of the elector is bad.

But to impose it upon people randonly without adequate or clear explanation is plainly cruel and punishing. Tragically, that kind of gonadweary nonsense is not unusual for politicians or bureacrats.

The US can afford a National Heath Service. It would be substantially cheaper than the current profit driven system. It would create employment and benefit the well being of the populace - legal and illegal.

One of the great advantages of free health care is that it raises peoples aspirations. Which is, undoubtably, a bit better than some poxy tax refund (although tax refunds are a bit more mundanely practical).

Health care is never free. If delivery is too expensive, there are huge numbers of people paying with their lives being shortened. That is both uncivilised and bad manners. These are not things to be taken lightly.

Saving money by losing lives is a bizzare and cruel trade off. And this is exactly what manipulating tax budgets to manage health care does: deprives people of the most appropriate care for their health that their community can afford.

It only needs one thing: a good kicking in the ballots.

(ps *waves to johnny* *waves to passing cats* I fear I may have tipped over the edge of madness).

beardonaut said...

Welcome to the annual The House and I spelling bee. Your word is "inoculate".

Though come to think about it, a spelling bee is pretty much meaningless if you do it in writing... D'oh!

As for free health care, since I appearently live in a socialist nation (as your Republicans seem to think (yes, they're your Republicans (hey! I did the double parenthesis thing too (oh wait...)))), I pay a maximum of 900 kronor, which is about 115 dollars, per year for health care.

Then again, I pay enough taxes that I feel like Skattemyndigheten (sort of like IRS, and the Brand New Swedish Word of the Week here at The House) should send me a thank you note every month.

12ontheinside said...

I find it very hard to believe your country does not have free national healthcare. Here, it is free until you earn over $100K, when you get taxed an extra 2% of your salary to cover it. Or something like that. Of course, there is still private health care for those who choose it as some operations are deemed 'elective' - like hip replacements. My other half's dad has been on a waiting list for a hip replacemen for 18 months, and can't get around too well any more,so it has its downfalls too. However I know if I get sick and it's an emergency I will always get looked after, for free in a public hospital.