Category Archives: Rants and raves

Class and Credit

The always fabulous Michigan Radio folks recently did a great series called Culture and Class, much of which I was able to catch on the way to or from work. Most of the pieces were about much more than income, as class truly is.

One thing I am aware of this week is the relationship between the privilege that comes with class and credit.

When we were newly married and Aaron was still finishing undergrad, we were able to buy a house because even though we didn’t have money, we had credit. When we (predictably enough) got in over our heads and ran out of cash, we had credit (cards, or later home equity). And if the bank wouldn’t give us that credit and we needed it, a family member could co-sign for it, or I could get a loan from the “Bank of Dad,” as he calls it. My family never would have let me derail my education or long-term financial well-being, because they had the power to help me. The same  goes for most of my friends. We’ve all at times complained about being “poor,” but being poor means not having that safety net.

Being poor means you don’t have money.

You don’t have credit.

You don’t have family co-signers (because, hello, they’re poor too!).

You don’t have a Bank of Dad.

And (Christian) educational institutions should stop assuming everyone does. If you really want some diversity–of class among other things–you have to stop pretending everyone is coming from the same place. You have to consider what it would be like to walk into your institution without the privileges most of the students have. And if you realize, or they tell you, that this lack of privilege is holding them back from participating, you have to step up and fill the gap! That doesn’t mean you have to hand them everything, but you do have to give them a tool that fits in their hand. Yes, that is your responsibility. I see you have some lovely, plaque-adorned sculptures which certainly reduced someone’s tax liability–could you not be troubled to go ask those people to be someone’s last resort, or at least their stinking co-signer?


Pardon my rant. It’s not for me. It’s for the whatever percent.


Safe but Not Satisfied: Group Insurance and Health Reform

We are now officially covered by a group health insurance policy once again. Can I get a WA-HOOOOOOOOO!?

The difference between this plan and the one we were so graciously allowed to go to great lengths to obtain and pay for is stunning. I didn’t mention it here because it gets into a lot of TMI territory, but my husband had a health issue come up last month that he had to get checked out with a CT scan and then a test they had to knock him out for at the hospital. On top of lingering bills from the finger smashing incident, I have a bill from the CT scan for $927. I am sure the hospital bill will be a doozy. I fully expect that what we pay out of pocket (let alone the premium) for this one month under our individual policy will be less than our out of pocket maximum for the entire year under my work plan.

Which reminds me, I have to call my elected representatives and give them a hard time. It’s been a while. They miss me. (Especially Pete.)

Because even though we are now safely ensconced in a group plan, I am not forgetting about health care reform. I am not giving up. I am not willing to wait.

Because it could be me again that needs it. It could be you. It is me and you, because my company has been struggling to deal with the ever-rising costs, and I bet you have been choking on the costs too–even if you don’t see the numbers to realize that’s where the profits went, that’s where the raises went, that’s where the donations and the tithes went, that’s where the taxes went.

Right now I feel more safe but not satisfied. Why should I feel good because I now have what others don’t? Should I just forget what it’s like to dread opening those bills just because I now have a Flex account? Should I just pretend it’s suddenly not that urgent because it’s momentarily not that urgent for me?

No. I can’t, and I won’t. The world isn’t fixed when I’m doing okay and messed up when I’m not. I refuse to let my sense of personal customer satisfaction be the only barometer for what I think this country should do for its people, because I’m far from the least of these, even on my worst day. We never had it that bad, not even when we were most scared and most frustrated; we only got a taste of the helplessness and injustice many have felt trying to battle both disease and insurance at once. But it was enough of a taste to make me say enough is enough. It’s enough to make me keep fighting.

Let’s do this thing, America. Our future needs it, starting now.

46 Million Plus 3

The number of Americans without health insurance is 46 million—and three.

We do not have health insurance.*

My husband has a fairly serious medical condition called Marfan Syndrome. He’s had eye surgeries. He’s had heart surgery. He’s part mechanical, and he’s on blood thinners that have to be checked by a lab regularly.

We have a child. She loves the playground. There’s wood chips, sure, but I’m just sayin’—she’s two and a half. Things happen.

We need health insurance. We want health insurance. We have been trying to get health insurance—but we have not been able to get it.

This has been the biggest obstacle, frustration, and fear relating to our move and Aaron going back to school. We knew he should do it and honestly, the church couldn’t keep him on much longer—our health insurance costs were breaking them—but as soon as he left his job, we would be without insurance. We could not get COBRA because he was essentially a one-man group policy. And the “market” does not want you when you have a preexisting condition; they will turn you down.

I determined that we had only one choice (well, it really isn’t a choice when there’s just one, is it?) in Michigan, the “insurer of last resort,” as some states call it, which has to take everyone regardless of health. So weeks ago I called Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and confirmed that we would be lucky enough to pay them hundreds of dollars a month so that after we pay thousands of dollars out of pocket, they will help us out if anything really terrible happens. They said we could get coverage starting July 1 and that in place of Michigan driver’s licenses, since we couldn’t get those until we got to Michigan and we couldn’t go to Michigan until after Aaron’s job and insurance ended, a letter from the seminary confirming enrollment and lease would do.

Can you guess?

Three business days before our Oregon coverage ended, we got a letter saying our BCBS application was rejected due to the lack of Michigan driver’s licenses. Yeah, there’s a B.S. in BCBS—you said you would take the letter! And also, thanks for letting me know at the last possible moment before I am totally screwed and for keeping your underwriting people under a cone of silence ensconced in a fortress of solitude behind an impenetrable wall of unhelpful peons so I can’t even find out if they even got the letter they supposedly asked for.

Finally I was able to reach the helpful person I’d originally talked to, but it was a no go; underwriting would not cooperate. All we could do was get our Michigan driver’s licenses the first day possible, get them the numbers to restart our application, and hope they’d retroactivate our coverage back to the 15th (Aaron had to get one blood draw done without insurance anyway because he couldn’t wait any longer).  As far as I can tell, unless you have a job waiting, there is literally no way to move across state lines without a gap in insurance coverage.

This is not right. We are trying to do the right thing and stay insured. We are willing to pay, even though we can’t really afford it. The system wouldn’t let us, because it’s not really a system—it’s a hodgepodge, and it doesn’t work.

I have been hoping and praying and campaigning and harassing my representatives for health reform since I found out firsthand in 2006 that the reason this system doesn’t work is that it doesn’t work for usit’s not on our side. As soon as you need health care, you become the enemy of health insurance. Never confuse the two.

I have been following the legislative battles over health care reform closely and oh yes, my senators have heard from me (they actually do work for us, you know). I hope it will not be long until the tears of frustration I’ve shed over this issue can be replaced with tears of relief that a fair, affordable public plan is available to me, and my precious daughter, and my bionic husband whose health so greatly depends on it. If you can tell me what I could have done differently in my quest for insurance in 2006 when my husband’s vision hung by a few stretching tissues or this year when I did everything asked and still got nothing, you can tell me we don’t need a national public insurance option that’s open to all. If not, I hope you’ll either be pleased that we’re resorting to Medicaid or join me in pushing for major health care reform as soon as possible.

46,000,003 people are waiting.


* It’s possible we just got insurance, since I got a huge bill from BCBS today, but it didn’t come with anything helpful like a card or contract number or letter saying hey, we’re insuring you now. And until I see that, it’s just a bill. A bill too huge to pay. *Sigh*