Saturday, April 16, 2011

3221 The hospital bill

Monday, April 18, 2011

There are those who will believe only what they see,
and those who will see only what they believe.
The potential for reward is far greater if we are neither.
-- Silk --


I got the bill from the hospital stay today. I cannot BELIEVE it! I went in through the emergency room Saturday noonish, and left Tuesday early afternoon.



I don't know for sure how much of that will be covered by insurance. Almost all of it, I think, but I shudder to think of what it would mean if I had no insurance.

When Jay was battling the brain tumor, 1998-2001, he had an MRI with contrast about every other month or so. The MRIs were about $800 then. They said then that a CAT scan (or CT - the terminology seems to be changing) would have been cheaper, but wouldn't show what they wanted to see.

My CAT scan was $1891. Holy crap! That's at least three times what it was ten years ago!

They cultured my urine twice. Total for two cultures - $1134.00! That's totally ridiculous.

I am fully aware that different patients are charged different amounts for the same services, depending on what insurance they have, and what deals the insurance companies have struck with the hospitals and doctors. That's what "in network" means. It means your insurance company has a deal with that provider.

When I was working for The Company in St. Louis, one of my customers was the billing department of a large hospital, and I read computer core dumps when they had a problem. I could see what the hospital expected to receive from all sources. I was incensed to see that some people were charged as little as 20% of what others were charged for the exact same procedures.

Guess who was billed the highest?

People without insurance.

They'd have to pay as much as five times what an insurance company would pay. That looks to me like the uninsured were SUBSIDIZING insurance companies. The hospital had to make up the difference somewhere, right?

And guess who paid the second highest?

Medicare. Apparently the federal government doesn't set limits on what they'll pay like the insurance companies do.


I wonder if my bill is so ridiculous ($567 for one urine culture? My doctor's office sent it out to a lab, and charged $50 for the same thing) because Medicare is now my primary payer, and The Company is now secondary, and they know they can get away with it with Medicare?

3220 Ominous Pain

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it - and eventually they will believe it.
-- Adolf Hitler --


Well, this is not good. Remember the pain in my lower left back that turned out to be a blocking kidney stone and kidney infection, and landed me in the hospital in White Plains on April 2, where I got a four-day stay and a stent in the left kidney? Today I have a pain in the exact same spot, but on the right.

The appointment with the local urologist isn't until next Thursday.

This might get interesting.


I mentioned my admiration for the conduct of the Japanese people. Here's an article that says it well:

3219 Blah

Saturday, April 16, 2011

First rule of leadership: Everything is your fault.
-- A Bug’s Life --


I am very unhappy today, very unusual for me. I don't know why I just can't get anything going. The thermostat says it's 73 in here, and I'm wearing closed shoes, socks, jeans, and a long-sleeved flannel shirt, and I'm still freezing. My fingers and my nose and toes are almost numb. They want to curl up and hide somewhere warm. It's dreary and drizzling and cold-windy outside. I've been pretty productive the past few days, got a lot of little things done, which was very satisfying, but today I can't get started on anything, and there's so very much to do. There's nothing on TV, nothing on the radio, I don't want to watch any DVDs, and reading a book is just too much effort. I should have eaten lunch two hours ago, but didn't feel like putting anything together.

I'm just blah.

I've got that old feeling I'd had so many times in the distant past, where I want to go home, but I'm not sure where "home" is. I want to curl up next to someone strong and warm.

Sigh. Rain rain go away. Silk needs the sun to come out and play.

I've got a can of New England clam chowder around here somewhere....

3218 Thoughts on despair

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Credentials on the wall do not make you a decent human being.


In a recent post I took issue with the declaration that this is the greatest nation in the history of the world (or maybe the phrase was "that the world has ever known", whatever).

I'll back that up.

The US spends less on infrastructure than any other developed nation, by far. Other nations spend three to five times as much.

Our dams, roads, and bridges are deteriorating.

Generating plants of all kinds are aging and inefficient, and we aren't seriously considering the development of alternate sources of energy.

Railroads are falling apart. We have no high speed rail. Every time it comes up, it's stomped down. In Europe, you can get anywhere you have to go by train and bus, quickly and cheaply, and even in Asia trains are efficient. And fast.

All of our materials are transported all the way across the continent by truck! That's incredibly inefficient, given how little one truck can carry, the amount of gasoline it requires to do it, and the amount of additional wear on the roads. Trains can do it quickly and cheaply, with trucks used only for local delivery.

We may have good doctors and hospitals, and medical research, but only if you are rich. The average citizen can't afford decent medical care. And even if you can afford it, many treatments and options available in the rest of the world aren't allowed here.

We don't take care of our elderly. It's a scandal the way we turn our backs on them.

All we're really good at is making money and waging war. And the top 1% makes all the money while the bottom 50% does all the dying.

This is not "great".


I have enormous admiration for the Japanese people. In all they've been through, the devastation, the dislocation, note that there has been no looting. None. A shortage of food? Rather than grab and run, they share. Looting from destroyed homes and stores? They have actually gathered salvageable bits and pieces and put them in small bins in reclamation centers, where people can go and look for their belongings and claim them. They have centers where people are cleaning found photographs and then posting them on a bulletin board so people can find them. People stand very patiently in long lines, waiting for food distribution. No pushing, crowding, or shoving.

And then there are the people who volunteered to work in the damaged reactors, with the certainty of early death, but no promise of reward beyond the knowledge that they are helping the country and their people. I can't imagine that anywhere else.

The Japanese people are working together for the good of all, and they don't seem to be aware there is any other way to act.

(Yeah, ok, I know about what they did in China, and in WWII, and whatever else "Jap Haters" want to bring up, which is also an outgrowth of the culture. Go away.)


Every single time I have gone north to the old house, The Hairless Hunk has seen me, even if I didn't see him. It's getting creepy.

I drive past his house on the way to my house, and I always automatically look to see if he's working in the yard, or if his vehicle is there. Mostly I don't see him --- but he always sees me. Often he passes going the opposite direction on the road. It's weird.

Last Tuesday, I took the tax documents to Piper's office in the village, but I didn't go to the old house, which is 2 miles farther north. I was in the village, in Piper's office, then walking with Piper up the street a little less than a block to the diner, then back down to my car outside Piper's office, then I left to head back south.

The next day, I got an email from THH that he'd seen me in the village!

It's like he has a GPS tracker on me or something. ESP. Strange.


I guess everyone has heard by now about the young woman who drove her car, with her four children in it, off a boat ramp and into the Hudson River in N3wburgh, NY, last Tuesday evening. The oldest of the four kids was 10, and he managed to get out of the sinking car and swam to shore.

And people are wondering why?

She was 25 years old (although I've also heard 24). The oldest of her four children was 10. That means she was pregnant at 14 (or 13), which means she likely has no education, training, or skills to support herself and her children. She was married to the father of her youngest three, but I gather he was not living with her. She had recently moved to N3wburgh, into an apartment in a slummy area of God-forsaken N3wburgh (if you've ever been there, you'd know what I mean. The newspaper describes it as a "humble river city").

According to neighbors, she was a good mother, and had a job. There was apparently a "domestic dispute" that evening. She finally had confirmation that her husband was not only cheating on her, but had been a serial cheater all along.

This is speculation, but I think I can figure it out. The husband had probably left her wherever they had lived and "went north" to find work, so he could support her and the children. That happens a lot. She probably moved to N3wburgh because she didn't like the separation. He'd been able to hide the girlfriend(s), but now he couldn't. He didn't want to move in with her. She suddenly realized that she couldn't count on him any longer.

What else is there to understand? Her world collapsed and she could see no other possibilities.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

3217 Observe

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Two people can look at the exact same thing and see something totally different.


It has been said many places that Obama's presidency has unearthed the shallowly-buried bones of racism. Yeah. I remember when John F. Kennedy was elected, as the first Catholic president. A lot of people muttered then, too. Like that the Pope would be the actual unelected president. Americans in general are third graders, still using playground rules. They don't like or trust anyone who's different.


I drove 2.5 hours north yesterday to deliver the tax stuff, had coffee/tea with Piper, and then drove back south. The weather was nice while I was in the village, but the drive all the way up and all the way back was in pouring rain.

I got annoyed because I'd be potting along just fine, and then a huge truck would pull in front of me, and throw so much spray I couldn't see. So I'd slow down and drop back a bit, and because (*) there was now a wide space between me and the truck, another car would slide over into the space behind the truck, and then he couldn't see, so he'd slow down and drop back, and because ... repeat from (*). That's how traffic slows from 65 to 45. I wish those damn trucks would get some mudflaps or deflectors or something.


On the drive, I heard some senator or something on the radio say something about this being "the greatest nation ever in the history of the world". My eyes were rolling so hard I almost had to pull over.

In history? Ever? Um, what about the ancient Chinese dynasties? The scientific and mathematical advances of the Arabic world and the Golden Crescent? How 'bout the Roman Empire? The British Empire? ...and more.

I get annoyed when I hear people say, "The rest of the world wants to be just like us! They copy our culture!" Bull poopy. It's not our culture or lifestyle or even our system of government or economic system that's getting exported, and certainly not because it's so admirable. It's corporations exporting their products, pure and simple. The American penchant for jeans didn't get adopted because we're so wonderful. They got adopted because they got advertised and SOLD. Unfortunately, we believe our own advertising.

In all those other nations that influenced the world, the great fall came right after they stood up and said, "We're wonderful. We're the greatest!" That's the first sign that they're about to get kicked in the teeth.


Quick lesson for Spring:

Do you know the difference between a shovel and a spade? A shovel has a straight end and usually curved up sides to hold the material, and is used to move stuff from one flat place to another. A spade has a pointed end with shoulders next to the handle to push with your foot and is used to dig holes. So you'd use a spade to dig the hole for planting a tree, and then a shovel to fill the hole.

Monday, April 11, 2011

3216 Taxes

Monday, April 11, 2011

We don't have to change friends if we understand that friends change.


I finally finished pulling together all the various pieces of paper for the income taxes. Wasn't easy.

Were you aware that when you sell stock, the 1099-Bs the brokers send you (and the Feds) have the total of the sale on it, but not the cost basis? You have to provide that yourself. Otherwise you end up paying taxes on the entire proceeds, not just the profit. Not to mention getting to deduct losses. And I sold a LOT of stock (60 lots of various sizes from 57 different companies) in 2010 to buy the car and the new house, and most of it I'd purchased 10 to 20 years ago.

That's stupid. They know exactly when I bought it and how much I paid for it. Why can't they just list the cost basis too?

I had the information, of course. Finding it was the problem. Some was here, some was up north at the old house. I was certain that I had brought all the files down south, but I couldn't for the life of me find them - until yesterday afternoon, when I opened a drawer in the "unused" side of the new desk, and there they were.

So now I have to get the stuff to The Angel. We'd already agreed that he'd file for an extension for me, but I was worried that maybe I hadn't paid enough estimated taxes, so I wanted to have at least rough numbers.

I did better than that! He ought to be able to do my taxes in an hour from my summary sheet alone.

I'll leave it up to him to figure out whether I was a resident of NJ for any part of 2010, and if so, how much of 2010. That will be interesting....

After I finished the tax packet, I started calling urologists, so I can get this stent and stone taken care of. I can feel the stent in my bladder, and it's starting to get annoying. The earliest office appointment I could get is the 21st. That's awfully close to Daughter's due date, but frankly, due dates are arbitrary anyway, and I don't suppose any other date would be any safer.

Today was beautiful, so Daughter and I went for a ride with the top down, walked around a classy little village a half-hour down the road, and had dinner at this place: The building was stunning - art deco lighting fixtures and Frank Lloyd Wright-esque inside walls. (The photo on the site is not the most interesting view.) The food was excellent, but two iced teas, two appetzers, two entrees, and two desserts came to almost $90, so I won't be dining there often. (The individual prices weren't that bad - I'm wondering now if there wasn't maybe a mistake in the bill. Wouldn't be the first time....)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

3215 Raccoon Palace

Sunday, April 10, 2011

No matter how good a friend is, they're going to hurt you every once in a while and you must forgive them for that.


A few days ago, my neighbor George mentioned raccoons in my back yard. "They live in the 1950 Dodge buried in your bank."


My back yard goes out fairly flat until it hits a steep cut that goes down to a tiny foot-wide creek that drains into the lake down the street. Then it goes up again to the yards of the people behind me. I was aware that someone in the past been dumping junk down the bank. George says the builder, when he tore out the little house that had been here, dumped a lot of the heavier material there, then filled over it to make my back yard. Standing on the bank, I could see cinder blocks, chunks of concrete, a rusted water heater, and several tires embedded in the bank. But a whole 1950 Dodge? You've GOT to be kidding!

George took me to a lower part of his yard, where I could see across the bank rather than down it, and sure enough, there's the top of a CAR sticking out of the dirt. You can look into the broken-out windshield, and see the steering wheel.

George says raccoons live in it, have been living in it for years.

Oh good grief!

The car:
It's half buried. You're looking at the driver's side roof and windshield, and you can see the hood to the right. (Does that look like a 1950 Dodge to you? It looks older to me, or more foreign, because it's so square. Maybe it's a truck?)

This next one illustrates why I can't see it from the top of the bank, in my yard. These photos were taken from George's yard.

This one is from the top of the bank, in my yard. Four tires, a water heater tank, and a chunk of foundation from the demolished house:

I own all the way to the top of the bank on the other side, so all that landfill is MINE! Joy. I can't wait for the local EPA to come and demand that I clean it up.