Monday, March 03, 2014

3829 Screaming Meemies

Monday, March 3, 2014

Last Wednesday morning I woke to the chirp of a smoke detector complaining about its battery.  I had been slightly aware of it before I woke, actually.

Every 20 seconds, chirp!

By the time I was up, piddled, pants and shoes on under my nighty-t-shirt, the chirping had stopped.

I hate when the detectors chirp.  There are six of them.  One in the downstairs hall, one in every bedroom just inside the doors, and one in the upstairs hall, and when one starts complaining, I always go crazy trying to figure out which it is.

So, nothing all day Wednesday.  Thursday morning, I again woke to the chirp.  Every 20 seconds.  This time it didn't stop.  It was the one in the downstairs hall, so it wasn't too difficult to find.

I went to my battery supply, and opened a new package of those rectangular 9-volts.  I brought the taller stepladder down from upstairs.  I climbed up and changed the battery.

It continued to chirp.  Every 20 seconds.

I got my battery tester and tested the new battery.  It's ok.

I verified the polarity and inserted it again.

It continued to chirp.  Every 20 seconds.

I looked for some kind of reset button on the unit.  The only button was the test button, so I pushed it.  All six detectors went off, including the one that yells "Fire! Fire!" in a woman's voice.  I pushed the button again and they all shut up.

But this detector continued to chirp.  Every 20 seconds.

I don't know what to do.

I've been listening to that thing chirp since Thursday morning.  Every 20 seconds.  I've been pretending it's a bird.

I'm about ready to wring that bird's neck.


Embossing on the cover says to consult the unit's documentation for operating procedures, but of course the builder never left me any documentation, and once the check cleared, the builder became incommunicado - literally, his office closed.  (I heard he got sick.)  I could look up documentation online, except that the unit does not have the manufacturer's name anywhere on it.

I recall having this same problem when I replaced the batteries on the upstairs hall unit, and discovered that pushing the test button did reset it, but that didn't work this time.  The units don't look the same.

Leaving the battery out doesn't work, either.  It chirps anyway.  Every 20 seconds.

3828 Slammed #2

Monday, March 3, 2014

Second slam:  Back about February 18th I got a call from the fuel oil supplier for the country house saying that they couldn't get up the (300 foot uphill) driveway to deliver to the country house.  I contacted the Hairless Hunk, and he took over.

So this morning I hear from HH.  The oil guy tried to deliver late last week, but (HH just found out) was able to pump only 9 gallons when the intake pipe "overflowed".  Their conclusion is that the tank is still full from the early December delivery.


(HH is suspicious of that because he went up and checked, and there's no evidence of overflow.)

Anyway, the country house apparently has no heat, and may not have had heat since, oh, early December, or maybe even before that.  Great.

Lots of possibilities:
The furnace is dead.
The power is out.
The fuel line is clogged.
Who knows.

I told HH there's no panic.  With the below 0 temps they've had almost all winter, if there's any damage, it's already happened.

The thermostat had been set at 50.  I had turned the well pump off, and opened the faucets in the bathtub and the kitchen sink to allow for expansion.  I THINK I had filled all the traps and toilets with antifreeze (but I'm not sure, and even so, who knows how long before it evaporates anyway).  To tell the truth, I had been slightly worried about sewer gas from the septic tank filling the house, and the damn place exploding at the first spark.

So I guess I have to go up there later this week and sort it out.  If there's any damage from frozen pipes, it will be no more than whatever water was sitting in the pipes, and fixing can wait for spring.  I can carry water for my stays.

If there's power, I can have heat while I'm there, because the otherwise defunct old heat pump has electric backup and I can run that.  Costs a fortune, but, well, ya gotta do what ya gotta do.   If the house has already been without heat so long, it won't hurt to just turn it off when I leave.  What more could happen?

If there's no power, I'll stay overnight in a local motel and then just come home.  No way I can do anything about anything until spring if it's anything more than a tripped circuit breaker.

Bad bad bad winter.  Go away.


Note:  More evidence of my mistrust, according to the electric bill for the country house, it used 564 kwh in December and January, and the bill claims this is an actual reading.  If the furnace was off, all that's running is a dehumidifier in the basement and a refrigerator in the kitchen, and if there's been no heat, I doubt either has been running much.  But those are the same usage numbers as last year.  So either the power was on through December and January, or the electric company is inventing numbers.

3827 Slammed, #1

Monday, March 3, 2014

I got slammed twice this past week, plus one screaming meemie.

The first slam:  I received a letter from John Hancock, the providers of my Long-Term Care policy, stating that my annual premium would be increasing.

Shortly after Jay died Daughter informed me that she hoped I had a good LTC policy, because there was no way she could do for me what I had done for Jay.  I had no policy.  I knew that the older you are when you get one, the more expensive they are, so I got me one right away, well before I turned 60.  It's pretty much the gold standard, providing for everything from housekeeping help to full home nursing care, nursing home, whatever necessary.  It includes a 5% annual increase in daily limits (the maximum offered), and lifetime benefits.  It costs me $3,384.00 annually.

I had been hearing rumors that most LTC insurers were applying for premium increases.  Their actuaries had screwed up.  They'd figured that about half of the people who signed up for LTC policies would eventually let them lapse.  Well, that didn't happen.  Most, in fact, kept them, so now the insurance companies are looking at a huge balloon they didn't expect.

Most of what I'd read said that they were looking for anywhere from 15% to 45% increase, with some sources saying an average of 40%.  John Hancock says their increases will average 25%.   (One article:  Insurers are not allowed to raise individual premiums.  By law, they have to raise premiums across the board for a class of policies. 

The letter I got assures me that my "class" has nothing to do with my age.  They did not otherwise deign to define the class for my edification.

My premiums will increase from $3,384.00 to $6,429.60, as of May 2, 2014, the due date of my next premium.  Ack!

This is a 90% increase!!!!!

Even if 90% weren't already ridiculous (average 25%?), I carefully budget and save to make that payment.  With the increase, I am now $3,100 short of making it.  A little more than 2 months notice would have been nice.  WTF!  I can pull from investments to make it up, but what about people who just plain can't pay that much?

I think John Hancock's actuaries will get their heart's desire.  A lot of people are going to drop their policies, even though they may have been paying on them for decades.

It's a 12 page letter.  I read only the first two pages and set it aside, because every time I looked at it I felt like I was going to throw up.  All day Friday and Saturday my stomach churned.  Finally, Sunday, I read the rest of it.  They give me several options that will reduce my increase, most of which involve reducing my benefits, like going from lifetime coverage to a set number of years, or setting a longer wait time of need before benefits kick in, and so on.

Then I found the magic key.  If I reduce the inflation number for the daily max benefit from the current 5% compound to 2.7% compound, my premium increase drops to 0%.  Nothing.  Same as before.


That leaves me wondering now, if that's all it takes on a gold-standard policy, who in the rest of my class is contributing to that 25% average?  Something smells fishy here.  It's not adding up.

I'm supposed to return a form by the end of this month requesting that it be changed.  So that's what I have to do, I guess.

You know, when I bought this policy, I thought the premiums would never go up, since it was based on age and risk and what I'd asked for, and this is what they had figured their risk was for me.  One thing I had considered was investing that money earmarked for long-term care, but after running the numbers I figured insurance would actually end up providing more.  A lot of people buy LTC insurance and end up using very little of it (they die quick, I guess), so it still averages out as a win for the insurance companies.

Now I'm going to worry constantly.  There's no assurance that next year they won't try the same thing again.


Just to show you how little faith I have in anyone anymore - in all the articles I had read about insurance companies raising premiums on LTC policies, they all said that the companies were applying for state board permission.  In none of them was there any indication that permission had actually been granted.

So what if they are subsequently not given permission to raise rates?  Will they still hold me to the lower inflation figure?