Saturday, January 13, 2018

Fighting Insurance Confusion

Since January is when a lot of us are dealing with insurance policies, I thought I'd share a little tip I've picked up.

We had a delightful piece of mail come in a couple of weeks ago. I went to the doctor last month and before scheduling the appointment, I asked if they accepted my new insurance. They said they did. After the first appointment, they called the insurance to ask if they covered the procedure I had done. I was told it would be covered 100%. I had it done and all was well until I got the Explanation of Benefits stating that they weren't paying a penny because it wasn't in network. They said that the nurse practitioner that performed the procedure was in network, but the office wasn't. Unfortunately, they had filed the claim under the office. The insurance company had completely drained my health fund and said I still owed $600. I called the insurance company and filed an appeal. I'm still waiting to find out if I win. If I win, the amount in my health fund gets rolled over to my plan this year, so this issue is worth $1100.

We got a new insurance plan through my employer (Our 3rd insurance company within 6 months. Woohoo...), so I was worried about having a similar experience. Most of my coworkers have found that their doctor's aren't in network (My boss has gone to the same doctor for 22 years and now has to find someone new) or that all of the doctors at the office except one are in network. It is very frustrating and overwhelming. I went to the website to search for my providers as I usually do when I noticed a disclaimer stating that just because a provider was listed was no guarantee that they were in network. Wait, what?

I did my search but wanted to get good proof in case of dispute. I found a link where I could live chat with someone from the insurance company. I explicitly asked if the doctor's office (with address and phone number) and each of our primary care doctors were in network. They explicitly told me they were. I asked about the hospitals that were in network and verified the ones that we would be most likely to use. They explicitly said they were. There was a button at the bottom that let me download a transcript of the chat with the date, time and name of the rep. I save these in a folder and rename with a description: "Primary Care", "Dr. xxx", etc.

Before I made another doctor's appointment, I asked again about the office and the doctor. I also asked explicitly for information about what my plan covers and how it is processed since some plans have limits on numbers of treatments per year, or will charge a different coinsurance rate.

If I get billed improperly from now on, I will have a lot more supporting evidence in my appeal. It only takes a few minutes once you know where to look. You can even bookmark the page to live chat.  If taking five minutes here and there saves me from another $1100 mistake, it will be a great hourly rate.

Good luck out there!

Monday, January 8, 2018

This Week...Beyond Money 12/18 - 1/7

For me, a life beyond money is making choices so that you can live the best possible life, regardless of your income level. Obviously, you have to make a living, but there are many ways to improve your quality of life without increasing your income levels and correspondingly your expenses. This regular post will be some of the ways that we improve our quality of life beyond just trying to make more money.
* My pothos cuttings are growing new leaves but haven't grown water roots yet. It is still super cheery sitting on my bookshelf. Update: We have roots! Almost time to put into pots.
* The houseplants are taking over everything. Woohoo!
* I am regrowing some green onions in a little glass of water.

All 12 bags for $10!
* Oh my goodness, did we go grocery shopping. In preparation for a massive cooking day, we hit our secret produce wholesaler. It was unreal, as always. I got huge heads of bok choi for $1.39 each, kiwi 6 for $1, ginger for $2/lb, trail mix for $3/lb and a HUGE bag of lettuce, cleaned and chopped for $1. Then, the deal of the century (not to be dramatic): 1 lb bags of sweet lunchbox peppers were $1! However, if you bought a whole flat of 12, it was $10! So, less than $.85/lb for peppers that we sold for $5/lb at the farm. They weren't seconds either; these were absolutely perfect.
* We hit Kroger the evening before Christmas Eve and lucked out. There were plenty of manager's specials. We got a huge pork butt for $2.50/lb, ground beef for $2.50/lb, chicken thighs for $1.80/lb, a big bag of snowball rolls for $1.50/dozen, and chocolate chip cookie dough Klondike bars for $2.80/6 pk (Chocolate chip cookie dough is Trucker's favorite, so I had to).
* I hit the salvage grocer on the way to work one day. I got some amazing deals. I got 5 lb whole wheat flour ($.50), 2 lb bags of self-rising cornmeal ($.50), cinnamon/apple and maple/brown sugar bread ($.50/loaf), tartar sauce ($.50/bottle), small red beans ($1.39/2 lbs), granola bars (~$.15/each), cooking wine for $2/bottle (I have been craving shrimp scampi and plan to make it for my family for New Year's), and little bottles of ginger ale($.25 each; this is by far the best ginger ale I've ever had-spicy enough to make you sneeze!).
* We made rice cooked in stock and stir-fried vegetables for dinner one night.
* I made homemade hamburger helper. We used some ground turkey, with sauteed onions and peppers, the last of a box of pasta, some powdered cheese, the last of a bag of cheddar, a little milk and some homemade stock.
* I used our frozen food preps to make dinner. I made an epic meal in about 15 minutes: egg drop soup (homemade stock, 1 egg and green onions), crab rangoon and egg rolls (frozen; texture was not perfect, but it was my first time making them from frozen; they were still great), stir fry (variety of veggies from the frig with some shredded pork from the freezer) and rice (cooked in stock).
* We used the rest of the baggie of pork to make BBQ pulled pork sandwiches with caramelized onions (frozen in ice cube trays) and sauteed peppers (frozen in ice cube trays). This is such a great time saver. It took about 5 minutes to make dinner.
* I love my SodaStream. It is generally considered a luxury item, but we save money and materials with it. We buy the syrups at the salvage grocer: $99/bottle of 36 servings. It is the equivalent in price per ounce of $1.50/12 pack (including carbonation), which is half the cost on sale here. I use it to make flavored waters and homemade seltzer. It doesn't save over buying seltzer at the salvage grocer when they have it. The salvage grocer sells it for $.05/can. Flavored seltzer at home runs around $.12/12 oz, but would save money if I had to pay regular grocery prices for seltzer. Either way, we don't produce as much waste.

Food Preservation:
* We did great on the food preservation front this week. We spent one entire evening freezing food for quick, easy, cheap and healthful meals in the coming months. I did little bits here and there for the next few days.
* I sauteed about 3 lbs of onions. I caramelized another 6 lbs in the slow cooker. These were frozen in ice-cube trays and then bagged.
* We froze 12 lbs of sweet Lunchbox peppers. Some we sauteed in rings and strips. The strips were mixed with the sauteed onions and frozen in ice cube trays. These will be pulled out a cube or two at a time for omelets, pizza toppings, sandwich fixins, etc. The rings were frozen on a cookie sheet and then packed into a freezer bag loose so we can pull out exactly what we need. Over half were cored/seeded and frozen whole. These will be used for mini stuffed peppers and pepper poppers. We can also chop them if we run out of chopped peppers first.
* We cooked up 2 lbs of ground beef. We had tacos for dinner and used half a pound. The rest was divided into 4 bags. 2 bags unseasoned, 2 bags taco seasoning with added peppers and onions.
* I pulled out all of the whole frozen tomatoes from the growing season. When I got overwhelmed or when we took a trip, I'd just chucked the fully ripe tomatoes into the freezer to deal with "later". I skinned them (the skins went into the stock pot) and cooked them down into a flavorful sauce with seasonings from the garden (frozen and dehydrated). I froze it for later.
* I used all of our veggie scraps from the day as well as all of the veggie scraps in the freezer and tomato juice strained from sauce making earlier this season to make veggie broth. I added some flavored vinegar and Worcestershire sauce. It smells heavenly. I cooked it down for a more concentrated flavor.
* I also cooked up 2 lbs of ground turkey. We used a little for lunch and froze the rest.
* I froze 3 medium-sized loaves of zucchini bread.
* I cooked a pork butt in the slow cooker. The meat was bagged up and frozen for future meals. The lard was rendered. The cooking liquid was saved to use in soup/rice making.
* We made a massive batch of crab rangoon and egg rolls (around 75 and 25 respectively). We used a few for our dinner that night and froze the rest. I will let you know how they turn out.

The artist took pictures of 8 different people
and then painted them. It is so beautiful.
* It is winter break! I am so happy to get 10 days off work. We get paid for the work days we have off.
* Trucker and I went thrifting together. We found some nice things for friends and family. We don't do Christmas gifts, but these will be given throughout the year as the need comes up. We found some cute baby clothes for my sister who is pregnant, a cute mini photo album for a wedding (I plan to fill it with pics of my sister and her fiance for their wedding),an owl basket for mom, and a book on dog grooming at home for my dad (who just bought clippers, so really this gift is for their dog! haha). I grabbed some items for everyone else at after-holiday sales just so they weren't left out. We got a camo-themed hygiene set for my outdoorsy bro-in-law (shower gel, shampoo, cologne and loofah), a body spray set for my other sister, and a couple bags of candy for the soon-to-be-bro-in-law. We don't generally exchange gifts for the holidays, but will give them to them sometime soon. My family doesn't expect gifts and are all frugal enough to appreciate used gifts.
* We went out to brunch with our besties. We were all off work for once. We went to a local restaurant. It is always so nice to see Daisy and hubs. They are lovely humans. Daisy's hubby had to get to sleep (3rd shifter), but she went thrifting with us for half off day. Afterwards, we hit the Asian grocery. I got wonton and egg roll wrappers, snacks and chili sauce. I also saw that they had frozen blue shell crabs for $1.99. I may have to go back.
* One particularly frigid day, we went to an antique mall. It was so much fun to run around and look at everything. Plus, we got our walk in! We also stopped at a comic book store for their end-of-the-year sale. Comics priced $4 and under were $1. Trucker got several that he needed to fill in gaps. He collects Punisher stuff. I'm not into comics, but he is, so I like going with him to sales to help hunt for comics he doesn't have. He builds his collection slowly and frugally.
* We went to a free 5-piece bluegrass concert at the library in the neighboring town. They were really good and I enjoyed hearing some of my favorite songs.
* We went out with my parents, siblings and bro-in-laws for one of those game places. We had a good time with everyone, but it won't be a regular part of our entertainment. However, we did get to do several fun things: laser tag, go-carts, bumper cars, mini bowling, two rounds of putt-putt, and an hour of unlimited video game play. It was $39 each, which is enough to almost bring me to tears, but my grandpa and great-aunt had given us money to have fun with for the holiday, so out-of-pocket cost was $9/each. Afterwards we all went out to eat. Trucker and I bought dinner for my parents. We used a coupon for BOGO entrees, so the cost was around $12 plus tip.  It was the most expensive outing of the break, but since we didn't go out of town like we'd planned, the overall cost of the break was fair.
* I went to the bookstore with Daisy for their 20% off sale. I found several books that Trucker and I wanted, on clearance or very low-priced. The highest priced book was $4. Afterwards we went out for coffee and talked.
Lilly is a constant blur of motion.
* We toured a candy factory. Life is beautiful. It is a 65-year-old local company. The tour cost a whopping $2 each and you got a $2 voucher for the gift shop. It was so cool to watch them make different kinds of candy and watch the machinery in motion. Afterwards, they gave us each a buckeye. We found the mistakes boxes of candy that sells for half price. We each got a little box (milk chocolate crunch for Trucker and dark chocolate creams for me) for $4.45/each, or $2.45 after our voucher. Not a bad date!
* Gallery hop night! It was barely over 0 degrees, so Trucker found out that the convention center has an epic art collection and gives free tours. We enjoyed hearing about local artists and pieces and got to be inside where it was warm. Afterwards, we were able to walk through the skywalk to a posh hotel that housed part of the collection. We did walk around the neighborhood to hit a couple of our favorite galleries. It is always such a wonderful night. Each time I think it is the best one yet. I love the talks we have about technique, message, emotions and artists. We went to my favorite gallery and found that "Bill" wasn't there (this is the washing machine sculpture that I adore). Trucker asked the gallery owner if he had sold, and she said they had just rotated him out for a bit. She told us more about the artist (Jack Earl, for those are interested). He is 82 years old and has a wicked sense of humor. He has started painting now, so it was fun to see his relatively new medium. She said that "Bill" had been at the local art museum before it came to this gallery. I read somewhere that Earl is in the Smithsonian, so I think a road trip is in order.
Big Sis Rosebud is an
absolute sweetheart.
* Trucker uses an app from the library to check out ebooks for free. He is getting a lot of reading in by having a book or two on his phone to read while waiting in line.
* We went to my Grandpa's house on New Year's Eve. I made dinner for everyone. I made shrimp scampi with angel hair, roasted potatoes, carrots and garlic, and a salad. It was really yummy. Afterwards, we played pool and ping-pong in the basement and laughed a lot together. Then we went to my parents house to play Wii and hang out with their adorable goldendoodles. When it was time to watch the ball drop, we couldn't get the station in, but Dad found a star trek episode ending. He laughed that it was almost midnight since the show was over. I shouted "30 29 28..." Dad and I laughed hysterically as we counted to zero which was perfect timing. We decided that next year we would tell my new bro-in-laws (who weren't there this year) that that is our family tradition. Mom still wanted to see the ball drop, but I couldn't find the video. I tried to sneak a 2016 ball drop video past her, but she caught on. Overall, it was a nice evening.
* We went to a small town outside of the city for the first concert of their cello festival series. We got to enjoy 2 hours of various artists from several states and a couple countries. It was a free event at the senior center. Afterwards, we walked to a local coffee house and enjoyed warm drinks and our books. Then we stopped at an agrotourism dairy. During the warm season, there is mini golf, batting cages, petting zoo and more. Since it was hovering just about zero, none of that was open, but they did have ice cream! I got a scoop of cow patty (decadent double dark chocolate ice cream with chocolate chips, toffee and cookie bits) and Trucker got chocolate chip cookie dough (his favorite and since it was the flavor of the week, he got two scoops for the price of one). Not including gas, our date cost $12.

* Nature is a million miles away. I enjoy it exclusively through art and houseplants when it is below freezing. LOL

* Trucker's office chair broke out of the blue one morning. We decided to hit some thrift stores to look for a replacement instead of rushing to the office store. We went to three thrift stores and at the last one, found a perfect chair. It was the right size, more comfortable than his last one, and a beautiful earthy brown to go better with our living room. Price? $10.
* I bought two new travel coffee mugs at the thrift. We had a set that my sister gave us 8 years ago. We definitely got a lot of use out of them, but the bottoms were falling apart and rusting and water had gotten inside the insulated part. It was time for some new ones. Trucker got a nice metal one with a blue lid and I got an amazing salmon colored (my favorite!) one. We paid $1.50 each. Mine looks brand new: no wear, no stains.
Funny finds (not purchased haha!) at the
antique mall
* My credit score raised another 9 points this month.
* We got an oil change with a coupon to save about $10.
* We line dry our clothes inside. This saves electricity, but also increases humidity in the house. The laundry room is home to some houseplants that like a good bit of humidity, so this helps them a little. Trucker has taken over laundry duty for the most part and has created an amazing system for getting a full load up in the small amount of indoor space we have.
* I used rewards points towards my credit card balance.

Waste Reduction:
* We took a couple boxes of household items to my parents' house for my sisters to look through. We let them take whatever they wanted and donated the rest.

House and Home:
* We did a little decluttering, but not nearly as much as I'd told myself I would do.
* I did crazed kitchen cleaning with my melamine foam. It is amazing how easily grime wipes off with these things.
* I cleaned out the vent covers for the furnace and bathroom exhaust fans. I try to do it at least once a year.

* I enjoyed the break away from work. It was much needed. Trucker also took a break from his work to hang out with me. Whenever he had to knock out a project, we did it together so we got more time together.

* It is much to cold to walk outside (at least for us), so we have tried to find active outings that allow us to walk a lot indoors, even if that means walking the aisles at the grocery.
* I got a bit of a workout shoveling the driveway and sidewalks.
* I weighed in and realized that I have lost 11 lbs in the last 9 months. That was really exciting, since I'm now on two meds that can cause weight gain.
* My arms are still recovering from my medical procedure almost a month ago. The arm that had the procedure had to rest for a couple weeks, by which time my other arm was worn out from picking up the slack. Here is hoping for arm comfort this week!
$4 silk flower bouquet was
much nicer than $4 worth
of real flowers and it
lasts longer.

* We hit a deer right after leaving my parents house on New Year's Day. Fortunately, I got slowed down enough that it just smashed up the bumper but didn't bust the radiator. We weren't sure if anything was damaged to make it unsafe for us to drive 50+ miles home, so my parents let us drive Dad's truck and they took my car to my cousin to look it over the next morning. The next morning I drove the car 3 miles round trip to get supplies for a house repair. I got a flat tire as I turned onto our street. There wasn't a spare in the truck, so they drove it out to us. Dad and Trucker changed it in 2 degree weather. When they first got there, dad unloaded his tools as soon as he got there. When he and Trucker headed back out, Trucker asked where the tire was. Dad had a brain slip for a second and thought he had left it at home. He was almost in tears and Trucker said, well let's check the car. They had a good laugh when they saw it in the trunk. Poor Dad. He is so kind to help us out. We all enjoyed some hot chocolate afterwards to warm up.

* My mom told me one day that an old family friend was in the hospital in my city. This is around 1.5 hours away from where they live. Her sister (her only remaining family) doesn't drive. Since she went into the hospital a couple days before Christmas, I didn't expect that a lot of people would have the time to devote 4+ hours to drive out to visit since they would be doing holiday stuff. Trucker and I stopped at a thrift store and found a beautiful silk flower arrangement for $4. Since she was in ICU she couldn't receive real flowers, and these will be just as beautiful next week as today, plus she will be able to take them home with her. She was so excited to get visitors and loved the flowers. She wanted lots of hugs and we talked with her for a bit until she started falling asleep again.
* We were really thankful that my parents helped us after the deer incident. I don't know what we would have done without them.

How was your week?
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