Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Talk Isn't the Only Thing That's Cheap

I'm composing a letter of appeal to Caremark, or Blue Cross, or whichever tentacle is denying claims this week, but I'm not very optimistic. Back when my mother was alive, her HMO seemed to do a cost/benefit analysis. It was costing them a lot of money to provide care for her, and it wouldn't cost them a dime to let her die.
The ostensible reason for denying Karen her oral meds is that they've only been approved for cancer patients. According to the Newshour with Jim Lehrer, though, as much as 80% of drugs are used off label. I think that the real reason might be that her medicine is expensive and letters of denial are cheap.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

It's Not the Suspense That's Killing Us

Yesterday we got the letter from Blue Cross denying Karen her oral meds. Well, it was from Blue Cross, but we now know that their preauthorization denials are done by Caremark (company motto: We make our money the old fashioned way, we bleed our patients).

I heard a podcast today about laughter. Using special equipment to allow humans to hear high pitched sounds, a Dr. Jaak Panksepp has proved, to his own satisfaction at least, that rats being tickled or roughhousing with siblings, laugh. The pinnacle of rat humor? Writing denial letters.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

War Is Never A Solution; It Is An Aggravation. ~Benjamin Disraeli

That's what Disraeli said about war, but really you could put almost any word at the beginning of that sentence and it would still be true.
The old riddle asks why you always find things in the last place you look. I finally found the square I was looking for in a recent post. It was, of course, in the last place I looked. What was kind of irritating was that it was also the first place I looked several days ago.
Anyway, finding the square allowed me to move forward and do battle with the vinyl I'm putting in the apartment. It was a close fought struggle, eventually involving hammers and even a knife. I don't want to crow, but one of us is laying supine in the basement, and one of us is up here blogging.
That was just one room, though. One battle in a long war that will turn TV's, tables and bookcases into refugees, and threatens to turn one family member against another.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Rain is Ending

It's been really warm, but we all know we've been having a fake break-up. Now that it's starting to cool back down, we're going to pretend to make up.

It's Chametz No Matter Where You Find It

I meant by now, to be able to report on the the vinyl laying project. My friend, Rich, came by while I was scraping the floor on Monday. We talked about those sad sacks that have to buy new tools for every project because they can't find the ones they bought before. I confessed that I had bought a square to cut the vinyl rather than look for the one I knew I had. How sad a sack am I? I haven't started laying the vinyl because I can't find the square I just bought.

So lost amidst the sadness over the cat yesterday, I didn't mention that Karen's visiting nurse was concerned that she might have an infection at the site of the new catheter going into her spine. She recommended going to see the nurse at the doctor's office, and I had to scurry all day to finish in time to take Karen there. The nurse looked at it, and said it looked like a yeast infection. She pulled the catheter out, so I guess we're done with that. It's probably just as well, what with Passover coming.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

I'm Going to Give You The Same Warning I Gave My Customers, "Don't Get Too Close, I'm Wallowing in Self Pity and You Might Get Some on You."

A very discouraging day. It appeared that overnight a mad posse of Zamboni drivers had attacked the city leaving every street unwalkably slick. At the post office there was a thin flier that our managers insisted be carried as a third bundle. Don't get me started on why that's a bad idea; I mean it, don't.
And that wasn't really even the depressing part. Our cat, Al has had cancer for the last few months, but he didn't seem to be suffering, so we just kept him at home and pampered him. A couple of days ago, though, he stopped eating or drinking, so we figured it was time to take him to the vet to be put down. When I got home from work yesterday, I went to check on him, but I couldn't find him, at first. Or even after a protracted search. This morning, however, when I came home for lunch on the way to my route, I did find him. He was in the street in front of our neighbor's house. There is no dignity left to us at the end. Because of the ice, he had frozen to the street. I spent my entire lunch break trying to pick him up, finally resorting to a hose and a shovel before I could pry him away.

Ancient Mesoamericans, let's say Aztecs, used to dip their feet in latex from rubber trees to make a form fitting shoe. They dipped their feet in it, they didn't roll in it. I've decided to treat self pity that way today. When I found Al, his eyes were open, his claws out, his legs outstretched. He was dashing home, and I choose to believe that he made it.

Monday, February 18, 2008

President's Day, When We Celebrate Washington and Lincoln Both Being Born on a Monday

Thirty years ago, my parents were seduced by a new innovation; carpet with the pad attached to it that could be glued to the floor. As I attempt to place vinyl in the rooms that were flooded last month, I'm confronted by one of the unheralded success stories of the seventies, glue that will not come unstuck. So, right now I'm taking a break and reading an Atlantic Magazine article about the Nigerian war between prosperity Christians and sharia Muslims. All I can think is, "Oh, for heaven's sake!"

A half an hour has gone by since I started writing this. I was back downstairs when I realized how creepy the idea of my parents being seduced was, even if it was only by tacky carpet. I've also realized that this whole floor scraping exercise is just that, exercise. Blue collar yoga, as it were. You've got your lunges with the big scraper, and your downward facing dog with the small scraper, and the uncontrollable weeping, I mean sweeping, of course.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Am I a Hyporcite For Noticing This?

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.
-Matthew 23:25-28

The sermon today at church was about legalism versus grace. I couldn't help but think that the most ardent critics of John McCain seem seem sort of Pharisaical. I'm pretty disgusted with the people calling themselves conservatives. Now at this point, I could share some closely reasoned examples of conservatives valuing style over substance but that seems like a lot of work, or I could go into an irrational rant. The rant thing seems tempting, but even that is more work than I really feel like putting into this (part of the sermon was about how many footsteps you could take on the Sabbath and I think I'm maxing out on keystrokes here). I just think that we Republicans should be able to develop a theory of government that's too long to fit on a bumper sticker.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

"Just when I thought I was out... they pull me back in. " Michael Corleone

So, another day off, another day taking Karen to the doctor's office, and fighting with Blue Cross.
We took Karen to the doctor's office to get her infusion pump (not the external one, but the one implanted next to her spine) filled. Here's a transcript:
Nurse: I'll just go get the medicine.
Two minute pause
Nurse: No one ordered the medicine.

Now for a slightly different topic. Back in the thirties, Robert Benchley wrote about someone he imagined went around saying, "You're misinformed, you're misinformed." By the way, if you have a moment you should really follow that link since there's a guy who's irritated and amusing, whereas right this second I'm just really irritated. Really. Do you remember the prior approval cabal? Last year, we were told that for Karen to continue getting her oral meds, starting January 1st, she'd need to get prior approval every time. We gave the number to the doctor, but there was never a response. I called Blue Cross today to ask for an update. They told me that I had to talk to Medco. I told her that I'd been told that the prior approval process was run by Blue Cross. She told me that I was misinformed. She connected me with Medco. The Medco lady said that no, we'd both been misinformed, Caremark still ran the prior approval process. So Caremark doesn't fill the prescriptions, and they don't pay for the prescriptions, they just decide who gets the prescriptions. The status of our request? They have no idea who we are, or what we're talking about, but if the doctor just calls them they can start the prior approval process.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Cupid Shoots His Arrows Where He Will

I'm off tomorrow, on Valentine's Day. That's a lot of pressure to be romantic, but it's worth the effort; as a young man, I flirted with danger and then I married her.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

So You Can Imagine How I Looked When I Came Upstairs As Karen Was Reading This and Said, "It's 0º, I'll Clean Out the Apartment Later."

COLD? WHO'S COLD? ... Here's an exchange of e-mails in the Department of Law:

From: Woods, Lucretia L (LAW)

Sent: Thu 2/7/2008 2:21 PM

Subject: Tok Court

"Wonder why you can't get through to the Tok Court? Wonder why all hearings are canceled? Tok court decided today to close until the temperature comes up to -55. Until then they will be closed."


From: Koutchak, Robin L - Barrow DA

To: Woods, Lucretia L (LAW)

Subject: RE: Tok Court


Thursday, February 07, 2008

I Told Them If I Was Going To Spend All My Leave There, The Least the Spine Center Could Do Was To Make It More Resort-Like.

Just an update to all and sundry. I took Karen in to have the line to her external pump stuck back in her spine very early this morning. The procedure went well, at least as far as we know. She did have a headache all day today which, when you think of it, is sort of odd. After all the high-tech hypo-allergenic tapes they used caused a rash whose description included the word, "pustules" they secured the line to her back with Band-Aid brand bandages. So far, there's no rash at the new site, and the original site has stopped getting worse now that it has been uncovered for a day.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

You'd Think I'd Be Happy About At Least Part of This... If This Was Your First Time Here.

The day started inauspiciously enough. It was 15° below zero and I was having my teeth cleaned ("Um, you need to brush closer to the gum line"). Then Karen to the dentist, me to the blood bank (they accept donations, but just try and make a withdrawal) Karen to the doctor, and then just a quick step across the hall to have a nurse look at the site where the tube goes into Karen's spine. The area around it was red and rashy. The nurse wanted to put some prescription salve on it, so she went and got the doctor that was in the office right then. He took one look, and then grabbed the tube like the guy with the handkerchiefs in the magic act, and just pulled and pulled and pulled it out. He was worried about infection since her allergic reaction to the tape holding the tube was so extreme. Now here's the part you'd think I'd be happy about; tomorrow they're going to reinstall it higher up her back and not use tape to hold it. Tomorow! It took three and a half months to get it scheduled last time and they can do it the next day?
We ran into a guy we know in the waiting room. He had just turned 65. He told us that now that he's being forced into Medicare he no longer has a doctor, not even if he's willing to pay for health care himself. Do you know what that means? Right now, we're getting the best medical care of our lives.

Shopping by Mail, Sort of

A customer who normally gives me chocolate covered apricots at Christmas met me at her door yesterday and told me that the apricot's quality had declined, so she was giving me a box of Kirkland Belgian Chocolates. I guess my Valentine's Day shopping is done.

I ended up skipping a house yesterday. There was a moose laying by the mailbox. I told him, "That's okay, don't get up," but he did.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

"If All the King's Horses and All the King's Men Can't Put Humpty Dumpty Together Again, We Need More Horses and More Men"

The Daily News reported yesterday that they want to outlaw another drug in Alaska. So far, after a decades-long "War on Drugs", over two million Americans are imprisoned. Because drugs are illegal, their prices are artificially high, driving criminal enterprises that threaten to bring down governments in Central America, and fund terrorists in Afghanistan.
Hey, I watch Intervention; I know the tragedy of drug addiction. But that's happening now. Is making more behavior criminal going to make things better? Are there any politicians willing to say that the war on drugs hasn't worked, and we need a new strategy, one that doesn't involve Americans paying the people that are trying to kill us? Honestly, I didn't intend this to be a political post, just a regular unfocused ill-informed rant, but it turns out that Ron Paul agrees with me, and explains it more cogently, too, at his website.
Oh, and another thing, what if we treated gasoline like something we're addicted to?

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Just Another Victim of the Liberal Media

Yesterday when I rode to work, wearing, effectively, nothing, it was because the Daily News' website reported that the temperature was 3° when, in fact, it was -13°.

Friday, February 01, 2008

I Was In Uniform

I didn't realize how cold it was this morning when I was dressing. On the ride to work, even though I could see that my legs were blue, I had to keep double checking to make sure that was because I was wearing pants.