Saturday, February 14, 2009

It's The Economy, Stupid!

Like everyone else, we're getting hit by the recession.

I'm grateful every day that Scott still has a job, unlike the many people I know who have been laid off in recent months. But we're still feeling the pinch as we watch expenses we have little control over, like our utilities, go up. Meanwhile, our income is going down as Scott's employer, like so many lately, has frozen raises and bonuses and even instituted a company-wide pay cut.

We're cutting back where we can, but it's still tough. We had cut most of the fluff out of our budgets back when the reality of my illness sunk in. Now we have to look at cutting back things like our daughter's gymnastics and ballet classes, and maybe even her preschool. And I had just started thinking about seeing a physical therapist who incorporates yoga into her practice, but she would be out-of-network and although her office manager offered me a cash discount until I meet my $500 deductible, it's still more money than it feels like I should be spending on something that I have no way of knowing whether it would help or not.

I'm even thinking of cutting back my acupuncture to every other week instead of every week since that, too, isn't covered by insurance.

And of course, with the new year, we got a new insurance plan, which has higher co-pays for most prescriptions and specialist visits, as well as a higher deductible.

At one point, Scott threw out the idea that he could do some moonlighting as a consultant to bring in some extra money. But assuming he could even find a gig like that, where would he find the time for it? He already works about 45 hours a week in the office, plus five to ten hours most weeks from home.

The ideal situation would be if I were well enough to work at least part-time. But since I can barely keep up with my volunteer commitments, which take just a few hours each month but exhaust me for days after each meeting, how would I manage a job?

I joked that maybe I could get a gig as a phone psychic (do they still have those??) and take the calls from my recliner at home. But even that's beyond me since lengthy conversations often exhaust me and I probably couldn't manage it on a daily or even regular basis.

Laurie Edwards of A Chronic Dose, whom I consider an inspiration, recently cited this article, called "Ill In A Day's Work," from February's More magazine in her blog. And it got me thinking about all the complications involved in trying to work through or despite a serious chronic illness. I don't have any great insights into it, but it's worth taking the time to read.

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!


Jeanne said...


First, thanks for stopping by my blog to share your experiences with your email from "the center"!

I just joined your blog as a "follower".

Yes, the recession is very troubling indeed!

In our house, we are very grateful that my husband has a job. We know from when he had been laid off in the past that it can be incredibly devastating.

We have almost lost our house 3 times now thanks completely to medical bills. It's scary.

My husband works on call 24/7, 365 days/yr. M-F he works 14-15 hour days on average. Weekends vary but he works Saturdays and Sundays too. So he goes months w/out a day off of any kind.

My husband's income is less now than it was when we moved to this area back in 1998. Even jobs like his current one that pay less than past jobs are frighteningly insecure. As an independent contractor, he would not even be eligible for unemployment benefits if he were to be laid off tomorrow. Job has no benefits. So the health insurance is an HMO (via COBRA) through his former job.

I am disabled. After numerous attempts to return to the workforce, I kept landing in the hospital. My attempts to return to work COST us money because I got MUCH sicker... thus my co pays skyrocketed, the gas $ I spent driving from specialist to specialist went way up, etc.

Due to trying to force myself back to work (even work at lower-paying jobs with less responsibilities), I got sicker and sicker.

When we did our taxes at the end of the year (itemizing medical expenses), it was blatantly obvious that my going back to work had COST my family money!

This was very upsetting in light of the fact that I had gained additional diagnoses in the time I was "back to work". Essentially, I did permanent damage to my health only to lose money for family income.

Like you, I have acupuncture that I pay out-of-pocket for. When my husband was laid off in 2001, I tried staggering out my appointments for acupuncture quite a bit more.

In my case, I learned my lesson. Staggering appts made me WAY sicker! I quickly realized that acupuncture was helping me even more than I had realized!

So, as pitiful as our finances are and as high my pile of medicals debts is, I treat paying for acupuncture like paying a co pay at another doc. Yes, acupuncture costs more than my co pay.

However, with no disrespect to any of my other doctors, my acupuncturist has helped me more than the rest of my doctors put together! So I look at acupuncture as a necessity... because, for my body, it truly is.

Add up my cardiologist, endocrinologist, pelvic pain specialist, neurologist, etc. and my acupuncturist truly does more for me than the rest combined. He's just amazing.

My hubby works 14-15 hours/day M-F plus he works weird hours Saturdays and Sunday (usually logged in from home, thank goodness... since the commute is 1 hour each way - without snow on the roads).

I hear you about worrying about your hubby taking on more hours at an additional job. In my husband's case, he works his fingers to the bone every day... I worry about him having a cardiac event. (His father had quad bypass a few years back).

Hang in there! These are scary times financially but hope is important...


Joan said...

Hey -

First, you know I never want to minimize your struggles and that of people who struggle with chronic illnesses. I'm not feeling terribly eloquent, so I will just dive in.

This is another place where my world - Mom of a kid with significant disabilities - collides with yours. The difficulties of Andy's life - therapies when he was younger (speech and educational) and troubles with school and endless meetings ONLY available during work hours - made it too hard to try to be an employee. I am t hankful every day for Rex's job and benefits. We are blessed.

Many kids with disabilities have unrelenting medical bills. Who is with them at hte hospital? Their parents. Who has to take them to the doctor, to therapy? Their parents. And if either parents works, Oregon won't assist with medicaid for kids with disabilities. Nope. Other states do, but not Oregon. So if you work at McDonalds, those ER visits and doctor bills - not to mention the needed extra care from ear tubes to surbery to relieve contractures or tests to screen for known risks such as cancer - are all the family's burden.

And what about the sleepless nights? Without the medicaid access to what is called "wrap around services" families must deal with children who cannot sleep for whatever reason all on their own. Again, other states are more kind (or were), but not Oregon. So when they cut services to people with disabilities and the family support programming, there will be even less help. Currently on those who claim they will institutionalize their child will get help - and even then it takes 3-6 months.

I don't know the answer. What I do know is that life gets hard. It's nice - though I don't want him to do it - that Scott has so many skills to contribute. (I think he should sell furniture!). But it still makes it so hard. I can't remember the last time I had a vacation - or a "real" day off.

I hear you. Loud and clear.

Aviva said...

Hi Jeanne,

Aw, thanks for visiting my blog and following me! And thanks for validating my decision to stick with acupuncture despite the out-of-pocket expense. My acupuncturist made it slightly easier by giving me the "student rate" even though I'm not a student. :) I think it was a combination of her feeling bad that I can only tolerate a brief session anyway (I'm in and out within 30 minutes because I can't tolerate the needles for long) and that I've given her a ton of baby clothes and gear for her son, including an infant car seat and stroller. But I'm grateful, even though the $40 per week still adds up.

But like you said, it makes a difference. I really found that out last summer when she took maternity leave and I was reluctant to start up with a new person. So I went nearly three months without any acupuncture, and it took quite a while to sink in that the reason I was practically hibernating was because of the lack of acupuncture. I was even canceling doctor appointments because I didn't have the energy to get dressed and drive myself there.

I so desperately want a diagnosis, though, that I can't bring myself to completely give up on doctors.

I hope for all of us that the economy picks up sooner than the predictions I've seen. It's getting bleak, and everyone I know has been hit by it. :/

Aviva said...


Thanks for sharing your POV here. I think chronic illness and disabilities hit the entire family hard, whether child or parent has the actual diagnosis. I cringe every time I read about cuts in benefits to the disabled, especially the disabled children. (And while it's a digression, can I just say that it makes me SO mad that a woman who gets food stamps and has children on SSI somehow was able to afford IVF and have *octuplets* who will undoubtedly also have at least some health issues that may qualify for more SSI payments? Grrrr! If she wanted to emulate Angelina Jolie so much, she should have taken Angeline's example and ADOPTED needy kids!!)

I'm hoping that Oregon manages to pass the paid family leave act that's before the legislature. It's not like a 6-week cap per year is anywhere near enough, whether for parents with a newborn or someone whose family has major health crisis, but it's a start. Something has to be better than nothing, and I hope it can later be expanded.

As for Scott, he'd probably love to sell furniture. But first we have to come up with a way to get him shoptime on a regular basis. :/ (Have you seen the china hutch base cabinets he completed finally? They are GORGEOUS! And actually in the dining room even!! :) And of course the money for supplies. He sold his hunting rifle this week for a third of what he paid for it despite it being in like-new condition. And he's seriously thinking about selling the motorcycle in the very near future.

I know I'm so much luckier than so many people, including some of my friends whose spouses have been laid off. It helps me both to vent on my own situation and to hear from others who are right there in the trenches with me. I don't think it's a misery loves company thing, more of a sense that I'm less isolated and alone in my situation. So thanks for helping with my reality check in the nicest possible way. And I hope you know how much I wish neither of us (or anyone else for that matter!) had to deal with these situations.