Home Family Art Homemade Frugal Living Travel

Monday, November 30, 2015

Kid Burritos

We thought it would be fun to wrap our kids up like burritos.  They thought it was hilarious!!
And baby thought it would be fun to crawl over everyone.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Failure to Thrive - Part 6

This was a good visit!  Evie's ear infection is better and she is finally 14.1lbs and the doctor is satisfied that she doesn't have to return until she turns one, which is in one month.  My goal is to get her to 15lbs but the doctor said 16 would be better.  Her weight is still well below the charts which is keeping her still in the 'failure to thrive' category so now the primary goal is to keep the weight going up and not stagnating.

Her eating of solids has improved drastically over the past month and she's now enjoying:
  • Pumpkin Pancakes - she ate 2 for breakfast!  I know what she's getting for her birthday breakfast!!
  • Gerber fruits - she can get through one container per day split between two meals.  The doctor said most babies are eating 2 containers per meal but it's challenging enough to get her to consume this so we are trying to get her to 2 containers per day.
  • Bread crusts - the other kids don't eat their bread crusts so Evie helpfully takes as many as she can cram in. 
  • Any breads seem to make her happy
  • Cookies that are graham related make her happy
We've tried cooked carrots, smashed fresh bananas and cooked apples but those are thrown on the floor.  It's been easier to stick with foods she will feed herself and spooning in the Gerber fruits.  Her appetite is increasing so that's a good sign and I'm still nursing her every three hours so that's how she gets her liquids.  She still won't take a bottle or sippy cup of any sort. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Maryland Health Exchange - the adventure continues!

Well I just received a letter saying our coverage is going up from $658.02 to over $1,000 for 2016 so we need to reapply for insurance if we want to keep our plan in the same price range as 2015.  From what I understand, more people than expected used coverage in 2015 so premiums need to increase to make up for the difference.

Time to grit my teeth and hope we don't repeat our experience from 2015 that lasted from January - June. 

The website still stinks in terms of user experience.  In order to make a change you have to trick the system.  I say this because it forces you to select something from a list saying that you've had a change in your income, employment or had a baby.  I've had no changes so I tricked the system by making a one dollar change in my income.  However, I had no issues in getting through to the insurance options and I was able to find one from Evergren Health for $668.60 that is only slightly more than what we paid in 2015.  I hate to leave Blue Cross as we've been with them for 3.5 years but I can't pay over $1000 for the same plan. 

This plan has a higher deductible, I think 1,500 when we had $500 in 2015 but there doesn't seem anyway around that.  From what I understand, deductibles went up along with increased use of insurance premiums in 2015.  So we all pay more this year?  I guess that's the answer to health coverage for all Americans. 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Quest to Change Health Insurance 2015

This is a very long story of how we took a crash course in health insurance and lived to tell about it.  The story is broken down into monthly segments which involved many hours on the phone and tears of anguish as I wondered if the savings was worth the battle. 

Our 4th baby was born December 29, 2014 and we received a letter that month saying our 2014 plan did not meet The Affordable Care act qualifications so I quickly signed up for a family plan through eHealthInsurance.com.  It was very expensive at $982.13 per month so I started researching cheaper options and learned that we could get subsidies through the Maryland Health Exchange. 

I signed up for MD Exchange mid-January naively thinking it would go through instantly and I could cancel my expensive EHealth plan and not put the baby on that plan.  I was so wrong.  After filling out all paperwork for our family, the site locked me out and my application froze.  I could not get back in.  The following is my futile attempts to get someone to help resolve my case. 

1/28 - called Maryland Health Connection and explained the problem, was told my issue could not be resolved that day as it was a technical issue but that they'd elevate my case.

1/30 – called Maryland Health Connection, was told my case was escalated again.
At this point I realized I had to keep the coverage we had through EHealth for another month and get the baby on this plan because we didn't know when the MD exchange would be active and we already had doctor visits lined up for our newborn.

The following are my attempts in February to resolve the MD Health coverage - the carrot was dangling at $658.02 for myself and my husband and $63 for all four kids = Total for family $721.02. Savings from EHealth plan $261.11

2/6 – called Maryland Health Connection, was told my case was escalated again. 

2/11 – called Maryland Health Connection, 23 minute wait time before live person answered, total call time 53 minutes while person put me on hold repeatedly to check notes, take smoke break, consult management and finally say they could do nothing.

Realized that the plan I had signed up for at the beginning of January was an HMO and that would not work for my travel plans so now I wanted to change the plan and I was still locked out of the system!

2/12 – called Maryland Health Connection, 20 minute wait time before live person answered, total call time one hour and 16 minutes and I attempted to explain that I needed to change the plan I had originally signed up for.  Was told my case was being escalated. 
Realized that calling two days in a row might be excessive so waited until later in the month for next call.
2/18 - got frustrated with waiting and complained on Twitter.  Someone actually wrote me back and asked if they could help resolve the problem.  I figured I wasn't getting anywhere with the phone calls so why not! 
2/20/15 - called Maryland Health Connection, 19 minutes 30 seconds wait time, nothing resolved.
2/26/15 - Twitter MD Exchange gave me the option to change plans after I expressed the need for a PPO. 
2/26/15 - At this point we suddenly we got temporary cards in the mail for the 3 older kids but nothing for the baby!
2/26/15 –  called Maryland Health Connection, 25 minute wait time, was told there is nothing they can do for baby or parent cards but to try calling State Medicaid since they issue the health cards. 
2/26/15 - called state Medicaid and they were able to issue a number for baby and give it to me by phone.

I realized I needed to continue coverage with EHealth for both adults since the Exchange was not forthcoming in when our application would be resolved but at least I could take the kids off the plan since they were obviously now covered by the Exchange.  This would take another month for EHealth to accomplish so I had double coverage which could get us into a lot of trouble if we had any medical issues that month as both parties would fight over who's responsible.  Fortunately we had nothing come up.
MARCH 2015
3/3 - Twitter MD Exchange asked what date I wanted PPO coverage to start.  Considering I had already paid EHealth for March coverage I confirmed 4/1 start date. 

Yeah for Twitter!  I then proceeded to finally cancel our expensive EHealth plan because I finally had confirmation that a new plan would be starting on April 1st! 

3/9/15 – was billed Jan – March coverage in the amount of $2,204.46 for the MD Exchange HMO plan retroactively all because I had my credit card in the Blue Cross system so it went on my credit card without any warning!  It would seem that my husband I had been suddenly approved for MD Exchange for the original plan and they wanted us to pay for service we couldn't use for first two months!!!  I was so mad because we'd been paying another plan through EHealth for these two months all because no one could tell me when our application would be resolved through MD Exchange and they were charging us for the HMO and not the PPO that I had called to request.
3/9/15 - called Blue Cross to dispute $2,204.46 charge, the guy was able to remove auto pay and said the charge would be reimbursed.  Yeah!
3/24 - Received credit card statement showing the $2,204.46 charge had not been removed. 
3/24 - called BlueCross to find out why I hadn't been reimbursed the money for Jan – March plan.  The lady today said it was impossible to reimburse on their side until the Exchange voids the plan.  No idea why the guy on 3/9 said it would be reimbursed. 
3/24 - called Maryland Health Exchange – 38 minute wait time.  Spoke with Dione about the situation of having two insurances put through by the exchange.  Requested that the HMO be voided in the system so that I can get reimbursed $2,204.46 by Blue Cross.  Was told it’s impossible to void a plan and then put through a new application because we are past the cut off date.
So all my efforts to save $261.11 per month had resulted in multiple plans, a $2,204.56 bill that no one could seem to void and I had already canceled our EHealth plan!  Good think I'm not the suicidal type!  At this point I needed a few days to calm down before calling anyone back.
3/30/15 - called Maryland Health Exchange – 52 minute wait time before getting a live person on the line.  Was told that my situation has been escalated to Tier 2.  Someone worked on my case on 3/26.  I clarified that I want the HMO Healthy Blue Platinum plan voided so that I can get reimbursed by Blue Cross for Jan – March and I’d like to keep the PPO Preferred 500 plan that starts on April 1st.
3/30/15 – called Chase Visa to dispute the $2,204.46 charge, they were understandably confused about the entire situation but agreed to send a dispute form for me to fill out.
3/30/15 - BlueCross – 22 minutes wait time.  I explained that I’ve called the Exchange twice now to have the Jan-Mar plan voided and that I’ve called ChaseVisa to dispute the charge.  They maintain there is nothing they can do until the exchange puts through the cancelation of the policy.  I said that I understood their position but mine was that I was NOT paying this bill for double coverage.  Do you want to know the biggest irony here - my EHealth plan was also through Blue Cross so they could clearly see I had been paying them every month and that I was being double billed but because the HMO plan had come through the Exchange, there was nothing they could do!
APRIL 2015
Twitter MD Exchange was right, we did indeed get the PPO coverage available for 4/1 and there was a bill waiting on Blue Cross website for the PPO plan of $658.02 so I paid it and felt some small nugget of relief that we had coverage and cards to use.  There was still the haunting issue of how to get exchange to void the HMO plan but now that we had coverage I was satisfied that I had done everything possible to resolve the situation and I was ready to take a break on the frantic long calls to exchange.  I decided to wait for them to reach out to me!
MAY 2015
5/27/15 - I'm walking out the door to catch a flight when I suddenly get a phone call from the exchange asking me to clarify what I needed again with the two plans - almost two months since my last phone call to them!  I once again clarified that I needed the HMO Healthy Blue Platinum plan voided and was told they will put in for a refund for the Jan-March amount.  She said she would call back next week.
JUNE 2015
6/21/15 - I’m worried they canceled the wrong plan because I don’t seem to have a payment due for July.  Very scared and worried I don’t have health insurance.  Also, I never got a call back.  We're leaving for our family vacation in July, are we going to be without coverage?!?  I will probably lose my will to live if I have to speak with anyone from Exchange again so I go back to Twitter.
Twitter Exchange:
Hi, I need your help. MD Health Exchange set up 2 plans, 1 was the plan discussed here in Twitter, the 2nd was based on my 1st application
The plan discussed on Twitter started April 1st and I've been actively using this plan. The 2nd plan had a retroactive date to Jan 1st
I was billed for this 2nd plan for Jan-Mar when I couldn't even use it. I called to have it voided & they voided the plan I was using.
So now I don't have any insurance because I had written to Blue Cross to cancel the plan exchange activated with a Jan 1st plan.
The plan that needs voided is Healthy Blue Platinum. The plan I want to keep is the one discussed above in March - BluePreferred 500
can you help with this? I've already tried calling several times & am shocked to learn they canceled the wrong plan leaving me w/o coverage
Hi Rachel, we're looking into this for you and will be back in touch
Have you made payments on either of the plans? Thanks!
I've paid the BluePreferred 500 for April & May but when I tried to pay June I was told the plan had been dropped by MHE
I have not paid on the other plan that was given a retroactive date of Jan 1st
Thanks for this...we are still tracking it. Wanted to give you an update.
Thank you, really appreciate your help
Hi, do you have any updates?
Hi, Rachel, our enrollment team will be working directly with CareFirst on the issue with the plans; we hope to have more info early next wk


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Failure to Thrive - Part 5

I elected to not attend this visit because I had a very busy work day.  This was a follow up visit to see if she's been eating with a spoon. At our last visit they said if she wasn't eating with a spoon by now then they'd recommend seeing a specialist.  Fortunately she has been eating with a spoon only very sporadically and her weight gain was marginal (one ounce gained) in the past two weeks so the doctor wasn't pleased with this.  In addition she had an ear infection and has been sick with a cold for the past two weeks so I think that contributed to the slow weight gain.  The doctor gave us medicine for her ear and asked us to return in 2 weeks to see if it was better. 

I'm so thankful we were blessed to receive a health insurance plan through Maryland Health Connection this year that has not charged us for any of these extra visits!  What a relief it has been to not have financial burden piled on top of 'failure to thrive' condition!  I know many people are against the Affordable Care Act and I've written extensively about our issues with the adult plans but for kids it's been extremely helpful.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Late Fall a result of El Nino

This year we found ourselves raking leaves in November.  I found it to be a lovely respite from sitting at a desk every day.  It's more invigorating than afternoon coffee to go out and rake leaves in the afternoon. 

Usually my girls wear skirts, they prefer to look girly but today I told Charlotte she needed to wear jeans because we'd be jumping in leaves and sitting on hay bales and I didn't want her pretty skirts to get ruined.  She actually doesn't even like jeans so it took some fussing to get her into them and find an appropriate belt because she's far to skinny to actually hold them up.  I think she looks so cute in her farm girl outfit.  She was a huge help with picking up the leaves. 

Sam and Charlotte got really possessive over their sides of the yard so I had to really work with them to rake in just one area so we could work as a team and get through a decent portion of the lawn.  Here's the team after we finished (Vi's in Texas visiting Mema):

Thanks to El Nino, we're outside in t-shirts!