inmymargins: Green leaves against white sky. (Green Leaves)
It's been a somewhat busier week than most for me.

On Sunday, we celebrated my eldest local niece's college graduation. She actually got her diploma in December, but she walked in her ceremony Sunday afternoon. She double-majored in Super-Smart Brain Stuff and Super-Smart Body Stuff; don't ask me what the actual departments were. She's taking a year to decide whether to pursue a P.A. program or some other path, which I think is, well, super smart. So we had a nice family dinner out to celebrate her accomplishments, and I scrounged together $20 for her card knowing she'd understand and still appreciate it.

On Tuesday, I had a pretty exhausting day. There was a $175 30-minute refill appointment in the morning that I'd been somewhat dreading since I'd been putting it off for a while -- I'm one of those people who hides, then gets embarrassed about the hiding and hides some more -- but it turned out to be a really positive experience. We even had a bit of a breakthrough, which almost justified the outrageous price tag for medical care.

At 12:30, it was time for another filling. Medicaid completely covered this one and my pain was completely gone within 24 hours, so I was delighted. I remain pleasantly surprised by the quality of care I'm getting, and ever so grateful. I go back tomorrow for some kind of special x-rays for my new nightguard, which likely will not be covered but which I can thankfully do a payment plan for. Weirdly, I do still have nagging sharp pain in my tooth when I bite from last week's dental work, but hopefully that passes.

As a historical side note, I had come home from the dentist and taken some hospital-strength ibuprofen, so when I saw the Comey news flicker on screen as I prepared to leave again around dinner, it didn't really register. I think I was a little too focused on my mouth pain and headache, and not so much on the gravity or historical importance of what was being reported. It wasn't until much later in the evening, like hours into what was apparently non-stop coverage, that I realized, "Oh, huh, this is really big/bad." The joys of pain.

In any event, I headed over to a library board meeting, the details of which would likely be boring. In brief: I might be getting a promotion, or I might not be. I'll know in a month. So...I'll post in a month, I guess!

Another niece has senior night (high school) for one of her sports this afternoon, but I'm going to miss it, unfortunately. But I wanted to note that it's happening, and that I'm proud!

Final thought: I should make a separate post on this -- perhaps I will? -- but I absolutely devoured David Grann's Killers of the Flower Moon over two days this past week. You should read it.
inmymargins: Green leaves against white sky. (Green Leaves)
I've been spoiled in that, for all but I think six days of my life, I have had some kind of medical insurance, whether it be private as a dependent, COBRA, school plan, ACA-bought, or -- for the past couple of years -- Medicaid. I've always felt some safety in knowing that, even if it's really hard to pull off, I can somehow get the medical care I need.

That changed a bit after the Great Medical Debacle of 2013, which cost $30,000, ruined my since-repaired credit, effectively destroyed my parents' retirement savings, and led to me going on Medicaid. It was one of those great crises you hear about on the evening news, where people are just living their lives and then suddenly find themselves on the verge of bankruptcy because our medical system thrives on the tears of the blindsided innocents. And I survived it, but that confidence that I will always get the care I need was shaken pretty hard.

With Medicaid, things have generally been a blessing. I have no co-pay for medications or office visits, plus my emergency gallbladder removal was fully covered. The one real challenge has been finding specialists who will accept it. And no specialty has given me more trouble than dentistry.

I realize now how spoiled I was by that private insurance for most of my life. For the first 20 or so years, I saw the same dentist my family had used for decades, with his cozy office built onto his home in a cute suburban Connecticut street. When he retired, I switched to another private practice, this time just down the road from the quaint hospital I was born in. When that dentist retired, he sold the practice to a charming young woman who often brings her children to work and who serves tea in the professionally-decorated waiting room. My dentists have always had the top instruments, hour-long appointments, total familiarity with me (and my family), etc. And since that's all I'd ever known, in my privately-insured world, it never occurred to me that that's not how dentistry works for everyone.

When I switched to Medicaid and went in for a regular appointment, I naively thought that my dentist would be required to take it. Oh, no, did I learn...$900 of work too late. So I didn't see a dentist for about 18 months after that, because I couldn't afford my regular dentist and I couldn't find a single "good" provider that would take Medicaid. The only options I could find at the time were charity vans and clinics that set up once or twice a year in church parking lots. No way was I entrusting my pampered chompers to that.

However, in the past year or so, we've had several chain dental offices open up in town. Since I had a cavity large enough that I could see it with my mouth shut, I figured I'd give one of those places a try. I found the one nearest to me, picked up my phone, and took a deep breath. Even though I was extremely skeptical of the shady name/logo and marketing campaign, not to mention the location in a former Indian take-out in a decrepit strip mall, I figured I had no choice left. I'd have to learn to get over my beliefs about what "good" dental care is and go get that sinkhole plugged.

I made that phone call yesterday afternoon. This morning, I was sitting in a perfectly pleasant, clean, modern dental office, where I was greeted by friendly, competent staff. It was nothing fancy, but then again, I didn't need it to be. (I don't need tea service; I just need a leak-proof molar.) The dentist and hygienists were very skilled, attentive, and gentle with me. They spent about an hour making sure they got everything right. The dentist reviewed all of my x-rays with me, tooth by tooth, to help me better understand my teeth and my future care plan. The office staff went over every possible billing and payment scenario with me and never once made me feel bad about needing to factor in every penny.

I left with two big takeaways:

1) My judgment of chain dentistry prior to this experience was completely unfair. I had assumed that only small, local providers could give good care. I had unknowingly become an office snob, thinking that decoration was somehow indicative of care quality. I could've avoided that filling (and the one I'm getting next week) entirely had I gotten past that notion earlier.

2) I am so, so relieved that high-quality care does exist for us low-income folks. We deserve it, too.

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inmymargins: Green leaves against white sky. (Default)
Ashley

June 2017

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