Coffee heat rising

Just when you think it’s safe to go back in the water…

Well, all that rhapsodizing about how much extra money resides in the checking account just turned into a dirge.

Yet another piece of paper came from the Social Security Administration, informing me that my monthly checks are about to drop to $974. That’s the net on $1,257 after the dings for taxes and Medicare: a 23 percent gouge.

Which reminded me that I still haven’t signed up for Part D, another hassle and hoop to jump through. That will have to wait until next week, since the next few days are going to be very hectic. And that I haven’t paid the Costco membership. And that I haven’t paid the COBRA bill for April.

At any rate, the cut in “pay” isn’t as drastic as it looks, because the $200 to $300 a month COBRA has been lifting out of my pocket has come from net income, and so it’s really about a wash. Medicare, Medigap, and Part D will add up to about $240 a month, about $40 more than this month’s COBRA payment that includes Delta Dental. So even though the paycheck drops precipitously, the amount I have to write checks for isn’t quite as high.

Except of course it isn’t a wash. Medicare is higher than COBRA, and it doesn’t cover dental care. Delta Dental will go away after the ARRAS discount ends, because its cost to private individuals is higher than the cost of routine care. To have enough on hand to cover the inevitable major dental work that comes with age, I’ll have to self-escrow something every  month to put into an account to pay for future dental disasters. How much, I can’t imagine. A crown costs about a thousand bucks around here, so I suppose that would be about $83 a month.

Because Medicare fails to cover dental care, I’m allowed to keep the COBRA coverage for Delta, which I will do until September, when the ARRAS discount expires. Meanwhile, in another week I’m getting a new crown on the tooth I broke when I bit down on an olive pit—it’s been patched with a large filling, since the ding didn’t hit the pulp and nerve, but the Doc agrees that it’s going to have to be fixed while I still have some coverage.

Mercifully, he says I shouldn’t need a root canal. Ugh!

Delta’s coverage is pretty piddly. I’ll still have to pay half the cost of the crown, around $400 or $500. That will have to come out of my year’s emergency savings, which I’ve kept in the bank for 2010 where it’ll be handy if I find I can’t live on my income during this especially penurious year. Thank God I have it! Otherwise I’d just have to wait until the tooth starts to rot and then have it pulled.

In the tax gouge department, I think it’s likely that I’ll get the money back next April, since I’ll earn so little this year that a) the cost of Medicare combined with the long-term care premiums, nine months of Delta Dental premiums, the crown, and God only knows whatever medical bills happen next will exceed 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income; and b) net earned income probably will be so low that I won’t owe tax on Social Security at all. But meanwhile, I have to live until next April.

Hmmmm…. Did you know contact lenses and the cost of over-the-counter contact lens solutions are considered eligible medical expenses? That’s interesting; I thought those were vanity items. They’ll also accept the cost of Lasik eye surgery and getting your teeth straightened. If you kept track of all the stuff you’re allowed to count as medical expenses and you didn’t earn much, you just might hit that 7.5 percent threshhold. On a $35,000 income, that would only be $2,625. If you’re not getting health insurance through your employer, then you can count your healthcare premiums…and in that case, $2600 isn’t very much. Even if you made something closer to a living wage, say 50 grand, health insurance premiums could easily combine with fairly routine care to push your costs up to the $3,750 that is 7.5 percent of that salary.

I wonder if health insurance premiums will still be deductible under the new regime? Since Medicare qualifies, it’s reasonable to think they’ll make the new required premiums deductible, too.

Doesn’t matter for me: Arizona intends to opt out of the federal healthcare plan, anyway. Our intrepid leaders opted out of Medicaid, so I expect they’ll get their idiotic way with this, too.