Coffee heat rising

Medicare Part D: Another adventure in Wonderland

Just shoveled a couple more piles of bureaucratic grief off my desk, finally. I’ve put off dealing with Medicare Part D and Medigap insurance, mostly because after the interminable hassles entailed in getting free of state service, I’ve developed quite the flinch reflex about filling out forms. The mere thought of having to fill out another form makes my gut clench. And the prospect of having to navigate still more bureaucratic shoals gives me a headache. Put them together: you get a case of insomnia that would keep Dracula awake at noon.

With the “have to go to class now” excuse mooted by spring break, this morning I forced myself to return to the Medigap application from Mutual of Omaha, an outfit that, from what I can tell, is among the least rapacious of the insurers selling these products in Arizona.

As you might guess, I’m less than fond of medical insurance companies. Several hellish experiences in the past have led me to regard the health insurance industry as the Evil Empire of Bureaucracies. Contemplating a DIY transaction with any of the dark angels that inhabit that place gives me the willies. When Mutual of Omaha’s application arrived in the mail, I glanced over it and then set it aside on my desk, where it’s been gathering dust and sinking beneath the steady sprinkle of still other pieces of paper I don’t want to handle.

But it wasn’t as horrible as I feared. Though the form was six crowded pages long, two pages didn’t apply to me, and so trudging through it consumed only a half-hour or 45 minutes. The worst part was having to sign a form giving the insurance company access to all my private medical records, no holds barred. Sign, wretch, or it’s no Medigap coverage for you! I just hate that. Once I had an insurance company demand that my doctor hand over twenty-five years’ worth of notes on every consultation and treatment I had ever had with him or any of his partners. As you can imagine, I found that deeply offensive. I still find it deeply offensive. Yea, verily, I find the entire lash-up that is the U.S. healthcare system deeply offensive.

Anyway, off it went. That will set me back $91 a month.

Next, it was on to the Medicare Part D (Prescription Drug Coverage) conundrum. After you’ve figured out which of the rapacious insurance companies will provide you with a Medigap policy (which covers the very large holes in Medicare Parts A and B) at the least extortionate price, you are required to sign up for Part D, another pushmi-pullyu program that tries to make up for traditional Medicare’s lacunae.

Healthy as a horse? Don’t think you need it? Well, screw you! If you don’t sign up the instant you become eligible for Medicare but instead wait until you think the chances of illness are higher, then you’re charged a stiff fine. So it’s get on the boat now or pay through the schnozzola for the privilege of swimming out to the boat later on.

As with Medigap, a mob of insurers offers up Part D policies. Coverage is pretty much uniform, but monthly premiums range from around $10 a month to over $80 a month. Because Medigap and Part D are regulated by the federal government, the plans offer the same general features. As far as I can tell, the major differences are the deductibles, the rules governing which meds you may and may not have, customer (dis)service, and the ways individual companies find to maximize the cost of meds for the customer.

Mercifully, the feds have a site that will conjure up a table comparing aspects of all the Part D providers in your state. When I said I was 65 and about to start Medicare in Arizona, this site disgorged details on 44 outfits selling insurance here. Ugh!

To compare these details, you have to call up a separate page for each company, wherein you find all sorts of microscopically printed information. It does allow you to compare apples with apples, but the chore is not easy. To simplify matters, I picked a half-dozen that looked like they had relatively decent customer satisfaction (reviews are rated, Amazon.com-style, with one to five stars; for Arizona, none achieved a five-star ranking overall and only a couple made it to four). The “details” pages break the ratings down into four categories: customer service, complaints, a vague “member experience,” and drug price and safety. Several other issues are also presented in more detail.

On the surface, dizzying. To arrive at something like a meaningful guess at a reasonable choice, I set up an Excel spreadsheet. In it, I created columns for the monthly premium, the government’s estimated total monthly cost for a typical well customer and for someone who suffers a serious illness, the deductible, and the four ratings categories.

Strangely, the premium bears only vaguely on the probable cost of medication for a serious illness, such as a heart attack or congestive heart failure. With most policies, the overall monthly cost of such an ailment ranges from $150 to $200. That’s not always true, though: if you’ve subscribed to Aetna’s $82.20/month policy, a major illness is likely to cost you $200 to $250 a month.

Once I’d entered the data, I sorted it by several criteria. Click on the tables to see them in a readable font size.

The results, I think, helped to clarify matters. On the lower end, where monthly premiums are vaguely within reason, the annual deductible is, with one exception, an astonishing $310. This means, of course, that if you’re healthy and, like me, take no medications, or even if you take only one or two in generic form, you’re paying for air: most of the time your costs will come in way under the deductible. Paying more to get out of the deductible pushes your monthly overall cost so high (as, for example, in the pricey Aetna plan mentioned above) that you’d lose unless you had a very expensive chronic condition like Parkinson’s or MS.

Interestingly, the plan sold by AARP, which vaunts itself as the champion of the elderly, ranks rather low by most criteria.

An outfit called Wellcare consistently comes up with good to high ratings. It does especially well in the important categories of performance ratings and of drug safety and cost. This company offers two plans in Arizona, the “Classic” and the “Signature.” From what I can tell, the only difference is that the “Signature” plan has no deductible. When you compare the two plans’ overall monthly cost, you discover that even though the no-deductible plan will run you $15 a month more than the plan with the $310 deductible, the plans’ overall monthly cost is almost identical. So basically, you can expect the same results from the $20/month plan as you can from the $35/month plan!

So, though I have yet to go out on the Web to read consumer complaints, I’m leaning toward the Wellcare Classic. The cost is on the low end, but apparently service and coverage are about the same as the higher-end Signature policy. Customers are better satisfied with Wellcare than with most other vendors: the performance rankings put it second behind the pricey Medco, but only by a quarter of a point. Wellcare is the only one of our selected companies to achieve 5 points in any category—and it does so in the important matter of drug safety. (You understand, these outfits are capable of dictating what drugs you can take, and they do so on the basis of cost, ignoring potential side effects and interplay with certain chronic ailments like diabetes.)

Once all these plans (not to say “schemes”) are cobbled together to provide adequate healthcare coverage, the cost is astonishing.

Medicare Part B will cost me $110 a month. People who are already enrolled get no increase from the 2009 premium of $95; those who come on board in 2010, however, get an inflation gouge even though, like other beneficiaries, they get no commensurate increase in Social Security. Medigap: $90.80 a month. Medicare Part D: $19.70 a month. Total: just over $220 a month for starters.

I do understand that many people are paying a much larger gouge to cover one person. But still… Compared to the $36 a month I’ve been paying for the same coverage with no deductible and with only modest copays, it looks pretty stiff.

And to figure this stuff out, you end up taking a swan-dive through the Looking-Glass. I fail to understand why it’s necessary to make this business so complex, so difficult, and so scattered that you have to build a freaking spreadsheet to parse out your best choices!

Despite regulation that is supposed to guarantee uniform coverage, it has taken hours of analysis and puzzlement to identify Medigap and Part D policies that look like they won’t cheat me and appear to provide tolerable customer service. The whole process has been confusing and difficult…and I think I still have most of my marbles.

Imagine the confusion this mess creates for less educated or more vulnerable elders—and the opportunities to prey on them! It’s just effing inexcusable.

Update

“Inexcusable” about describes it. The plot thickens: as it develops the government’s opaque site dispenses information most kindly described as incomplete. Check out the next revelation.

Early Retirement: The health insurance hurdle

In a comment on yesterday’s grouse about the GOP’s stubborn resistance to a viable national healthcare program, Bucksome Boomer remarks that the main thing blocking her way to early retirement is the difficulty of obtaining health insurance.

There are a few ways around this.

One is to go back to college.

Yes. Tuition at most state and community colleges is far lower than private health insurance, and many colleges provide group policies for students. Arizona’s Maricopa County Community College District, for example, offers quite a nice policy for anyone who is enrolled in even one credit! Pre-existing conditions are covered if your prior policy covered you for 12 months without a break before you enroll (rules vary somewhat by state). Californians have access to student health insurance through the Community College League of California. In Texas, Houston Community College is among many that offer health insurance for students—here, you have to be signed up for three credits, but it can be an online course. A list of Texas universities that offer student health plans appears here.

If you’re yearning for early retirement and you live in a state where the colleges do not provide decent student health insurance, it might be worth considering a move to a state where such programs are offered. Google community college student health insurance to bring up a list of leads. Be sure the program does not exempt pre-existing conditions or, if it does, whether having been covered for 12 months by your current employer’s plan will trump that rule.

Another option is to join a trade group that offers group health insurance. These are not so easy to find; you pretty much have to figure out what groups you might, by any stretch of the imagination, be eligible to join and then find out if they have health plans. This list from California might be a good jumping-off point. Here’s a list of writer’s groups with various plans. Different writer’s groups have different requirements for membership—some expect a serious publishing track record; others will admit wannabes. As a blogger, you are a writer, especially if you’re earning any money at all from your site. Look at all groups associated in any way with your trade, business, or outside interests. The American Library Association and the Modern Language Association, for example, offer group health insurance for members—and anyone can join these organizations.

A third possibility is a high-deductible HSA. In these schemes, you take out a high-deductible policy and combine it with a medical savings account. The savings account functions like a hybrid between an IRA and a flexible spending account. The money set aside is used to cover your health-care costs during your deductible period and any other expenses. If you’re within a few years of Medicare age and you don’t have an expensive chronic condition, this strategy could carry you over until you can get less risky coverage. Any amount that’s left in the HSA rolls over to you when you reach Medicare age, at which time you can use the money any way you please. Shop around for these. At one point I had an HSA that covered 100 percent of my costs at any doctor and any medical facility, once the $1500 deductible was exhausted.

And finally, you might take a 50% FTE job with a public college or government agency—if you can find one in the current economy. Half-time jobs are usually considered benefits-eligible. This means you can get the health insurance without having to hang around the salt mine all day long. It’s not as good as being fully free from the day job, of course, but it’s a lot better than a 40- or 60-hour work week. Some government employers offer health insurance that is significantly cheaper than Medicare; when I go on Medicare, for example, I will pay about 10 times as much as I was paying for the State of Arizona’s EPO plan, and more than I’m now paying for COBRA.

None of these strategies is perfect. But then, no health insurance plan is perfect, at least not any I’ve ever heard of.

This post is part of a series on achieving financial freedom.
Our story so far:

An Overview
Education
Work
Debt
The health insurance hurdle
The roof over your head

Update: COBRA, RASL

So yesterday I reported on the flap that arose over the COBRA discount, in which one of GDU’s sterling HR representatives told me that staying on the payroll until December 31 would make me ineligible for the discount on COBRA mandated under ARRAS, the federal stimulus plan. This would mean my health insurance premiums would jump from $26 to over six hundred bucks a month. Even with the discount, the cost will rise to $186, but since I’ll be paying more than that for Medicare, it almost looks affordable.

Not, of course, with almost zero income, but I’ll just have to forego food and other necessities, since at my age I can’t risk going without health insurance.

Well, the story gets better.

I managed to find an e-mail address for an actual human being at the downtown state employee benefits office, taking me outside GDU’s purview. Off went a query:

If my employment with the Great Desert University ends on December 31, will I be eligible for the discounted COBRA?

Here is the reason that I am asking this question:

The federal rule on COBRA premium assistance, posted at www.irs.gov/pup/irs-drop/n-09-27.pdf, says a person is eligible…

(1) who is a qualified beneficiary as the result of an involuntary termination during the period from September 1, 2008, through December 31, 2009, (2) who is eligible for COBRA continuation coverage at any time during that period, and (3) who elects the coverage.

However, at GDU’s “frequently asked questions about COBRA premium assistance” page, this wording appears:

Who is eligible for premium assistance?

A person is eligible for premium assistance if and only if:

He/she is eligible for COBRA coverage between September 1, 2008 and December 31, 2009

AND

The qualifying event that makes him/her eligible for COBRA coverage is a covered employee’s employment being involuntarily terminated between September 1 2008 and December 31, 2009.

The HR rep with whom I spoke yesterday told me that the first bulleted  point, saying you must be “eligible for COBRA coverage between September 1, 2008 and December 31, 2009” means that if I am on the payroll on December 31, that will disqualify me from eligibility for the COBRA premium assistance BECAUSE my health care plan will remain in effect on that day, and so, because I will still be covered by my plan on December 31, I will not be “eligible” for COBRA until the next day, January 1, and therefore will miss the deadline. She believes that as long as your plan is in force, by definition you’re not eligible for COBRA—you have to have been thrown off your plan to be eligible. That is, she is saying that as long as your health care plan still covers you, you are not eligible for COBRA and therefore if you are still on the payroll on December 31, you are not eligible for the COBRA discount.

Is that true?

The way I read the federal rule published on the IRS site, it looks like “eligible for COBRA continuation coverage” means only that you are enrolled in an employer’s health plan and that you are involuntarily terminated between 9/1/08 and 12/31/09. Is simply being covered by your health care plan on the day you are involuntarily terminated enough to disqualify you from the discount, if your termination date is December 31?

Thus I need answers to two questions:

1. Is it true that if I am terminated involuntarily on December 31, 2009, I will not be eligible for the COBRA premium assistance? and

2. If it is true that termination on December 31 will make me ineligible for the COBRA discount, will a termination date of December 30 leave me eligible for the premium assistance?

Thank you for any clarification you can offer. I would like confirmation of the answer in writing, since no one at GDU seems to be certain of these policies.

Shortly, along came this startlingly literate response:

Hello,

Anybody terminated involuntarily between 9/30/08 and 12/31/09 are  all included in the Stimulas.

Thank you,

[the correspondent’s name & position]

{Sigh} I don’t know whether to take the word of a person who thinks that “anybody…are” and who can’t spell or punctuate stimulus. But at least now I have something in writing to support my interpretation of the law.

Ah, but it didn’t end there. Yesterday, the story got even better!

To be eligible for the state’s payout for accumulated sick leave (RASL), you have to be officially considered “retired.” Since I’ve worked at GDU since the early Pleistocene, this benefit amounts to about $20,000 for me, to be paid out in three annual installments.

The way I understand it, this means you make an official statement that you are retiring (and you have to do this within two weeks of your termination day) and you start drawing down from the state retirement system or from your 403(b), whichever you’re in.

As usual making an exception of myself, I want to roll over the $130,000 or so that has accumulated in this plan into my large IRA, which is professionally managed. I’d like to do this a) for the sake of simplicity (fewer statements to handle, fewer bureaucrats to deal with) and b) so that all my money is managed by the same financial management firm.

In connection with this strategy, I’ve been told that to be considered a GDU retiree, you have to leave a small amount in your 403(b) fund. Although you can roll over most of the money, there’s some minimum amount you have to leave in the state’s custody. What that minimum is remains a mystery.

So while I was at the HR office receiving incorrect information about the timing of the ARRAS eligibility, I asked the same font of wisdom if she could tell me what is the minimum that has to stay in the 403(b) to maintain one’s status as a “retiree.”

Well, of course she hadn’t the faintest. She’d never heard of such a thing.

She advised me to call the RASL director at the General Accounting Office to ask about this. I’ve been in touch with this woman before, and in the past she’s been very helpful—she was the one who advised me that the story La Maya and I each heard from HR office on two separate GDU campuses, to the effect that if you’re laid off you’re not eligible for RASL, was wrong.

By the time I reached her the following day, I’d about figured out that everything the HR rep had said about COBRA was just so much B.S., and so I’ll admit there probably was an edge in my voice.

When I asked her what was this “minimum amount” I’d been told had to stay in my 403(b) account, she completely went off on me.

She said that if I rolled my money out of my 403(b) into my own IRA, that would “obviously” mean I was not retired and therefore I could not have the $20,000 the state owes me for back sick leave pay.

I asked her to please define what is meant by “retire,” since I didn’t understand how rolling money out of a 403(b) into another tax-deferred plan would cause you to not be retired. She could not or would not respond to that question, but instead informed me flatly that if I rolled anything out of my 403(b), she would send me a letter rejecting my application for RASL. She started yelling at me (!) that “you can’t have everything you want.” I was so nonplussed it didn’t occur to me to say I’m not asking for everything; all I’m asking for is what I’ve earned over the past 15 years of working 14-hour days, 7 days a week with no overtime.

She then demanded that I call Fidelity and TIAA-CREF, where my 403(b) funds reside, with any further questions. She said they had “hundreds” of representatives who have had experience with this issue and could confirm what she said.

It took an hour and a half to get through the punch-a-button mazes to reach humans at those two worthy organizations. TIAA-CREF has disconnected the line that used to reach a person, so that now all of its published telephone numbers take you to a barricade between its employees and the Great Unwashed. Finally I got a call from a guy I reached through an e-mail form on their website.

At Fidelity, the CSR and his manager had never heard of any such rule. They both said they couldn’t imagine how rolling your money from one tax-deferred fund into another tax-deferred fund would magically make you “not retired.” The manager suggested that the way to get around this crazy woman would be simply to make a small drawdown, as though I were going to take out payments to live on, until such time as she approved the RASL and the first payment hit my account. Then, he suggested, just go ahead and do the rollover. Once she’d approved the RASL, there would be nothing she could do.

He also suggested simply rolling over the first distribution into my IRA. He said there’s no rule prohibiting you from making a roll-over, and although Fidelity has to confirm with GDU that the person requesting a distribution actually is “retired,” there’s no way the GAO woman was going to know where the distribution goes.

At TIAA-CREF, the CSR was amazed and said he also had never heard of any such thing. He said, however, that when the request for confirmation of retirement status goes through to GDU, the form used to make that request does say where the distribution is going. So, he concluded, this woman would be able to see whether I was having the money put into my checking account or whether it was being rolled into another tax-deferred instrument. He recommended taking a minimum distribution, paying the taxes on it, and depositing the remainder into my Roth IRA.

This will mean I can’t consolidate my money from three tax-deferred instruments to one for at least three months after I leave GDU. It takes that long after the demented woman at GAO approves your status as a retiree and gives the go-ahead for the RASL payment for the first of the three annual installments to be disbursed. Since I probably am going to have to make drawdowns from savings to survive, this is going to add to the hassle factor immeasurably.

What a flicking nightmare.

“Socialist” health care beats out private insurance

SDXB—after having delivered another long tirade about the evils of health care reform and how we’re all going to pay lots more for lots less, watch our inviolable American liberties slide away, and ride to Hell on a socialist handcart—recommended that I drop by a CVS pharmacy or a Fry’s grocery store to get a flu shot, since The Great Desert University has quit offering employees free flu vaccine.

So, after checking where the flu clinics were scheduled for that day, I dropped by the CVS around the corner.

The “nurse” who was dispensing the shots had gone to lunch, but her sidekick was there, reading a copy of People magazine. I presented my health insurance card, by way of finding out how much I would have to pay for an immunization. She looked at the card and said she’d never heard of it. Then she plowed through a 50- or 60-page guide, searching several 8 1/2- x 11-inch fine-print pages for some clue. She did find that some Beech Street plans cover the Mollen Clinic’s flu and pneumonia shots, but she couldn’t tell whether the State of Arizona’s plan is among them.

So I asked her if the Cigna plan I’m being switched to next month would cover it. With only a week to go, it would probably be worth waiting to save the thirty bucks charged to members of the unwashed public who have no insurance. She repeated her time-consuming, eye-straining search. Again, she couldn’t tell: some Cigna plans were covered, but…now… Get this! Cigna customers were to provide a credit card number, which would be sent to the insurer. Cigna would then decide if and how much they would cover, charging the balance to the card.

I said I didn’t think I’d like to give out my credit card number and carte blanche to charge an unknown amount to it. She agreed that would not be the best of all possible ideas.

Moving on… I decided not to waste any more time waiting for the “nurse” to come back, since another site, a Fry’s grocery store, was on my way to the various errands I had to run.

There I again presented the Beech Street/RANAMN card. Again the customer service assistant had never heard of RAN-AMN. So, not wanting to drive 15 miles out of my way, pay for parking, and hike around trying to find the clinics for downtown state employees, I paid the $30 to get the damn shot. Before getting to that point, though, I had to fill out two legal-sized pages of forms detailing personal information that’s no one’s business.

It was, in short, an expensive hassle. At least it was better than the $86 my doctor “friend” tried to charge me for a flu shot last fall.

On my way out, I mentioned that next year I’ll be on Medicare and asked whether Medigap insurance would cover the shots.

“Oh, no,” she said. “Medicare Part B covers flu shots. They’re free. And you don’t have to fill out the form then—all you have to do is sign this line” (indicates a blank on the two-page form) “and you’re done!”

ohhh brother… that soooooocialist health care system
sure is gunna make our lives rough, eh?

Saved! Benefits cover without bankrupting

Finally—finally, finally, finally—the state sent out a booklet showing the medical benefits offered during this fall’s annual enrollment period. We’re a week in to the normal open enrollment period and have had no information. GDU was supposed to have posted this stuff today, but at last look had not. The state, however, has known the facts long enough to print out and mail a 69-page document to every employee.

We still have an EPO, through the very iffy Cigna but at least an EPO, and my doc at the Mayo accepts it. Thank God! And according to the CSR I just spoke to, it will cover care at any emergency room, including the pricey Mayo. Premium is only $39 a month.

The total monthly premium is $523.  According to this document, those of us who are to be canned between now and December 31 will be entitled to the COBRA discount and so will have to pay only 35 percent of the usual outrageous COBRA premium. For the EPO, then, my cost will be $183 a month—significantly less than I’ve budgeted for Medicare Part B + Medicare Part D + Medigap.

Hallelujah! Now…if I can just manage to not get sick between now and my 65th birthday, I’ll be golden.

Worry: What’s our beloved employer up to now?

None of this bodes well. Our Beloved Employer, the State of Arizona, is up to something, and it ain’t good. They are actually keeping the nature of the 2009-10 health care plans secret. Open enrollment starts on Monday, and HR on all levels—at the state and at the university—is refusing to tell anyone what choices we will have or what providers they will cover.

What this means is that (once again) the pooh-bahs expect people to be dangerously angry. The last time they pulled a serious number on us, when PeopleSoft was jacking us around to the extent that some people weren’t getting their paychecks at all, they had armed guards present at meetings in which they tried to justify the various ways they were screwing us.

Rumor has it that we will be offered only two health plans, one from Aetna and one from Cigna. Everyone here knows how likely it is that you will get in to see your accustomed doctors if you have Cigna as an insurer. From what I’m told by friends who are healthcare professionals, Aetna is even worse. When Cigna was our only choice (a state of affairs that devolved the last time our present governor was in power: coincidentally, her husband is a senior executive with that outfit), one of my doctors would not see me at all, even after I offered to pay him in cash! I had to go out and buy private insurance on the open market in order to have any choice at all in medical care—and around here, where medical care is about as good as the educational system, you do need to have some control, in the form of choice as to which doctors you will and will not see and which hospitals you will and will not end up in.

Since relatively few Arizonans are sensitive to this fact (in a right-to-work-for-nothing state, employees are just happy to get any health insurance), a limited choice of plans is probably not the issue. Some people will be annoyed, but not to the extent that the Mouthpieces will feel a need to have men toting guns present at public meetings.

No. The issue will be that the cost is going to go through the roof. And that will set people off.

The furloughs have done so much damage that a permanent pay cut in the form of a gigantic hike in health insurance premiums really will cause some serious outrage. We have had our salaries back to normal now for one, count it, one week. Over the past six months, I’ve been working at a $500/month cut in pay. My associate editor announced that she’s looking for another job, because the new little number they’re doing on her has cut her take-home pay to $200 a week.

If they raise insurance premiums to $200-plus for one person (which is what all the plans that are not HMOs other than the EPO presently cost), that will leave her working for…yes! nothing. Zero take-home pay. At that point, she’ll be better off to quit. Applebee’s, where she earns more in five hours than GDU was paying her in a week before its current shafting of her, offers a rudimentary form of health insurance that would carry her over until such time as she can find a decent job. My guess is, she’ll walk right out our door.

A-n-n-n-d… If that’s what comes down, I can’t do all her work plus all the work of the research associate they’re not replacing. Even if it’s only for four months, between September and Canning Day, I may be forced to quit, myself. Supposing Her Deanship agrees to let that much of our workload go and still keep our office open, an exorbitant health care premium will bring an end to my plan to save up enough cash to get by in the coming penury. It’s pointless to work yourself to death if the pay doesn’t do you any good. I’d probably be better off to quit, myself.

What a place!

We’re told the university system is getting $154 million in stimulus funding (quite a lot for educational institutions in this state, which tells you something right there: it’s a tiny, tiny drop compared to the amounts forked over to revive the automobile industry and to lay down more asphalt across our state). GDU is supposed to get the largest part of this.

When Her Deanship was canning me and again when she was raving on about how brilliant I am, several times she murmured that “there might be something” come December. Apparently they hope to find a way to salvage some part of our program if they get some money. But I’d have to think once, twice, three times about any such offer.

First, I really resent the prospect of another $300 to $500 cut in pay. Now, I realize that I’ll be paying something like that for Medicare out of a vastly smaller income. But it’s the principal of the thing: at least on Social Security I won’t have to work for my pittance. (I’ll have to work to scrape together two other pittances in order to survive…but we’ll overlook that for the time being. 🙂 ) Second, I’ve come to feel so angry about the way that outfit has treated my staff that I can barely stand to drive out there and walk onto the campus. And third, I’m tired of waking up at 4:00 in the morning and not being able to sleep for worrying about…well, about shit like this!

Helle’s Belles. I’m going back to bed. Too late to drug myself: I have to drive a car in a few hours. But damn it. There’s a limit to these three-hour nights.