Friday, February 19, 2016

Ultra Expensive

It turns out that having your mail held at the post office means that some days the carrier drops it off anyway, and when our building manager got home from making a trip to the post office to pick up all of our mail, it turned out that every item in the pile was addressed to her, with the whereabouts of two weeks’ worth of mail for the rest of us temporarily unknown. Accordingly, I visited the website for each of the three credit reporting agencies to put a freeze on my account, which costs $10 per agency. It looks like it costs $10 every time you place or remove a freeze, per agency, and you have to do all three because different lenders may use different agencies.

Then I walked over to the post office to get what appeared to be much less mail than I would have received in two weeks. Several nights ago, our building manager’s camera in the lobby picked up a riveting little video of the thief breaking into our boxes yet again, while his girlfriend checks our recycling bin for anything of interest, and then stands near it waiting for the thief to finish his work. It’s clear from the video that there wasn’t actually anything in any of our mailboxes. A couple of days later, we had another video of a different aspiring thief, who evidently noticed the camera and stood there for a moment or two as if he’d only paused to have a couple of drags of his cigarette, and then walked off. Yesterday I visited the post office again and picked up what should have been more than a week’s worth of mail, but was only a few pieces.

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Because I had breast cancer and because of another case of cancer that occurred in my immediate family, my risk of ovarian cancer is elevated. There’s no real screening test for it, but my doctor is amenable to my having an ultrasound every 18 months or so to see how things look, and I did that in January. (Everything was fine.) These days, one procedure can result in as many as three bills: the service, the doctor’s time and expertise, and the “facilities charge.” My doctor sent me to a different place this time, and my portion of the facilities charge, namely 100 percent of it, was $1400!

I called my insurance to ask why this was so expensive. Since I’ve had breast cancer and my risk of ovarian cancer is somewhat elevated, I think this should count as preventive care, which under my plan is free, but the representative explained that precisely because there is cause for concern, it’s considered diagnostic. However, in the future, I can at least contact the provider and ask what the “negotiated rate” for the service is, bearing in mind that I’ll be paying 100 percent of it.

I also spoke with my doctor and she said she thought I had to go to the new place because my insurance is an HMO, but it’s actually a PPO. To her credit, she apologized profusely. Presumably I can go to the old place from now on, and she also said that every two years should be fine, rather than every 18 months.

Fortunately, at this moment, I can cover this bill, but it’s becoming clear that the economics of becoming a certified chaplain are not favorable. You can probably get a job as a chaplain at a hospice with just CPE (clinical pastoral education), but it’s going to be an hourly job paying $25 or $30 an hour, where you’re driving around to people’s houses, and I’m sure such jobs don’t come with health coverage. By the time I bought and insured a car and paid for my own health coverage, I’d be living perilously low on the hog.

Besides CPE, becoming certified requires about two years’ worth of education, give or take, which can probably be done not too expensively, but while in school, I would be living off my savings, which is an unappealing prospect.

I’m really starting to wonder why I should do all that education when I can be chaplain-like right now. For free! Thus I was slightly ambivalent when TWMC, which had been the place I was most hoping to do CPE, invited me to come for an interview. My first response was to call my mentor, Naima. I confessed that I was wobbling on the whole idea, and she said that’s fine—that all along the way, I might not be sure. The only thing she was emphatic about was that I must wear a jacket to the interview. She said you want to look friendly and approachable to the hospital patients, but professional when dealing with doctors or lawyers, so my next call was to my friend Ann Marie to see if she’d come shopping with me, and also tell me what to do with my hair.

I told Naima that I was inclined to go ahead with some CPE even if I don’t think I’m going to pursue certification. For one thing, I just want to do it, and for another, a few months of hands-on experience might make it clear that I must pursue chaplaincy as a career, whatever the cost, or might make the exact opposite clear. She agreed, so I called TWMC back and my interview is scheduled for about a week and a half from now.
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