Sunday, April 01, 2018

A Precarious Stack of Tiny Refrigerators

I did my taxes this year for the first time as a user of Obamacare, which considerably attenuated the process, but was not overly daunting at any given moment. I told myself that now that I’d done it once, it would be even easier next year, and I’m sure that’s true, but another reason it didn’t seem too difficult was that I had done it wrong, thus affording the opportunity to do another thing for the first time: file an amended return.

I chose an insurance plan this year that allows having an HSA, which I’ve never had before (and I also figured out how to get Microsoft Word not to change HSA to HAS every time I type it—telling auto-correct to change HAS to HSA did not work, but deleting the entry that changes hsa to has did). I called Kaiser to find out how to get going with my HSA, and they transferred me to “the plan administrator”: the IRS!

I called back another day and someone said they would be sending my card and instructions in the mail. That was toward the end of January. Toward the end of February, I called again—after paying $500 for a mammogram, which would have been nice to use pre-tax dollars for—and this time they let it be known that I have to apply to enroll in the HSA program, so I am in the process of doing that. I decided not to accept any assistance with paying my health insurance premium during the year because I suspect my income will end up being over the limit, and I don’t want to have to write a huge check at tax time. I called Covered CA and told them I don’t want premium assistance, which initially baffled them; apparently no one waits until tax time to get any assistance that is due. In sum, the details pertaining to health insurance have seemed absolutely endless, for more than six months now.

Things were certainly easier and cheaper when my insurance came from my employer. I now get to pay $600 a month out of pocket for the privilege of having insurance that carries a nearly $5000 deductible! That seems awfully expensive. I hope I am somehow supporting those who can’t afford to pay for health insurance at all. I also hope Medicare will still be around when I turn 65, or maybe between now and then, I’ll once again have insurance from an employer.

My freezer lately gave up the ghost and our wonderful building manager sprang into action. After she went to the store, she came to report that there is no such thing anymore as a refrigerator as tiny as mine was: 20.75” wide. It was probably 40 years old, given that it seemed pretty ancient when I moved in here 20 years ago. I joked, “Maybe we should get two hotel refrigerators and stack one on top of the other.”

Her eyes widened as she said, “They suggested that! But I told them, ‘No! She needs a freezer!’”

The solution was to replace the stove at the same time with one that is narrower than the one I had. I was a little concerned about that, since I do cook, but Tom has a teeny-tiny stove and he hasn’t starved to death yet. I went up to his place with my largest pan and confirmed that I could conceivably use his stove to cook something if necessary.

The building next door is owned by a hoarder. His garage, his car, the building lobby and all available shared spaces, including the back yard, are crammed with stuff, which attracts rats, so he has been putting out rat poison, so we now also have dead rats out back. Our building manager told me that one morning she was awoken by a terrible noise: a rat in its death throes clinging to the screen of her bedroom window. She is working with the health department about the overflow of stuff, which blocks at least one fire exit, and about the rat poison and the dead rats, and also with social services, since this is at root a mental health issue. The fellow himself is very pleasant. One of his own tenants recently told me that when he is confronted, he never gets angry and says, “Screw you! I’ll do whatever I feel like.” Instead he is apologetic and remorseful, and the situation continues as always.
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