Saturday, January 18, 2014

It's Time For a MONTAGE!!!!!! How the TRAGIC Movement Relates to Every Mid 80s Action Movie

            By the time the mid 8os hit, I was deep into my formative high school years and the advent of the greatest movie plot device known to man. I am speaking of the Montage.  Rocky IV, The Karate Kid, and Revenge of the Nerds taught me the valuable lesson of how I can accomplish any heroic task like David and Goliath if I just huddle with my friends and work hard all while set to anthem style 80s music with quick editing cuts, flashbacks and parachute pants.

            This past week feels like that first few minutes in a montage as I have started to battle against my new HRA insurance plan from Blue Cross Blue Shield courtesy of the State Health Benefit Plan folks. I won’t waste your time in backtracking and explaining the current healthcare situation, if you are new to this then click on this link to explain:
            To continue my movie metaphor in this blog, it’s felt much like the third reel in any movie where I set out to accomplish my task , fail miserably, then find that inspiration  go on swinging as I take on the Bad Guy who I am obviously out matched with no chance to win. My Bad Guy is the insurance empire of Blue Cross Blue Shield.
            My issue is two-fold.
                1)   Not only am I in serious financial peril because under their insurance plan BCBS won’t pick up any costs until I meet my $1500 deductible. (I picked the Gold Tier which is the highest. Had I gone Bronze, it would $3000, but wait because it gets better for my case) This means anyone under the new state health plan doesn’t have a co-pay and has to pay out-of-pocket to their doctor until the deductible is met. Oh, prescriptions do not count either. People are reporting on our web page how they’ve gone from $50 co-pays to up to $300 for visits. Everyone under this plan is screwed especially folks living with chronic illness like me.
2)      2)          DSI, Savannah doesn’t have a contract with BCBS under the HRA plan. DSI also happens to be the only place in the region which offers my form of treatment, nocturnal home hemo dialysis. It’s a wordy way to say I do all my own dialysis treatments in my own home as I sleep six times a week. Do I really need this? Take a look at the before and after pics of me especially my color and the bags under my eyes then decide.

2009 Before Nocturnal Home Hemo Dilalysis  At Pirate's House w/ my best buddy

Fall 2013  First day of School  3 years of NHH Dialysis Treatment

My BCBS rep told me on Tues that I had 60 days to find a new center in their networks. After a nerve wracking conference call on Thursday, I found that BCBS will grant me out-of-network benefits so I can stay but my deductible is now $3000 instead of the Gold Plan which I  signed up for. What frustrates me is that is not much for BCBS to have to cover. I am eligible for medicaid due to teh kidney disease diagnosis. This means BCBS only has to cover 20% of the expense. Greedy much? So much for taking my family on a summer vacation up to the North GA Mountains where I grew up to bore them about the good ol’ days…
Read the Tragic Facebook page or the webpage. My story is not unusual. Many of my colleagues are having horrible issues to where they have to choose whether to go to the doctor or pay their bills. Some of us are in a bad way. I cried yesterday when I read about a teacher that was months away from getting her kidney under our former healthcare plan. She has yet to hear anything form BCBS.
A 5 month pregnant teacher posted that her weekly doctor visits have shot up from $40 to $360. This doesn’t include blood work, imaging, etc. She will be close to $5000 before the baby even comes and then she has the hospital bill. Mid wives stand to make a bundle this year in GA.
The word is getting out. Melissa McCoy is a fellow teacher with me here in Savannah. Click on WSAV to see when we were interviewed at WSAV on this situation.  Melissa has been a great advocate for the cause and an eloquent speaker even though she is quite shy and reserved in real life. My long standing respect for her has grown in leaps and bounds over the past week. She has rocked it.
      Working with Melissa on the TRAGIC campaign also leads me to my next point of this not a conservative versus liberal thing. Obamacare and the ACA have nothing to do with our current state health benefit problem.
It’s about working in a state where the many of our elected representatives including Governor Nathan Deal have continuously made billions of cuts in education over the past six years. Ironically, when it comes to the political spectrum, Melissa and I are so far away from each other on that line. I’m the liberal to Melissa’s card caring Libertarian yet somehow we both can see the non-partisan ship of this issue. If only our Congress could work like this.
The amount of finger pointing and placing of blame has been outstanding to the point of comical. Of, course out Governor, man of the people, has said United Health Care is to blame for getting the teachers riled up. (They lost the contract for this year in GA). I do hold Governor Deal accountable because “The Buck Stops Here.”  Yet I look around for accountability and see another guilty party.
      Even though I didn’t vote for Deal, I honestly have not made my voice of what I expect from my representatives. With the exception of one e-mail to Jack Kingston regarding student loan forgiveness, I have never contacted any of my representatives nor seriously read up on them to see what they are about until this past week.
 I am a bit ashamed of myself because I teach U.S. Government to my students but really haven’t followed the process as much as I should have. Even though I vote religiously, I don’t read about each issue and every candidate like I should. Let me assure you, this is about to change.
courtesy of
The past several years have made it quite unappealing to go into teaching. Frankly, I am rearranging my 10 year plan because I just don’t see lasting much longer if current circumstances continue. The sad thing is that I love working with my fellow teachers and students It’s a powerful moment to watch the kids when the lesson finally hits home. Sadly, the past years have made it hard for teachers to not only do their jobs but now it’s just coming down to basic cost effectiveness.
 I already hold two jobs to make ends meet on top of all my health issues and being with my family. How much farther can I be spread out?  How many teachers are starting to ask themselves the same question? My guess is quite a bit more than in past years.

It’s been an exciting few weeks being a teacher for me. Up until the start of 2014, complacency had set in and I didn’t do much except complain about my current job situation. Lately, I honestly do hear some of those old 80s soundtracks (I was a soundtrack junkie in my younger years musically) in the background as I contact ally my state reps and local news media sources. Gotta admit it’s been great because it’s been sometime since I’ve dusted off my Rocky IV soundtrack and tormented my kids during car-line.
Some folks have been asking me if I honestly believe whether the TRAGIC movement can make a difference. Is it possible for a special ed teacher in Savannah, GA with bum kidneys to actually get a major insurance company and a Red State legislature headed up by a Governor with more than a few ethics violations to take note?
Oh, it is very possible. Because it's is not just me. There is 8,999 other teachers including other state employees who can’t afford to maintain their current health plans. And we are growing, and writing, and speaking out. I believe The Dude said it best in The Big Lebowski with, “This will not stand” 
So if you will be so kind as to excuse me, Blue Cross Blue Shield and Governor Deal. Both of your pictures are taped to my bathroom mirror and there’s a large ass cart of rocks to work on lifting. Let the montage continue…….

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