Thursday, December 19, 2013

Complications in Making Changes in Covered California (Obamacare)

          
          Register, Enroll, Pay, get medical insurance coverage. If only it was that simple. I should be done with this by now and I never expected to blog so much about Obamacare as I have already. I've even run out of blog ideas this week until this came along. To add a quote by Michael Corleone from the film The Godfather - Part 2, " Just when I thought I was out... they pull me back in". Sometimes things just don't work in a logical manner. As Spock would say "It's not logical Jim".
          Case in point: I originally registered with Coveredca.com for Obamacare on the day before I got laid off and picked Anthem Blue Cross Silver Plan because that was what I thought I could afford based on the federal subsidy discounts. Then of course the day after, I got laid off, so I made changes on my projected income in the Covered California website. No income would have meant I qualified for Medi-Cal and a few weeks later, I received a letter from Covered California saying so.
          I patiently waited for Medi-Cal to send me more information. When none arrived several weeks later, I finally called the Los Angeles County Medi-Cal phone number that Covered California gave to me in their letter. I was able to speak to a nice lady named Heidi S. who asked me for my updated income and she was able to update that information. However, it was based on a whole year of me receiving unemployment benefits which disqualified me for Medi-Cal. Well, those benefits are only supposed to last for 6 months but the system didn't allow for this, so Heidi said that when my benefits expire in April, I can call them again so they can qualify me for Medi-Cal. She was also able to let me log in to the Covered California website again (remember I was locked out of the system) by giving me an access code and merging a new username and password with my old one. Strange system isn't it? Heidi asked me to upload my new income information but we encountered another glitch - the system would not accept the upload and said to contact system administrator. Heidi told me that they have been able to work around this problem and she had me upload my EDD unemployment benefits data to the California proof of residency link instead. That worked and she was able to qualify me for Obamacare based on reduced income. This reduced income would have enabled me to enroll in a cheaper coverage because of a higher federal subsidy. But then the system would not let me make changes on the original Anthem Blue Cross I was enrolled in. Heidi said she was going to ask her supervisor about this and call me back.
          In the meantime, I got on the treadmill and did a 45 minute hill walk/jog while waiting. I got Heidi's call back after I finished my workout and she said they couldn't do the changes from their end and that I would have to call Covered California. Being pig headed, I tried to make changes in the website myself by inputting everything from the beginning and with the new income that Heidi had helped me with. When it came to the enrollment part and after I tried choosing a new insurance plan, the system still didn't reflect any changes and kept it with Anthem Blue Cross. Believe me, I tried 3 times.
          After lunch, I called the primary Covered California number which gave a very prolonged message in English and Spanish telling me to call another toll free number. I did and the system told me that the waiting time would be more than 30 minutes. I hanged up and called Anthem to find out if they can do it on their end. I was told that Covered California still haven't sent my information to them and until then, they couldn't do anything. I tried Healthnet too and asked them if they can help me enroll directly. They said they could not. It was back to the Covered California phone number then.

          I watched a movie, read the news, surfed the web and waited. Thank goodness I was able to figure out how to listen to the elevator music on my computer speakers instead of holding the phone on my ear. After almost an hour, an agent finally answered the phone. Well I'll be darned but if it wasn't Tony whom I had spoken to about three weeks before about resetting my password and updating my income. I recognized him by his name and accent. He wasn't able to help me several weeks ago, but this time he said he would be able to change my insurance choice. He said that the system doesn't allow for the consumer to make the changes because otherwise people would keep on doing it if they were not satisfied. He made the changes in his computer then I tried to log in to see them. The system would not let me do it. Tony gave me another number that I can call to reset my password and also gave me a California State Client I.D. number which he said would help me in the future. After we hanged up, I emptied the cache of my browser and tried to log in again. Surprise, surprise, I was able to! It looks like Covered CA will not let me log in when agent is logged in and is using or updating my data.  It showed the changes that Tony made and I was now supposedly enrolled in Healthnet Platinum Plan instead of Anthem Blue Cross Silver Plan. Even though I didn't get the free Medi-Cal insurance I had hoped for, because of the higher federal subsidy, I was able to get better coverage for lesser money with Healthnet. Thank you so much Tony! Now I have to wait for Healthnet to bill me and send me my enrollment information. Then in April, if I'm still unemployed, I can try for Medi-Cal again.
          With all the complications and glitches I've experienced so far, I should be in critical condition by now.

Public comments below, private comments: E-mail Me!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Glitches I've Encountered With Covered California (Obamacare)

          
          Even though the Covered California website (coveredca.com) didn't have as many glitches as the federal Healthcare.gov website, it still wasn't smooth sailing as should be expected. In my first attempt at applying in October, the section where I was supposed to enter my citizenship information stopped me in my tracks because it wouldn't take the A90 number of my citizenship certificate. The website showed an error code and told me to contact the System Administrator. Well, I don't work for them so I didn't have a way of doing that. A week later, it miraculously accepted my citizenship info and I was able to proceed. So my registration was completed and the website presented me with options on what companies and insurance coverage I preferred based on my projected income in 2014 if I was still employed. Unfortunately, the next day, I was laid off so that changed the income equation.  If I remained unemployed in 2014, that means I would not have an income, so I had to make revisions with Covered California. When I tried to input my projected income of zero dollars, the website would not accept the value, however, when I put in 1 cent per hour, it was accepted. To prove that my income had changed, I was asked by the website to upload whatever evidence I had. I was able to upload my WARN Act Letter and my Termination Notice. Based on a projected annual income of $1,664 a year, I qualified for free insurance coverage through Medi-cal which is California' version of Medicaid. I don't know how much Medi-cal covers but at least it's free and better than not having any health insurance coverage.
          A couple of weeks later, I logged on the website to check on my status and it showed me that I was approved for Medi-cal based on my revised projected income and the evidence I provided. However, I didn't know what the next step was. By that time I had started receiving unemployment benefits so I had to update my information and report my new income. I would still be receiving substantially less than the $15,800 threshold for subsidized private insurance where I have to pay a certain amount, so I would still qualify for Medi-cal. As required by the rules to be truthful with my information, I tried to make the changes to my income. Again I hit a roadblock similar to the one with the citizenship information. Thinking maybe the website was too busy to process the new information, I tried to log in again in the evening. This is where a new problem cropped up. The website said I entered the wrong password so I tried to be more careful the second time. I got the same message so I clicked on the "Forgot Password" link which brought up some challenge questions to prove my identity. I know for sure that I answered them correctly but the website locked me out.
          The next day, I contacted customer service via Instant Messaging and was told to call the customer service number for help in resetting my password. I did that and after about a 35 minute wait, I talked to someone who told me to wait 24 hours before trying to log in again. He said that should help in trying to reset my password. While he was on the phone with me, I asked him if he could change my income information. He found me via my case number and did what I tried the day before. He failed as well because his computer gave him the same error message that I got. His advice was to just let it go since the new information wouldn't change my qualifying for Medi-cal anyway.
          I waited for more than 48 hours before trying to log in again but was still locked out of the system, and wouldn't even allow me to change my password. It didn't even ask the challenge questions again but rather just told me to call the toll free number. I sent an email to customer service with my dilemma and they were supposed to respond within 2 days. Two weeks later, I still haven't gotten one. Being bullheaded, I called customer service again and got someone on the line within half an hour. I asked him about resetting my password and he said that they are not allowed to do that anymore. What should I do if I needed to update my info, I asked? He said I would have to do it over the phone. Like the previous representative, he suggested that I leave well enough alone with the income situation, because I would be assigned a Medi-cal caseworker anyway at a later date who would verify my income.
          On December 5, 2013, I finally received a letter via snail mail stating that I didn't qualify for lower cost subsidies for private insurance, but rather I qualified for Medi-cal. At least now I know that my information was in the system. I was to wait for more paperwork, but this time it would be coming from Medi-cal and not from Covered California.
          Another glitch I encountered with the website is the Instant Messaging system. Sometimes after waiting in the queue for a long time while it counts down until you become number 1, the system kicks you off and says that no representative is available. This happened to me twice. So I think it's better to wait on the phone or do both at the same time if you want to talk to anybody.

          Time it was when I was so naive before I moved to the U.S. when I thought that if ever I become sick in America, I could just go to the nearest hospital's charity ward. After living here since 1981, I still haven't seen a charity ward in all the hospitals I've worked in.

Public comments below, private comments: E-mail Me!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Running Alzheimer's or Amnesia?


          It would be too easy to say that the only thing that runs in me is my nose, nor can I say that I like my eggs runny since I don't eat eggs anymore. In the past month since I've become unemployed, I've had the runs, or rather, I started running again. Not very much - just a couple of times a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays, plus a walk/run at Signal Hill on Saturdays with the Long Beach Area Walking Club. The weekday runs only lasts between 30 and 45 minutes which are substitutes for indoor cycling the rest of the week. I'm able to try running again because even though I might overstretch my ankle tendons, I don't have to go to work and dodge potentially violent psychiatric patients. Here is what I found out: all the muscle memory from decades of running has developed Alzheimer's Disease or at the very least, amnesia. My body has forgotten how to run and it feels like I have tired legs all the time. You know - the way your legs feel the day after a very long run or a hard interval workout. When I was forced to stop running due to PTTD a few years ago, my aerobic capacity was way ahead of the slow pace my legs were capable of doing. Nowadays even when I force myself to run the slowest pace possible, it still makes me breathless and I don't seem to be able to get into a steady state anymore. Maybe if I run a couple more times a week, I might get my running legs back but twice is all that my muscles would allow due to my year long statin-induced muscle pain. I'm not sure whether it's only my muscles that can't go longer or if it is my brain that gets tired more quickly. The mental toughness I once had when training for marathons is also now gone. Am I complaining about losing muscle and mental endurance? It's certainly understandable for me to lament it, but since I wasn't expecting much, I'm pretty content on being able to do my 30 to 45 minutes of the slowest possible jogging that my body allows. I don't foresee myself running in races anymore or training with the AREC running club, but once in a while I might challenge myself with a very long walk like the birthday walks I do, or maybe in 2014, it might be a run/walk combination. In the meantime, I'll ride this running wave as long as I possibly can.

Public comments below, private comments: E-mail Me!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

TCB (Taking Care of Business) After My Layoff


          Apologies to Elvis Presley for using TCB in the title. So what have I done so far since I became unemployed last October 29th? First things first: I applied for unemployment benefits online which was a pretty easy process as long as you know what your income was every quarter for the past year. That's because the Employment Development Department (EDD) bases your weekly benefits on the quarterly incomes. About a week later, I received EDD's approval in the mail including information on how much a week I can expect to receive. I was also required to sign up for CalJOBS (caljobs.ca.gov), upload my resume, and complete some information about my work history, supposedly so that employers can look for me.
          Next, I waited for Keenan Benefits company to send me my COBRA information which shows how much I have to pay to continue my medical, dental, and vision insurance. While working, I (and the other employees) only paid approximately one third of the total amount. With COBRA, I would have to pay for the whole thing plus a processing fee. Here is the breakdown per month: medical= $501.60, dental= 43.82, and vision= 8.02. That was a shocker and way beyond what I thought it would be. So I had to shop for medical insurance in the open insurance market and was able to sign up with Anthem Blue Cross whose monthly price, deductibles, and co-pays were more or less affordable even though they are much higher than my previous insurance at work. I have to pay a slightly higher premium (25% more) than the base price because I have preexisting conditions of high blood pressure and high cholesterol which I am taking medications for. I am supposed to pay for a full month plus a prorated fee for the few days left before January 1, 2014. And why is that date very important? It's when Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act takes effect. Then it was time to sign up for Obamacare which I already previously blogged about here: http://aboutlifeandrunning.blogspot.com/2013/11/my-experience-with-obamacare-sign-up-in.html. With the high cost of medical insurance, all the more reason to try your best to stay healthy.
Afterwards, I took care of my bank accounts which I also blogged about here: http://aboutlifeandrunning.blogspot.com/2013/11/taking-care-of-bank-business.html. After sorting out how much money I had left, I decided to pay off my mortgage: http://aboutlifeandrunning.blogspot.com/2013/11/paying-off-mortgage-good-or-bad-decision.html. I finally received the Payoff Letter of Satisfaction from the bank a few days ago and am still waiting for L.A. County Recorder's office to send me a copy of the Deed of Reconveyance which I guess acts like the title to my property. Yes folks, I paid off my mortgage which has been the biggest amount I've owed for more than a couple of decades.
          Needless to say, I have also been looking for a job in between what I've done so far that's mentioned above. All of my applications have been online and the original plan was to look for job openings in nearby hospitals with psych units. I've sent applications for every one of them that I know of. The next plan was to widen the search area and also apply for jobs not related to the psych field. That included searching in the CalJOBS listings which included companies where you can send your resume via CalJOBS or external company websites you are redirected to. I also set up a few job agents using keywords of what kind of job I am looking for. With all that effort you would think that I would get at least one call for an interview. Zip, nil, zilch, nada! Wow, I didn't realize finding a job would be so difficult especially with my experience. Well, that might pose a problem actually, because I've worked in the psych field for the last 32 years, I may be pigeon holed (I hope I'm using that term correctly) as being too experienced therefore inflexible, or just plain too old for the available positions. After all, 32 years is sometimes longer and older than the age of a lot of workers in the psych field. So three weeks after I was officially laid off and six weeks after I started looking for a job, I'm still unemployed.
          With all the paperwork from all of the above, things are starting to get confusing so I have to get more organized. I guess one way of sorting them all out is writing about it. I have paper files in different folders, digital files in the computer, and a dedicated browser bookmarks folder for websites I've applied to and/or planning to apply to. Some days I feel that I'm not catching up and some days are just plain boring if I didn't have any projects planned.
          Part of what I've done to prepare for long term unemployment was to make a projected monthly budget. If you think I've done well during the recession by cutting my spending, well you may be right, but now I have to cut it to the bone. I actually conducted a poll among my classmates in our Facebook group, whether it would be more feasible for me to live in the Philippines (I have dual citizenship) based on a certain budget. I asked for their input on how much I need each month based on what part of the country I may move to. Their opinions mattered a lot since we are of similar ages and have to deal with similar things like housing, food, utilities, and healthcare in our middle aged years. One question I asked myself is why I would want to go back and live there when Filipinos want to come to the U.S. to live here to improve their way of life? Well, that's where the matter of monthly expenses come in. If it costs pretty much the same living here as it would in the Philippines, I might as well stay here. Regardless of where I decide to live, the budget is going to be very, very tight.

          And this is where unemployment benefits are going to help. If I remain unemployed for the next six months and as long as I keep looking for a job, the money I get from the government is enough to sustain me without having to touch my nest egg. I still hope to qualify for Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California) so I don't have to pay for medical insurance starting January 1, 2014. And if I don't, I've factored that into my projected monthly budget. Unemployment benefits are going to save me from going bankrupt for now. So far I've received the benefits for two weeks. Boy, being unemployed sure is inconvenient! Even though I'm trying my best to TCB, it's looking more like HBH.

Public comments below, private comments: E-mail Me!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Paying Off The Mortgage - Good or Bad Decision?


          Just a couple of days after I learned I was going to get laid off, I began to weigh the pros and cons of paying off the remainder of my mortgage. It was something I already thought of months ago when we got hints that the hospital we worked for may be in trouble. The main consideration was the worst case scenario of - what if I never find a job again, and this is based on the dwindling numbers of psychiatric hospitals/units in the area and my age which has become unattractive to employers even though that fact is never mentioned.
          The main reason for not paying off a mortgage is one needs liquid assets to be used for everyday expenses. While paying it off significantly decreases one's monthly overhead. The mortgage being the largest expense in my case. Now for a lot of people, this may not work, especially those who can revert back to renting a home or apartment which may be substantially less than paying a mortgage. That argument no longer applies to me because renting a similarly sized apartment (1 bedroom and 1 bath - living within my means meant that was all I can afford. Believe me, I'm probably one of the poorer Filipinos in the U.S.) is going to cost more than what I pay the mortgage lender each month. So after crunching the numbers, it came out that I could save the interest of almost $3000 in the 5 years I had left in the mortgage. In separate columns, I also lined up my monthly expenses with and without the mortgage to see how much money I have left will last in case I remain unemployed. After weighing all that, I decided to take the leap and pay off the mortgage balance.
          I sent an inquiry to the bank and they sent me a statement showing how much I will have to send them to retire my debt. I then moved some of my savings from one bank to another to come up with the final amount, then mailed a cashier's check to the mortgage company. A few weeks later, I received an escrow check from them for the amount I overpaid. The check was for a bigger amount than I expected, and knowing that my L.A. County real estate taxes were due, I assumed that the mortgage company didn't send that payment to the county. I checked with the bank and the county to make sure and upon learning that the taxes were not paid, I immediately sent payment. Fortunately I made it before the cut-off date and didn't have to pay a late penalty.

          The next concern was - what's next? Do I receive the title to my property? A statement from the bank saying I paid my debt and it has been retired? The L.A. County Tax Assessor's Office told me that the Deed of Reconveyance (http://www.investopedia.com/terms/d/deed-of-reconveyance.asp) was already sent by the bank to the L.A. County Registrar for recording. Am I to receive something similar to that from the bank or from the county?

          Those are questions which answers I still am not sure off, but it is certainly a great relief not to have to pay a mortgage next month, or next year, or forever, although I still have to pay the monthly homeowner's association dues. Now it's just a matter of surviving with whatever leftover savings I have plus the unemployment checks which only lasts for 26 weeks. If things still don't work out and for some reason Obamacare gets repealed, I may just have to sell the condo and move back to the Philippines. That would be another set of pros and cons that I have to consider.

Public comments below, private comments: E-mail Me!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Taking Care of Bank Business After Layoff

          
          Getting laid off is not just simply a matter of losing a job. There is collateral damage as well or at the very least some inconveniences that need to be dealt with. In case this layoff becomes a premature retirement, I had to take care of my bank accounts. For a long time while employed, I've taken for granted (perhaps you too) monthly maintenance bank fees that I have not had to pay because of my check being directly deposited by the payroll department to my checking account. It has been one of the bank's requirements to avoid their fees without requiring a minimum balance. Another way to avoid fees if you had more than one account is the combined balance service where the total from the accounts, if they don't fall under a certain required balance, you will not get charged any fees either. With the loss of a job, the direct deposit is gone and since there is no income and only withdrawals, you run the risk of falling below the balance requirements. What can one do to minimize this damage? In my case, I researched several bank's fees to find the least amount required and found out that most of them require at least $1500 each for a checking or savings account. I live near a credit union so I checked their website to see their membership and minimum balance requirements. To my surprise, it was much lesser than banks - $1 membership fee, $5 minimum in a savings account, and $300 minimum in a checking account, with all the conveniences that regular banks have. You know, ATM/Debit cards, direct deposit, online banking, online bill payment, etc. The only difference is that the credit union doesn't have as many branches as the major banks, but at least you can find a lot of fee-free ATM's in the credit union network.

          So I decided that's what I was going to do after I received my final paycheck from my former job. I deposited that paycheck at my bank and waited for it to clear, then the next day, I went to the neighborhood credit union and opened several accounts. Not only did I decide to move my savings and checking accounts there but to also rollover my work 401K to the credit union. Would you believe that it took almost 2 hours set up those accounts? The representative even had to rearrange her lunch break because of it. The complicated part was setting up the rollover to a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA from several financial institutions. That is what took the most time.

          Why was it complicated? During the process, we discovered that different investment companies had different policies on rollovers. One required the bank to send the request to them, another required me to call them so they could write me a rollover check to be sent to me so I can deposit it in the bank myself. The third company had me request the rollover online and they were going to send the check directly to the bank. I thought when I visited the credit union to open the rollover account, all they had to do was send the request to the three investment companies. It required more legwork, fingerwork, and telephone work on my part to consolidate three funds into one. Heck as of this writing, not all of the funds have been transferred yet.
I did learn something new though. The agent from one of those financial institutions told me about the over 55 rule regarding closing or rolling over a retirement account from a job if you are over 55 years old. Normally, there is a 10% penalty in addition to being taxed for withdrawing money from a retirement plan before you turn 59-1/2 years old. If you lose your job/resign/get laid off after you are 55 years old, the 10% penalty is waived by the government for the amount you wish to cash in, but you still have to pay the taxes. I chose not to avail of this waiver and just asked the financial institution to rollover the whole amount to the newly opened IRA at the credit union.


          In other business, I closed my bank savings account which was earning a paltry .10%, and moved the funds to the same bank's checking account so I can meet the minimum balance without being charged the monthly maintenance fee, moved some of the funds to the credit union to meet their minimum requirements, and set up online bill pay accounts with the credit union so I can start paying my bills from there. And as soon as everything clears at the credit union, I plan on closing my bank account and moving everything to the credit union so minimize the fee requirements. How's that for taking care of business? Then there's the matter of paying off the mortgage...
          Interesting article I found days after I posted this entry: http://www.dailyfinance.com/2013/11/16/no-free-checking-avoid-bank-fees/
Public comments below, private comments: E-mail Me!

Monday, November 4, 2013

My Experience With Obamacare Sign Up in California


          Since I became unemployed, medical insurance coverage has become a major concern. I can apply for COBRA from my previous job but it's very expensive. Private insurance although slightly less costly, is still high and the co-pays and deductibles are high as well, meaning more out of pocket expense. I may be able to cover COBRA or private insurance up to the end of this year, but what about if I become long term unemployed? This where the advantage of Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act kicks in. So the day after I got laid off, I immediately applied at California's health insurance exchange - Coveredca.com. We've all already heard about the problems the federal site (healthcare.gov) was having so I'm not even going to say anything about that. I've previously researched this issue several months ago which I wrote about here: An Obamacare Loophole for Early Retirees?


          So I explored the coveredca.com website and clicked on the Individuals and Families link, then Start Here, which took me to another site -  https://v.calheers.ca.gov/apspahbx/ahbxanonym.portal. This where you can create an account and put in all your information. You can also Preview Plans so you can estimate how much you can expect to pay for your premiums depending on your income. I entered all the information as prompted by the website and when I arrived at the part where it asked to verify my citizenship, I hit a wall. Each time I clicked Continue , an error message appeared. I tried several times and it showed a different error message number each time. I gave up and contacted a customer service agent via Online Chat (you have that option or call them at the toll free number). I told them my problem and was informed that they were having some glitches and they don't know when it was going to be fixed, and for me to try again later. I tried again but encountered the same problem and this is when I noticed that from about 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., the website was down for maintenance. So I tried the next day and the day after with the same results. Finally after the third day of trying, the website suddenly accepted my citizenship data. By the way, just to let you know, I'm a naturalized citizen. So with the website finally cooperating, I was able to finish my application. Next was to find out what kind of insurance coverage I qualified for based on my income. I'm going to spare you the explanation of Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum plans. They are all based on how much federal subsidies you qualify for and how much you are willing to pay out of pocket. Anyway the best one I could find to fit my limited budget was the Silver 73 plan with co-pays of $40 for a doctor's visit and lab tests, $50 for x-ray, $250 for CT, PET, or MRI's, $19 for generic drugs, $250 after deductible for ER visits, etc. Well you get the idea. The most affordable I saw was with Healthnet at $137 per month.
          Next was to check if the primary care physician I've been seeing for years was part of that insurance plan. So you click on a link called Find your doctor and type in your doctor's name and zip code. Well my doctor was in the system but did not accept Healthnet. He accepted Anthem Blue Cross, but  my monthly cost would go up to $196 for the same coverage as Healthnet. I wanted to continue seeing my doctor so I signed up for Anthem Blue Cross. I could have picked another doctor I knew who accepted Healthnet but that would have meant establishing a new relationship and history with that doctor, whereas my current doctor already knows my history.
          This brings me to the matter of my unemployment. Since I'm jobless, I no longer have an income and from my research, I knew I could possibly qualify for Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California). I contacted customer service again via online chat and was informed that since I had a major life event change, I could either call in that information or click Report a Change after I log in on the website. Since that happened on a Friday, I waited until the weekend was over before trying it. On Monday (November 4), I reported the change in my income. The website asked me for my income but it would not accept $0.00 as a value, so I ended up putting in $0.01 as my hourly income. The website accepted that value and it proceeded to ask me for identification to prove that I live in California and qualifying papers to prove my new income. I was able to scan my California driver's license, WARN Act Notice, and Notice of Termination and uploaded it to the site. The only thing I have to do now is wait for the California Health Exchange to review and verify those papers and notify me if I qualify for Medicaid.

          So other than that initial 3 day glitch in the system and at times having to log off and back in to get back to where I wanted to be in the website, it worked pretty well. No doubt much better than the federal website. I can now only hope and pray that I qualify for Medicaid because that's going to help a lot in reducing my monthly bills in case I don't find work for the long term.
Public comments below, private comments: E-mail Me!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Ruminations While Being Unemployed


As our final paycheck day approaches at a rather glacier-like pace, what has occurred in the past three weeks of mostly sitting around?

Is it a good idea to go to employers' place of business when you can fill out applications online at home? Most employers direct you to their computers to fill them out anyway. There are some positions that are not posted online though, and employees usually hear about them first or are posted in human resources offices.

Herein is the power and convenience of the internet - questions like: do I qualify for unemployment insurance, how much will I expect to receive?, is it taxable income?, how many weeks can I collect?, etc. These may be questions that you might forget to ask the human resources department when they issue your last paycheck. These things pop up in my mind at random times of the day.

After a call from a coworker asking about severance pay, I told him I don't remember seeing it in the personnel handbook which was last revised in 2009. So after his call, I dug out the Human Resources handbook from my filing cabinet and I was surprised that there was a section about severance pay, although it wasn't fully explained but rather just referred to an obscure line mentioning a policy and procedure number. So off to the portal I go (and I'm glad this is still accessible). The search function didn't reveal anything but with further exploration, I found the policy and procedure manual with the aforementioned obscure number. Basically what it says is that the company does indeed a policy for severance pay but it's up to them to decide whether to pay it or not. The policy doesn't even have a calculator which shows how many weeks of severance pay to be given based on how many years of service to the company.

Here's an idea: since it's been chaotic at our former workplace and if we really want to help our former PHLB co-workers, we can sign up with the registry College Hospital uses and tell them we are available to work at College Medical Center. Provided of course we are not in their do-not-return list.

My excuse used to be I didn't have time to go places because I was working a lot. Now that I have the time to go places, my excuse is that I don't have the money to do so.

Time to compile my duties and responsibilities as a Behavioral Health Worker by copying and pasting from my blog and adding it to my resume.

Also time to consolidate bank accounts to lower the monthly balance requirements so I can avoid monthly maintenance fees. That's because I'm losing direct deposit of paychecks which the bank requires in waiving the monthly maintenance fee. Better still if I move my account to a credit union since their balance requirements are much lower.

Should I sign up for the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare so I can have health insurance next year? I've blogged about this earlier this year: An Obamacare Loophole For Early Retirees?

And lastly, should I pay off my mortgage with whatever savings I have left to decrease my monthly overhead drastically? How many months will the leftovers last? I won't know till I receive my final paycheck. Unemployment is so darn inconvenient! Let's just call it forced retirement without money to spend.

Public comments below, private comments: E-mail Me!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Interview at TAR-JAY


          When I updated my LinkedIn account a few weeks ago, a name popped out as a possible contact and I immediately recognized someone whom I've run with a few years ago. I remembered that she worked in the human resources department of Target, so I thought, what the heck, I'll try to apply for a position totally unrelated to healthcare and see if I'd like it. I could use some new challenges even if the pay is lower. So I scoured the Target website for positions that interested me and found one as a night shift backroom member, with little idea of what it involved. I thought it meant taking products from the backroom and stocking the shelves. Two days after filling out the online application, I received a call and was set up for an interview on a Monday morning at 5:30 a.m., which I thought was a very unusual time for an interview. But first, I went to the place two days before the interview to scout it and ask one of the workers what the hours for night shift were (10 p.m to 6 a.m.). I also checked out the inner and outer perimeter of the store. Having done that, I found the door where I was supposed to ring the buzzer on my interview day.
         I arrived at the site at the precise time and was given a short test which involved some work situations and how I would respond to them, plus some math problems about product stocks and shipping distances. Now I don't know about you, but at 5:30 a.m. with brain fog is not exactly a good time for me to be solving math problems. After I turned in my test, the first shift leader/interviewer said they don't check those answers anyway. Well, thanks a lot pal! My addled brain had to go all the way back to high school to figure out formulas on how to solve those math questions! I had to think long and hard but I think I got the correct answers. He posed more questions on how I would respond to certain work situations, then I was asked to wait in the employee break room for a second shift leader/interviewer. The second interviewer explained what the job involved, which basically was unloading delivery trucks, opening the boxes, and distributing the products to the proper area of the store, then tearing down the boxes and cleaning the distribution work area. He gave me a few more scenarios and how I would respond to them. They were hypothetical questions about safety, co-workers, supervisors, and moving merchandise. His main concern was that I didn't have any experience with the job I applied for and also that they didn't have a full time position that I desired. Since Thanksgiving and Christmas was approaching, it was going to be their busiest time of the year but they only needed seasonal workers, and that meant there would be no benefits like insurance coverage. After the interview, I was told that I would be receiving a call or email whether I would be hired or not.
          I was actually quite apprehensive about applying for this type of job because after all, I've been working in hospitals for the past 32 years. It would be challenging of course if I were offered the position, but on the other hand I won't have to deal with potentially violent psychiatric patients anymore. When you start perceiving the behavior of psych patients as normal, then you may already be one of them, LOL!

          In the end, a few days after the interview, I received an email saying that they will not be hiring me. No doubt it was due to my inexperience. Looks like my human resources connection didn't help :(  Nonetheless, that is okay by me. It may have been interesting to learn the system though. Thanks for the interview Target. I found it to be very interesting :)

Public comments below, private comments: E-mail Me!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The 5 Pound Difference

With Donna, the host. Photo courtesy of Jacqueline.
          For the second Saturday in a row, I walked at Signal Hill with the Long Beach Area Walking Club. (Last Saturdays post: Packing It At Signal Hill). Summer is gone and we had the smallest group since spring. Only three walkers showed up - Donna (the host), Jacqueline, and me. I was actually a few seconds late because my GPS watch took it's time connecting to with the satellite and I saw Donna starting off by herself.  A few steps down, we were joined by Jacqueline. She said she was wondering why I was leaning over and I showed her my backpack. The previous week, I had a 15 pound weight inside it and this time I added another 5 pounds. In a previous post, I mentioned that I considered the backpack with weights as "the equalizer" because it slowed me down enough so I can walk with the group. Well, I felt every single ounce of those extra 5 pounds because it made a huge difference in the effort I had to exert.
          Last Saturday's walk is one I would consider the hardest I've ever done, even harder than the 13 mile walk I did on my birthday. Going uphill was harder than running uphill without weights and with those 20 pounds, my pace was about three and a half minutes slower per miles compared to my fastest walk in Signal Hill without weights. Normally, I could cover 7.5 to 8 miles in an hour and 50 minutes. Last Saturday, I only reached 6.39 miles.

          Let's just say that after the walk my shoulders hurt, my lower back hurt, my bad ankles hurt, even my statin battered thighs hurt. At least I discovered  by accident that when the straps of the backpack rested on the bony part of my shoulders, they hurt less than when they rested on my trapezius. Three days later, my legs still haven't fully recovered.
Jacqueline and Donna

Public comments below, private comments: E-mail Me!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Random Thoughts About Unemployment


          If there's any advantage about the timing of being laid off at this time in my life, it is that my mother and father are already at peace and no longer require my help. To a certain extent, I was also able to assist my brother with his kidney transplant three months ago before all the talk about getting laid off came about. No, I didn't give him one of my kidneys but rather helped in another way. This time I only have to look out for myself financially.
         Working through the years provided me bi-weekly structure - things to do on the days I work and on my days off. Things like what workouts to do, chores to complete, when to shop for food, when to sleep when I'm working nights, when to sleep when I'm not working, etc. It was like a 2 week cycle of life. All of a sudden that structure is gone and I'm left wondering what to do next. That's quite pitiful because I've been out of work for just a couple of weeks. In the past few days, I seem to have settled into a different routine - wake up in the morning, putter around, do my workout, have brunch while watching a movie, take a short nap, wake up and finish the movie, take a mid-afternoon walk in the neighborhood, come back home and watch another movie while having dinner, and in the evening, flip the TV channels for shows I didn't get to watch when I was at work, or watch another movie before retiring to bed. Pathetic and boring, I know, but at least it's a routine. I mentioned on Facebook that I may have to learn how to play Candy Crush to pass the time. Oh, I almost forgot. I've also gone to the dentist three times for some repairs. and to the doctor for a checkup and some routine lab tests. Heck, I may even go and see my eye doctor too since his office called unexpectedly to let me know it was time for my biannual checkup. I might as well do all those things before my medical, dental, and vision insurance expires.
          It would be nice to go on vacation somewhere but I can't do that without any money or know where it's coming from next. I can't go on retail therapy either for the same financial constraints, hahaha! I hardly do that anyway even with a job. Oh boy, the budget is going to be uncomfortably tight in the next 3 years or so until I can draw from IRA's and 401K's. Just hoping there won't be any major catastrophes in the meantime.
          I am no longer portable. Before I bought my condo, I used to be able to move to a furnished apartment close to my job. My residences in the past went from Cerritos, to Bellflower, Torrance, Lawndale, back to Bellflower, and finally to Long Beach. I can't do that anymore because of my mortgage of course, but also I have so many belongings now that have accumulated in the last 22 years I've lived here. It's not the clothes but the appliances, furniture, electronic items, and most of all, the exercise equipment. Besides, it costs more to rent nowadays than what I pay monthly for my mortgage.

          Remember when kids and teens couldn't wait to be grownups and have grown up privileges? Well, I must be approaching my second childhood because I can't wait to become a grownup again but on a different level. This level is called Social Security/401K/IRA retirement age.

Public comments below, private comments: E-mail Me!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

A Few Runs Weeks Apart + Packing It At Signal Hill

          Two runs two weeks apart. Not bad for someone who doesn't run anymore. The first time was for just 38 minutes carrying a backpack to and from the grocery store to pick up some fruits and vegetables. The second time  a couple of weeks later was to deposit a $4.50 refund check from Charter Internet. That lasted a little bit longer  at 50 whole minutes. But wait, there's more. Two days after the bank deposit, I ran to and from Fresh and Easy market to check out how much they increased the price of the cheap wine I usually buy there (no, there is no more 2 buck Big Kahuna). These runs happen to be a big deal for me nowadays not only because I actually ran but because they lasted longer than my self- imposed at least 30 minutes a day stationary bike workouts.
          Now that I don't have a job which happens to be in a somewhat dangerous field, perhaps I should attempt to run slightly more. I've had to curtail runs in recent years because I had to avoid the pain from my injuries, which would have physically impaired me from moving quickly enough if I had to defend myself against potentially violent psychiatric patients. For now, I don't have to worry about that since I'm jobless.

          To get out of the house, I went to Signal Hill for a walk with the Long Beach Area Walking Club last Saturday morning. There were only six of us who showed up but it was actually nice to be able to walk, talk, and breath somewhat heavily while on a walk with a group. How did I manage to accomplish it? By putting on the "equalizer". What is the equalizer you ask? It's just a plain backpack with a 15 pound weight in it. I've walked with it on a flat course before but it was the first time I tried it up and down Signal Hill with the walking club. It worked pretty well in slowing me down while still giving me an adequate workout, and enabling me to stay with the pack instead of walking way ahead at my own pace. Carrying the weight wasn't much of a problem other than the strain on the shoulders due to the backpack straps. And then offloading the pack after the walk, I was still hunched forward while walking as if the pack was still on my back. It was probably the first time during a walking workout that I got lost in conversation with others like it was when I was running with friends from my running club - AREC. Coincidentally, the woman I was talking with used to be a human resources manager and happened to know a little bit about Pacific Hospital. So for the hour and 50 minutes we walked together, that's what we talked about. Anyway, that's my new plan with the walking club -weigh myself down and start talking with the group. I may add another 5 pounds next time and hope the weights don't tear a hole in the bottom of my backpack.

Public comments below, private comments: E-mail Me!

Uncertainties at PHLB

          It's going to be a week since I last worked. Two days after that, the new owner of the hospital took over and  I got a call from a coworker telling me I should pick up whatever belongings I had at the hospital because I didn't have to report for work anymore, and that Pacific Hospital would be paying us the rest of our scheduled shifts. Well that was hard to believe, so I sent an email to one of the human resources representatives asking what the status was of the personnel not hired by the new company. I never got a response, so I patiently waited till the next day to call them up, knowing that it must be a very busy time for them as well while dealing with the transition. The information I received from the person I talked with was that we won't be getting paid for the unworked hours the rest of the month, but to feel free to use our accrued Paid Time Off (PTO) to cover it. So now we have two different messages and that is where the uncertainty starts. I sent another email to a different HR representative and the response I got was this:

Unfortunately I have no info yet either, we have attorneys working on it. This is pretty much what we are saying...
"We do not yet have an answer as to what will happen between now and 10/29. You are still an active employee and we are working out how you will be paid, or if you may be asked to report to work in another area helping with the closing of PHLB. You will be contacted when we know more. Do not go to work at College Hospital as you do not work for them. In the meantime, please make sure we have your correct info in ADP self-service so that we can reach you when we have more info."
As to the layoff info, that will be in your packet on 10/29 when you get laid off."

          At least she responded. That was very disconcerting because now it freezes us in our tracks and makes us uncertain on how to proceed. When will our health insurance expire? Can we buy COBRA coverage? When can we apply for unemployment? When can we move our 401K savings to another investment company? Are we getting paid at all other than what is owed us in accrued PTO? How much are we exactly getting? I'm sure my other unhired coworkers have their own similar concerns. One is even considering getting a lawyer and using the WARN act letter given to us as evidence that we aren't supposed to be laid off until October 29. Does that mean we have to get paid for not doing anything? Basically we are not supposed to return to work because we are not employees of the new owner and we are personae non gratae at the jobsite. The problem was that the information about not reporting for duty was only by word of mouth with no official word from the powers that be (whoever that is). You had to individually call your former supervisors who were hired by the new owner to make sure that it was true. I wonder how many people actually showed up to work and were turned away. After all, that would have made them trespassers. In my case, I managed to empty my small locker and take the contents home along with a file sorter I bought 10 years ago and was using to make new patient admission chart packs. I had to foresight to stick some name labels on it 10 years ago to be able to prove that it belonged to me. At the time I picked up my belongings, the psych unit was somewhat in a state of chaos because patients were being moved from one unit to another and there were not enough staff to make an orderly transition. The day shift was still waiting for the night shift to relieve them half an hour after they were supposed to clock out. Needless to say, I didn't stay long to find out what else could go wrong because it ceased to be my concern since I don't work there anymore. I was only there to retrieve my personal belongings.
          What does the immediate future hold? The immediate future is about 3 more weeks and the answer is -  I don't know.

          It's unfortunate that they didn't rehire highly organized people who would have been able to ease the chaotic situation they find themselves in now. I'm not saying it wouldn't have been chaotic anyway but at least not as much. It may have been better if College Hospital rehired most employees then incrementally laid some off as the transition became more stable. Just sayin'...

Public comments below, private comments: E-mail Me!

Friday, October 11, 2013

How To Access Your Work Portal From Home

This website was down on October 9 and 10 and I was surprised that it was back up today. I wrote the instructions below before it went down. I thought that the IT department may have made changes to reflect the change in ownership of PHLB, so I'm surprised that the PHLB domain is still active although the public website no longer exists.

How To Access Your Work Portal From Home


Type this in the address bar of your browser: citrix.phlb.org and you will get this website:

Log in with your usual email username and password then you will get this screen or something similar:

Click: Desktops tab, then on the next screen,

Click: PHLB Desktop 

You will be prompted to download launch or launch ICA which is a temporary software. Make sure you know where in your computer it is being downloaded to.

Go to the folder where the temporary software is located. If you are using Internet Explorer, it might be in the Downloads folder. In Chrome, it might be right at the bottom of your browser.

Click on the software called: launch.ica

Wait for the PHLB Desktop to launch then you will see this on your screen:

Enter your usual email username and password  and you will now see your desktop like you see it when you are at work.

Click on the Internet Explorer icon and you automatically get connected to the portal (portal.phlb.org)
You can now look at the updated information from College Medical Center even though the portal still says phlb.org.

When you are done, click the X on the upper right corner of your screen and you will be prompted to disconnect. Click OK then you get logged off from the portal.

This brings you back to the citrix website. Make sure to click Log Off (upper right area) to sign out from citrix.

Public comments below, private comments: E-mail Me!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

How To Check Work Email From Home

How To Check Work Email From Home
These instructions are exclusively for PHLB email only and written for the sole purpose of enabling laid off employees to access their email so they can check for updates in connection with their unemployment.
Type this in the address bar of your browser: owa.myfmm.org and you will get this website:


Check: This is a private computer and Use Outlook Web Access Light (as seen above).
Under Domain\username, type: myphlb\(enter your username)
Then type your usual password and press enter or click Log On

You can now check your email from anywhere with internet access even from your tablet or cellphone until they revoke your permission.


Public comments below, private comments: E-mail Me!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Questions and Concerns at College Medical Center (formerly Pacific Hospital of Long Beach)

The old Pacific Hospital had a similar sailboat logo. That ship has sailed.

          Oh boy, it looks like transitioning from Pacific Hospital of Long Beach to College Medical Center is going to take some major adjustments (I'm trying not to say that it's going to be a mess). The electronic medical records system has to be reprogrammed to the needs and procedures of College Hospital and even the paper forms may have to be replaced. Hopefully the learning curve won't be too great once the new system is in place. For those who have resisted in learning the former system or were not using them enough, they may have a more difficult time to learn the new one.
          Based on how many people they haven't rehired, one can assume (mistakenly or correctly) that either College Hospital is going to bring in their own staff, hire replacements, or reduce the number of floor staff from the numbers that Pacific Hospital used. That would mainly affect the Behavioral Health Workers who monitor the patients closely on the units and possibly the Licenced Vocational Nurses or Licensed Psychiatric Technicians who pass out the medications. The Registered Nurses shouldn't be affected since there is a legal requirement for them to be assigned only a certain number of patients (patient ratio).
Having not even been interviewed much less rehired, I will only have to be there for about 3 weeks to see all these changes. Already some of my soon to be former coworkers mentioned that I'm going to be missed because I was the only one assembling charts for new admissions. They never took the time to learn my streamlined system. But it's not rocket science and easy for them to pick up.
          When PHLB transitioned from strictly paper charts to the electronic medical record system, I had the foresight to retain the old paper charts in case of computer down times. Those papers were the only backup system the hospital had which were already preassembled, although separate sheets still existed in cabinets. I also have about 200 chart packs already made which goes with the EMR system, which would have tided over the unit I work in for about 6 weeks before the retained staff would have to make their own. Of course all of those old and new charts would be useless if College Hospital opts for their own forms. They will have to sort out which papers are needed and which are not so they can work together with the EMR without duplication.

          Communicating and taking care of psychiatric patients are ongoing learning processes because no two patients are alike and even a patient behaving a certain way during one hospital stay may not behave the same way next time. Paperwork remains more or less the same and this happens to be my specialty. I'm sure that the retained staff and the rest who will be newly hired will adjust to the new system sooner or later but they will have to take more initiative in doing so. I just take pride in thinking that I learn them sooner than most and find the most efficient way of applying them during the course of my work. Will they really miss me? Perhaps only for a couple of weeks, they they'll adjust and it will be business as usual. Thanks for thinking of me that way though. If only the staff recruiter knew...

p.s. My other posts regarding this matter:
Questions and Concerns at Pacific Hospital - Part 1

Questions and Concerns at Pacific Hospital - Part 5

Public comments below, private comments: E-mail Me!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Unlocking My Cellphones

         
L-R: Samsung SGH-A187, ZTE Avail, Alcatel 871A, Huawei Fusion 2
          Last year prior to my trip to Zamboanga, I purchased an unlocked GSM cellphone from Ebay. The Samsung SGH-A187 was a basic Blackberry style phone - the  with no mp3 and video capture capabilities even though it had a camera. It served its purpose well as a portable communications device during my short 10 day visit. I was using Virgin Mobile in the U.S. running on the CDMA network which is incompatible with GSM networks.
         When I returned from Zamboanga, I migrated my cellphone service to AT&T pay as you go which was $25.00 every three months, compared to $20 for Virgin Mobile. With the new service, I also bought a locked Android phone from AT&T. Upon signing up, I asked customer service if they could unlock my phone. They said that the unlock code wasn't available yet and besides, I had to use their service at least 6 months. Time went by and I forgot to ask them again. In the meantime, I bought 2 other locked phones. One was a Blackberry style Alcatel which was on sale for $29.99, but because I had a $10 coupon and an in-store rebate, my final price was less than $20. Although locked, I liked that it had a built-in FM radio which I like listening to when I'm working out outdoors. The problem with that phone is that it pocket dialed 911 a lot, so I bought a hugely discounted refurbished Huawei Android phone from the AT&T website, which also had an FM radio, and that is what I've been using the last 4 to 5 months.
          I finally revisited the unlocking requirements and saw that I had met all the requirements, provided the cellphone manufacturer has released the unlock code to AT&T. I plugged in the IMEI number to the latest phone I had which was a Huawei Fusion 2 and my phone number. No dice. The website immediately told me that it was not available to be unlocked. I tried the Alcatel with similar results. When I put in the info for the ZTE Avail, I got a message saying it could be unlocked. I received 2 automatically generated emails from AT&T right away. The first one saying thank you for my unlock request and that a code will be provided to me within 2 to 5 business days. The second email basically cancelled the message of the first one and asked me to call technical support for the unlock code. I waited a few days before doing so, hoping the first message was correct. Well, I never got sent the unlock code so I finally called tech support.
          Immediately I detected that I had reached a call center in the Philippines because even though the agent who answered tried his best American accent, there was still a hint of Filipinoness in it. I gave him the IMEI numbers for the ZTE Avail but he didn't find an unlock code for it. He explained that some manufacturers only sell certain models exclusively to AT&T and does not supply unlock codes for those. What surprised me though is that when I asked the agent to plug in the numbers for my more recent Alcatel and Huawei phones, the unlock codes were available contrary to what their website told me! After giving me instructions on how to unlock the phones with the codes, we ended the call.
          It was now time to see if those unlock codes worked. The only other SIM card I had at home was from Smart which I used when I was in Zamboanga, so I tried that one. Open the back, insert the SIM card, replace the cover, turn on the phone, type in the unlock code. First the Alcatel, then the Huawei. Success on both! I now have 2 unlocked GSM quad band phones (3 if you include the one I bought from Ebay). Look out world, I'm now equipped to use those phones in whatever country I want if I ever get there! And thanks, AT&T.

Public comments below, private comments: E-mail Me!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

My Looming Unemployment

Classic rock - 

Styx - Blue Collar Man (Long Nights)

          It looks more and more like I'm not keeping my job past October 29th. On Monday, October 7th, the sale of Pacific Hospital of Long Beach to College Health Enterprises will be finalized and I will be considered a straggler of Healthsmart Pacific, the former owner, because I never got the interview I was hoping for. Most employees have gotten their interviews and offered jobs by the new owner who will rename the hospital College Medical Center. A bunch of "oldtimers" like me were not even considered. As I brace myself emotionally and financially for unemployment, I wonder what it was in my application that excluded me for consideration. The only criteria that comes to mind or what it appears like anyway, based on myself and others who were not hired are these: over age 50, 10 years or more with the company, and earning such and such amount. Our applications seems to have been set aside without further consideration. One of those is illegal (age discrimination) but of course they won't tell you that they used it as a basis for exclusion.
          So where do I go from here? There will be the usual job search of course, but what strategies should I come up with so I can meet my living expenses if I become unemployed for the long term? My main concerns are my mortgage (I don't want to be homeless), health and dental insurance, homeowner's association dues, utilities like heating gas, electricity, and internet, food (of course), gasoline, and on an annual basis - car insurance, real estate taxes, and income taxes.
          Cash out of my vacation time which is about 400 hours, will help of course and that will sustain me for a few months. Applying for unemployment insurance after October 29th and hopefully receiving a few dollars a week for 26 weeks, will be another help, provided I don't get myself fired before then, otherwise I won't qualify for this compensation. Here is the link to for filing a claim: http://www.edd.ca.gov/unemployment/filing_a_claim.htm . I also have some savings. It is a matter of calculating how long I can make all of these last before I go broke. As all if not most of us know, I cannot touch my taxed deferred retirement plans without being penalized until I turn 59 and 1/2. That is still 3 and 1/2 years away. Then when I turn 62, I can start collecting minimum Social Security (provided it's not bankrupt then).
          In the meantime, is it a good idea to try contacting the recruiter to find out what it was in my application that excluded me for being considered, and perhaps also ask how I can improve it to make it more attractive to employers?

          Wracking my brain due to all of the above made for a restless sleep so I just got up early and wrote this. If only I had enough money, early retirement would be nice, but then again, if I get bored at home sometimes during my days off, what more if didn't have a job to go to anymore? Well, at least I got my free flu shot from work a few days ago.

Public comments below, private comments: E-mail Me!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Questions and Concerns at Pacific Hospital - Part 5


from 
Pacific Hospital
to 
College Hospital

 and back to
 Pacific Hospital

The owner of Pacific Hospital has called off the sale of the facility to College Health Enterprises. What does this mean? Heck if I know. Already twice in the past month, a memo was sent to the doctors practicing in PHLB that the sale was delayed. In the meantime, checking the collegehospitals.com website, you would see that they have added the Pacific Hospital address as one of their 3 facilities with a link where you can download an application form, although the rest of it says the website is under construction. Strange that they did that while the sale was pending. To add to this confusion, College Hospital has started taking applications, conducting interviews, and even hiring people for what was supposed to be College Hospital of Long Beach or College Medical Center (this is the name they used on the website). This process was conducted by a College Hospital interviewer independent of Pacific Hospital's human resources department. There was even a Q & A meeting with the College Hospital and Molina Medical administrators last week.

This surprising turn of events happened on Thursday - September 26th. Prior to receiving the email from the owner of Pacific Hospital, I emailed human resources about my concern of not yet being interviewed despite being one of the first ones to file an application. It was later that evening that I learned that human resources was not involved in this process and that College Hospital had their own criteria. Not being called in for an interview yet by this time did not bode well for me and several others. Now that the sale has been called off, I wonder what will happen to the applications and especially those who have been rehired and already signed their acceptance to work for College Hospital. Were all those efforts for naught? They must have been elated, then deflated. In my case on the other hand, first I felt some embarrassment for not even making it to the interview process, then as time went on, I started feeling insulted. Why? Because some of the people who had their interviews and others who were rehired, I felt that even though they deserved to be in that position, I worked twice as hard as they have in the 10 years I have been with the company and haven't slacked off from the day I started. Unfortunately, hard work doesn't show well on application forms or résumés.  I may have to learn how to use better B.S. words to make my applications look more attractive.

Here is my speculation. The owner probably noticed in the past month that even though the behavioral health and medical units were no longer being managed by outside companies while the sale of the hospital was being worked on, they continued to thrive, and thus saved a lot of money being paid to those companies. If Pacific Hospital can become leaner like this, their earnings would be greater and that translates to more money for the current owner. But that's just my imagination running wild.

What will happen next is anybody's guess. The employees remain in limbo. I will have to treat this like a doctor advising a patient with an enlarged prostate: watchful waiting.

Update: 9/27/13 3:00 p.m. - We have just been notified that the WARN Notice (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Worker_Adjustment_and_Retraining_Notification_Act) that was issued to us more than a month ago is still in effect, which means we could still get laid off after October 29, 2013.

Scuttlebutt in the main campus is that the owner asked for more money from the buyers.

Public comments below, private comments: E-mail Me!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Joblessness, Errand Walks, Zamboanga City, MNLF

If you think I don't visit the Philippines often enough (about once every 15 years) when I was employed, what more if I don't have a job? I won't be able to afford the plane fare and I can't swim that far. Perhaps if I hide in a box and ship myself via LBC...

I've been doing a few of what I call, errand walks lately. That means I combine my workout with something I had to do. Kinda like my meanderings in Zamboanga last year. I had errand walks to Walmart to replenish my fiber gummies, and on another day to Pacific Hospital to turn in my College Hospital application forms. Then another time, I did a jog/walk to pick up my blood pressure meds at Walmart Pharmacy. The last one I did was a few days ago when I did an hour walk before picking up a bag of Gevalia coffee which was on sale at Von's grocery store. Speaking of walking workouts - in the past I've walked with a backpack with a 15 pound weight in it. I tried putting in another 15 pound weight and took out the trash while testing the heavier backpack. I barely made it to the trash bin and back to my place. Hard to imagine how soldiers can carry a 50 pound pack, body armor, weapons, and ammo, while dodging bullets.

Well, I had to fill out an application form for College Hospital in hopes of being rehired by them, so I had to dig out old applications from more than 10 years back to look at my job history. In the process, I found some old printouts of my résumé as well as the old 3.5 inch floppy disk I had the original saved in which had all the proper formatting. Even though I have a 1987 vintage Toshiba laptop that could still read the floppy disk, there was no way to transfer it to new media. What I did was scan the paper copy and saved it as a pdf file, then found a free online pdf to MS Word converter. It worked! Now I don't have to retype the whole thing because I have an editable Word file.

In 1974, although I was no longer there, the MNLF disrupted our lives in Jolo and my family along with countless other families and friends became refugees in Zamboanga. Zamboanga, which embraced these refugees unconditionally, had become their adopted city since then. Now the same MNLF group, without conscience, is trying to do the same to Zamboanga City for no other reason than regain their so called old glory, because they have become insignificant for decades. Once again, they have managed to disrupt the lives of people. How this is supposed to endear them to the populace or gain sympathy for their cause, I have no idea. Unless their plan is to gain overwhelming power and oppress and persecute the people like the former government of Myanmar (Burma). Did Nur Misuari or his cohorts really believe they could take the whole of Zamboanga with just 200 or so followers, or perhaps he thought that if he started something the other MNLF factions would rally behind him? Zamboanga City is way larger and more spread out than the town of Jolo. What he is doing in Zamboanga is almost like the ill fated Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, except those Cubans were trying to take over a country. If he had a large number of sympathizers in 1974, he doesn't appear to have now because he has become insignificant. A lot of Tausugs despise him to this day for what he did to Jolo. Probably something akin to my grandparents and parents generation's hate for the Japanese even long after World War II. Just bear in mind though, that I have been away from that part of the world for a long time so what I write here are just my impressions, and who knows, I could be grossly mistaken, but I base these impressions on what I have read in newspapers and social media.
And to think that Zamboanga was one of my choices of cities to retire in. This incident totally cancelled out that option. Heck, it would even be difficult to fly there in the morning just to have satti for breakfast and lunch then leave in the afternoon for fear that a similar incident could erupt anytime and one can get stranded there for days.

Public comments below, private comments: E-mail Me!

Statcounter