Monday, May 18, 2015

A Free Energy Efficient Refrigerator From SCE

The OLD             and              The NEW
Hotpoint and Whirlpool
          Sometimes there are advantages to being poor. A couple of months ago, I received an email and regular snail mail from my electricity provider - Southern California Edison, saying that I may qualify for some free energy efficient appliances. All I had to do was respond within a certain time and a home visit by one of the company's representatives was going to be arranged. Sounds like a scam or an invitation for a home invasion robbery, right? Well, except this correspondence was legit, so I sent in my application.
          A few days later, someone named Mary who represented a partner of SCE, called to ask about my income and when she could come to inspect my home to see what appliances I had. She asked me to make a copy of my income tax return and proof that I owned my home. I did that, but blocked sensitive information from the copies including my social security number and date of birth. With all the identity theft happening nowadays, one can never be too careful. On the morning Mary arrived, she looked around, checked the model of my refrigerator, air conditioner, light bulbs, and power strips. She said based on the papers I had given her, I certainly qualified to get a replacement refrigerator since mine was more than 20 years old. But first she had to verify the information I gave her. Before Mary left, she gave me a couple of CFL light bulbs (even though I've already been using those for a long time), and an "intelligent" power strip where you can plug in low voltage appliances in some receptacles and high voltage ones in different holes. The power strip is only supposed to supply the adequate amount of electricity based on which holes you plug the appliances in, instead of the full dose in all holes. I was hoping she would give me LED light bulbs instead, but she didn't have those. My air conditioner did not qualify for a replacement since I've only had it for about 8 years.
          I had already forgotten about it until Mary called a couple of weeks later asking for the measurements of my refrigerator (length, width, height, depth, and which side it opened). That could only mean that I qualified to receive a free refrigerator! How is it even possible to get things for free nowadays, much less a refrigerator?? Well SCE has a program to help low income people save electricity by exchanging certain old appliances for newer energy efficient ones. It is called the Southern California Edison Energy Savings Assistance Program.
          And how did I become a low income person? Remember I was jobless until May 2014, worked for barely minimum wage as a caregiver till August, then started earning better from August till the end of 2014. Even with the combined unemployment benefits and my wages for all of last year, I was still at the Federal Poverty Level. Thus the reason for my qualification for the free refrigerator. I received another email from SCE saying that their installation contractor named Maravilla Foundation will be contacting me to arrange an appointment to deliver the new refrigerator. Soon enough, I got the call and we arranged for the fridge to be delivered on Monday, May 18th, between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. I also asked if they would take away my old one for recycling, and they said yes. Monday came and at about 1 p.m. the delivery people came, hauled the new fridge in, and hauled the old one out. They even installed everything. Thankfully I remembered to pack everything up the previous day so I could move them out of the old fridge quickly while the new one was being installed. When everything was said and done, I signed the delivery papers, thanked the men profusely for their service, then let them and their truck out of the security gate.
          I am now an owner of a brand spanking new, energy efficient Whirlpool refrigerator, which is more spacious and has more shelves than my old one. Of course, returned all the food back in the new fridge afterwards.

          Does being poor have its advantages? Certainly yes in this case. Thank you Southern California Edison! America, what a country! A country where it pays to be poor (sometimes).

Friday, May 8, 2015

The High Cost of Healthcare – A Personal Experience

Photo courtesy of
          I’ve been putting off writing about this while I waited for all the medical insurance claims to come in. Hopefully nothing more is forthcoming.

          Remember when I was hospitalized in mid-February of this year? No? Well you can read about my experience here: and here:

          I’ve been working in hospitals for more than 30 years and was never aware of the financial side of healthcare. We’ve admitted innumerable patients and never questioned how much it cost them or the insurance company. Sure, I’ve been hospitalized twice before but was never presented with a detailed bill by the insurance company until my less than one day confinement last February. The medical insurance I now have from my job sends me an email each time I receive treatment at a doctor’s office or a hospital and when I log on at the insurance company’s website, it shows an Explanation of Benefits or a statement which says what the hospital/doctor/Emergency Room/X-ray/CT/EKG/MRI/ambulance/paramedics/etc., billed the insurance company, what the insurance company paid, and how much I have to pay out of my own pocket.

          Almost $40,000 for being in a Cardiac Care Unit. What?! But I was only there for about 15 hours and the nurse didn’t even have to wipe my butt! Well, ok, so the insurance company’s contract with the hospital “only” let them pay about $6,500. Still a large amount if I had to pay it out of my own pocket. My copayment for this 15 hour stay was supposed to be $250. I’m still waiting for the hospital bill which I hope never comes.

          Another example was the ambulance bill from Long Beach to Whittier: $3002. Higher than a routine ambulance ride because it was a cardiac care run where there had to be a registered nurse present in addition to the usual 2 paramedics. Otherwise, it would “only” have been about $2000. My 3 mile routine  ride from home to the emergency room? “Only” $1937.70. Use of the pulse oximeter alone cost $88. Heck, I can buy my own pulse oximeter from CVS or Rite Aid pharmacy for almost half as much!

          Just a visit to the doctor’s office costs the insurance company $225 plus a $20 co-pay from me. It took about 10 minutes of the doctor’s time.

          It’s not that I’m complaining since the insurance company covered most of the cost. It’s just a shock how much healthcare costs in the U.S. Without the insurance contracted payments, for the first two months of this year my medical bills would have cost $56,502.42. OMG, I don’t even have that much in my saving and checking accounts!
Here is a photo of a summary of what the insurance company sent me:

          Now I’m wondering how Medicare and Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California) can afford to pay all the bills of the patients I take care of in the psych unit who get admitted, discharged, and readmitted several times a year.

          Come to think of it. Those hospital bills which the insurance companies pay, in turn pays for my personal bills since I work in the healthcare field, which I’m finding out is very expensive. How people can afford to be sick, I don't know. The more reason to try your best to stay healthy. Happy Nurse's Week and Happy National Hospital Week indeed!

Well, I spoke too soon. This afternoon I got a bill from the City of Long Beach Fire Department for the portion of the ambulance bill that the insurance company didn't pay, which amounted to $295 and included a $5.00 late fee. More ouch to the pocketbook :(