Monday, March 31, 2014

I Love My HSA

We have only been acquainted for 7 months, but I can positively say that I love my health savings account and hope that we have a long and happy life together. My only regret is that we were not introduced to each other sooner.

During our initial enrollment period we discussed our options for health care and use of flexible spending accounts and HSA's. We opted for a high deductible plan and a HSA. What a great decision that was for our family.

For the first time in our married life we didn't see any major health expenses on the horizon  (pregnancy/delivery) and felt confident in our health. But we also knew that things would happen at some point in the future that we wouldn't have any control over.

I've already told you about my crush on Dr. Carson, but it was during one of his speeches that the impact of HSA's was again brought to my attention. He said that 80% of health care visits could be covered by HSA's.

In reality most of us see doctors for preventive care and occasionally for illness. Few of us have regular need for expensive tests and ongoing treatments in our early years. For the last 20 years we have been paying insurance premiums and during that time only had 4 occurrences (pregnancy/delivery) that would have been considered major health events. I wish we would have had a high deductible plan and a HSA from the beginning.

Consider that during the first 10 years of our adult working life we had little need for health insurance but yet through our respective employers opted to purchase it.... like all responsible adults, right? A job with insurance is like a right of passage. I remember thinking that it was crazy to buy health insurance when I didn't need it, and then pay co-pays and deductibles on top of it.  I was sufficiently terrified at the thought that if I cancelled it something was certain to happen leaving me with regret over that potentially fatal decision. I was scared and so kept with the plan. And then there were the tax benefits, so why not?

But what would have happened if we had a HSA from the very beginning with a high deductible plan? That would have been 10 years of savings, with the security of knowing we also had insurance should something go horribly wrong.

We recently had a health care necessity for one of our children that required a visit to a specialist followed by a in-office procedure that produced medical bills for $2,500 against our deductible. No sweat. Why? Not because we had the money sitting in the bank. Like most people the money in the bank is for something like a house down payment, a vacation, something in particular that people have been saving for. Nobody likes spending that money for health care.

Money in a HSA isn't ear marked for anything but health care expenses. We have a debit card associated with our HSA. We paid the bill without a second thought and without needing to set our savings back because of this health care necessity or trim the budget. It was at that moment I fell in love with our HSA. The money for our health care was in the account waiting for us because we had been making regular deposits, and now will be replenished with each future payroll check.

This year we needed it, next year we might not. Instead of that money disappearing if it is not used it rolls over year to year, accumulating and growing. It is ours. Insurance may provide some sense of security, but nothing beats having money to pay for those expenses waiting for you in an HSA. I love my HSA!

It's the last day of March! That can only mean one thing ... Medical Monday's is next Monday. See you there.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Don't Drive Mad!

Just after the first of the year I had day where I snapped. If you have never snapped this is what it looks like:
  1. Husband walks in the door. 
  2. You snatch the keys out of his hand without saying hello. 
  3. You slam the front door on your way out. 
  4. You walk to the car without looking back at the children huddled around the window. 
  5. You open the car door and throw your purse on the seat. 
  6. Music gets turned on to drown out the screaming in your head.
  7.  Ignition with a little extra gas because it sounds like a roar.
  8. Tire squeals for effect so they know you are gone.
  9. And because the first intersection is still too close to home and the anger hasn't had time to dissipate you step on the gas at the yellow light instead of slowing down and end up going through the intersection at a speed of 10-15 mph greater than the posted limit. 
  10. "FLASH" photo radar at the intersection you thought was just monitoring red light running goes off.
Two months later you get to re-live the whole experience with a traffic ticket issued to your husband because it is his car, but has your picture with your ticked off face. I was really mad.

I considered letting him take the fall for the ticket. But it was mine. I was wrong. I never should have driven in a state such as I was in. I should have walked.

I confess that the ticket is mine and submit my information to the city court to correct the ticket and then get to spend 4.5 hours taking a defensive driving course. It has been over 10 years since I had a ticket and probably 15 since I attended a defensive driving course. It has changed... you can do it online now!

Now that it is over I should have chosen to take a physical course somewhere on the other side of town. I could have asked my husband to take the day off (because my anger was his fault) and spent the day out.

But I did make special note of these paragraphs:

How do Stress, Anger, Emotions, and Fatigue Affect Driving?

Emotions can have a powerful influence over the way you drive. Anger, anxiety, fatigue and stress can interfere with your ability to make safe driving decisions. When you are stressed, tired, angry, or upset, you are less apt to pay attention to your driving. You may not see hazards or react as quickly, and the chance of getting into a collision will increase. If you are angry or stressed, you may let your anger out by driving recklessly or becoming aggressive toward other drivers.

Emotions: if you are having an emotional problem, your mind is preoccupied. You may be worried about financial problems, family issues, someone who may be ill, etc. This is when you are most accident-prone. If you are in this condition, allow someone else to drive for you, or wait until the problem has been eliminated before you drive.

So online driving school is a joke. I thought it was going to be serious, so I paid attention between diaper changes, lunches, baths, with the sound track to Frozen in the background. At intervals they had a little animated cop with words in a red box that we were supposed to remember. Things like:
  • George W. Bush is the 2nd president to follow in his father's footsteps.
  • Dr. Suess' full name was Theodore Suess Geisel.
  • Thomas Edison invented the light bulb
  • Actor River Phoenix died on a Halloween night from a drug overdose.
  • Katharine Hepburn hold the most "best actress" Academy Awards with 4.
  • and about 2 dozen other facts just like this.
So I wrote all the nonsense down, and prepared for my test. I thought the test was going to be about driving and the things that I read pertaining to driving.

Instead all of the questions were about trivia! Not a single question on the test related to driving. So I paid $200 for a driving class to get rid of my ticket and was tested on trivia. What a glorious waste of time and money. However, I did save $20 by taking the course instead of paying the speeding ticket and now I know even more useless stuff than I did before.


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Travel Lessons Learned

I had the great pleasure of accompanying my husband on a work conference trip a few weeks ago. This event was only made possible by our choice to move near family who could watch our children for the three days we were gone. Reason #1 we live here.

The trip almost didn't happen. Medicine is unpredictable. This is the exchange my husband and I had in the hours before we were supposed to leave.

 photo IMG_3483_zps56b211b6.png

He had been on call the prior evening and didn't get much sleep. His plan was to go check on his patients in the morning, sign off with his partner and then come home and help take care of loose ends before we left.  What is supposed to happen, and what actually happens are two different things. He finally did come home at 12:30 am the following morning, with just enough time to pack and get three hours of sleep before we needed to leave for the airport.

We had plenty to do to get ready. I am an excessive planner and had folders full of days activities to prepare, food to shop for and assemble, rooms to clean and laundry to do because I refuse to let my MIL believe I am not the perfection of cleanliness, important numbers and names to leave, directions on when/what for emergency contacts. I don't care of anyone actually uses my prep work, but it makes me feel better about leaving. And that is all that matters

A few big items on the list were my husbands. Like packing himself and the ski equipment, and getting the oil changed so his mom didn't have to worry about the warning light that was going off for the last week. I refuse to pack for a grown man, but I did drag four children to get the oil changed, and to the grocery store, and to the craft store, and everywhere. But it didn't matter. I was leaving town.

The best part about attending work conferences like this one is all the quiet time in the hotel room. They had meetings from 7 am - 10 am meaning I could sleep in and leisurely get ready. Then they had a break between 10 am - 4 pm so we could ski together. And then they met up again between 4 pm - 6 pm and ended for the day in time to have a nice dinner together. And repeated the whole schedule again the next day. It was lovely.

My husband gets me. My dream is to spend a weekend in a hotel all by myself with a good book and room service. I don't want to do anything.

So what is the lesson I will be sure to employ next time? While most  people would take a day off after their vacation to unwind before starting work again, a doctor should take the day before a trip off so he can be ready and rested, or worse miss the flight altogether.

I highly recommend attending with your spouse and, gasp, even taking your children. Where are your favorite locations to attend conferences?


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Doctor Crush

I have a crush on Dr. Benjamin Carson:-)



He and my husband have many of the same characteristics and surgical interests. But, unlike my husband, Dr. Carson enjoys talking politics. My crush only extends to his ideas, although he is an attractive man, my husband will always be my ultimate heartthrob.

I was first introduced to Dr. Carson by my mother-in-law who gave me a copy of his autobiography "Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story" during the beginning of residency. I remember reading it and thinking that this Dr. Carson was sure full of himself! That was before I came to understand that there is a healthy level of "full of yourself" required to do a good job in the operating room. And sometimes a surgeon really is awesome. Not many people get to be the first to do anything.

A few weeks ago I also watched the film version of his book "Gifted Hands" on Netflix. He is played by the actor Cuba Gooding, Jr. This time around the story was even more inspiring than I remembered the book being. Having several years between the book and movie encounters may have played a contributing role. Well, that and his prayer breakfast speech.

Then imagine my delight when I discovered that he had recently given a speech at CPAC! I spent the morning listening to it, and then listened to it again, only to discover that I had listened to an older speech from 2013. And then while finding the link for his speech on another computer I found the 2014 speech, I my opinion is was good but not nearly as great as last years, so I included 2013.


Currently, I am knee deep in preparing for taxes so his remarks on that topic were of particular interest to me, as is health care reform every day.

I have come to admire Dr. Carson, and discovered that we share many of the same beliefs. We don't agree on everything, but shared principles and values have a way of endearing people to one another. Since my crush is in full swing I may even look at a few of his other books. Turns out he has several and I'd be interested to see what else he has to say.


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Circling the Wagons

My first response when I hear or read any story that involves a medical professional is to immediately (in my mind) come to their defense. It is a reflex, and there is so much defending (and supporting) to do.

I read this article this morning and was reminded of something a wise uncle once told my husband. I have to paraphrase because I heard it from my husband a long time ago and he is obviously not around to ask at the moment. It was something like "if you assume that 9 out of 10 people you come in contact with are struggling, most of the time you will be right". 

We all have difficulties and challenges in our life that we don't share and people can't see. Some are emotional, financial, physical, mental, any number of issues impacting us all in different ways. We all carry something. Some people are better at masking their struggles than others. But mask, or not, most of us are dealing with something that feels too heavy to carry at times.

The short story is of a family that was staying at a nice ski resort in Colorado and their young baby was up several times during the night crying, disturbing a neighboring skier who felt it necessary to write a scathing letter to the family and leave it anonymously when they checked out. They probably patted themselves on the back for sticking it to them as they pulled out, congratulating themselves for inflicting pain on another person commiserate with the pain they felt at being woken up in the middle of the night. Tit for tat, and the last word. Maybe it made them feel better. But who can possibly feel better by making someone else feel bad? 

I have kids. I have been that family in that room, or airplane, or store. It is exhausting and embarrassing, and there really isn't much you can do about it.  Unless as some commenter's on the original post suggested that you just keep your children hidden and away from the general public so as not to chance disturbing anyone else with sounds they don't want to hear or sights they don't want to see. 

The original post is really a response to the letter by the brother in law. He wasn't there. But he defended his sister and her husband and their young child. If only each of us had a family member willing to speak up for us. I want to shake his hand. Why did it hit me so?

Because the family with the crying baby was a neurosurgeon and his wife and their young child. I know exactly what they were doing there. I've been there. In fact I was at a conference with my husband that same weekend, and thought they were talking about me only I didn't bring the kids and didn't get a nasty letter. But it could have been!

Going to a conference associated with a nice resort is one of the only chances a couple or a family in medicine get to spend time together. We don't have evening hours, holidays, or full weekends on a regular basis. Most years he doesn't even use all of his vacation time because the stream of sick people doesn't care that you have plans or need a break.  When my husband is in town, day or night, he is thinking about his patients or preparing for a case or studying because it never ends and he never knows what is going to come through the door tomorrow. It is a daily exercise, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

The closest it gets to time off is when he is able to leave the city and the hospital behind. This family was trying to carve out a little time for themselves and the only way to do it was to go together. Even then he was in meetings, but they were together in an unfamiliar place trying to reconnect in the off hours and maybe extending their stay by a day to really relax and unwind. Conferences at ski resorts are the best because the meet early for a few hours, break for 5-6 hours in the afternoon to ski, and then resume in the evening after the lifts are closed. It's a great conference to take families to.

The mention of profession (the husband is a neurosurgeon and the wife is a lawyer, now a stay at home parent) only added context to the story. What most people don't understand is that the life of a surgeon is a consuming life, not many people can fathom what that means or care to. Somehow there is a perception that because some one is paid for their sacrifice, it can't really be a sacrifice at all.  They prefer to call us "entitled" or possessing a "superior view of yourself" as one commenter on his post did. 

The life of a parent is also a consuming life. There are no days offs, no breaks from parenting. Your children look to you and watch your every move. They rely on you for their nourishment, affection, approval, and feelings of self worth. I don't intentionally mean to make other people uncomfortable, but we have to leave the house. The best way to teach your children how to behave in public is by taking them in public. It can be a painful experience at times, but it must be done.

Its easy to pass judgement on people, and I'll try to be gentle with the writer of the letter. Who knows what they were going through. Maybe this was their only in vacation in 10 years (we've been there too). Before you condemn first seek to understand. We could all use more kindness in the world. 

I feel so bad for the writer of this article because the comments have been so nasty, but he is a classy guy. And my heart breaks for this medical wife who was already hurting from the anonymous letter and now gets to read people's opinion about what she should have done: stay home, disappear, hide. I hope she doesn't read them.

I can only imagine this woman, once a professional lawyer now a stay at home mother and wife to a busy surgeon, is trying to do the best she can and the last thing she needs is to be judged by people who don't know what she is going through. Making the transition from career to motherhood is hard. Having a newborn is hard. Being a parent for the first time is hard. Being married to someone with a demanding schedule is hard. Balancing the demands of a family unit is hard. It isn't easy for anyone regardless of what your spouse does for a living.

It would appear that she has an amazing family who is supporting her and doesn't really need my commentary, but from one wife and mother to another: Don't listen to ugliness, there are more of us that are with you than against you. 

Thanks for making the past Medical Monday so successful! It was great getting acquainted with so many new blogs, and to see those who have been with us from the beginning. There were some moving stories, pictures, inspiration, and helpful advice. It was a great week. It's not over either! The link will be active until Friday at midnight. 


Monday, March 3, 2014

Medical Mondays Welcomes March!

February IS the shortest month of the entire year! No surprise there. Hello March. I suppose this means that spring is almost here and that means, I don't even want to think about it. Some days I want to stop time and this is one of them. Can we just take a little freeze break. Everyone stop. For just a day or two and let me get my feet under me again.

This last weekend was wonderful. This next week is going to be wonderful. This next month is going to be wonderful. But I might not be ready. Ever have that feeling?

So to take my mind off things at least there is Medical Monday:-)

March Medical Monday Link-Up and BlogHop

Are you confused if you qualify for the party?

If you have a pager interrupting your life... you DEFINITELY qualify!
Do you work in healthcare?
Doctor? Nurse? EMT? Chiropractor? Vet? Dentist? Therapist?
Are you the spouse or SO of a healthcare worker/student?
Are you a nursing student? Medical student?
Intern? Resident? Fellow?

You get the picture, right? Come on, now... don't be shy! Let's keep growing and meeting new bloggers, so we can build a community of support and friendship, learn from one another, and share our stories.


Here are the rules:
  1. Follow your co-hosts via Bloglovin, GFC (if you are Blogger), FB, email or Twitter.
  2. Link up you medical/med life blog. If your blog name does not clearly state how you fit in to the med/med life world, please write a little intro or link up a specific post which clearly demonstrates your connection.
  3. Visit at least 3 other link ups, comment, introduce yourself, and tell the your stopping by or following from MM!
  4. Help spread the word by using our button on your post or sidebar, tweet about Medical Monday, or spread the word on Facebook! The more the merrier for all of us.
Complete step one by following your co-hosts:
Want to be awesome? Help us spread the word by grabbing and posting the Medical Monday button on your post or sidebar...

Want to co-host next month? Shoot Jane an email at and be sure to write "Medical Monday Co-host Request" in the subject field.

Now, link up below and have fun! The link up is open through Friday, so be sure to come back during the week to check some great reads!