Yellow's Green

The Adventures of Money Blog.

Friday, September 29, 2006


So, it's been a few days past the 30 days that our insurance company gave themselves to get back to us regarding our appeal for coverage.

I was tempted to call them and ask what's up today. I was then going to begin looking for a lawyer to help us out. But, I decided to give them until the end of the month.

Today, we received two letters in the mail from the insurance. The first one was yet again another bill-like notice. Like all the other claims, the notice reports the midwives as out-of-network, after we had in writing they would be covered at in-network rates.
Unlike all the other claims, it actually said "patient pays $0." Cool! They were actually going to pay something.

The next letter was in response to our claim. I was *shocked* at what it said.
The gist of the letter was: Sorry. You were right. We were wrong. You did everything you should have done, and in the right way. We're sending $X (the full cost of the birth) to your midwives.

I did the happy dance today. And we bought pizza for everyone.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Set up for Fincial Failure

Although I decided very early on that I'd do whatever it took to stay at home with my children, I found myself strongly defending the working mother yesterday. Sure, it IS a choice - but for most it's a choice between impoverished (by American standards) living and getting by ok.

It's seems my generation is set up to fail, financially, from the get-go:

- Lack of financial education
We are NOT educated about financial matters in our school systems anywhere, unless you choose an optional money management class while in college (when it's already late in the game).

In fact, my Mother-in-law told me how her kindergartener is already being taught to live on credit! He was sent to school with a bagged lunch, and no money to buy a hot lunch. It being his first experience with school lunch, he didn't really understand how it worked, and got in line for the pizza and chocolate milk on the menu at school. They gave him the food, and simply charged it! They just assign the kids numbers and charge the meals, sending the bill home to Mom and Dad. It's teaching kids to live on credit from the beginning. My MIL must write letters to the school saying that her children are NOT allowed to charge their meals, yet she still gets bills sometimes. (With no way for her to monitor what's really being purchased, or who's really doing the charging.) Bad deal.

- Cost of education

The cost of higher education is just going up and up, with federal aid being cut, and student loan interest rates going up. Those with parents not helping financially (for whatever reason) are finding it next to impossible to leave college without debt.

Take my own case, for example. After high school, I didn't go directly to college because I couldn't afford it. For a year, I worked three jobs and saved almost every penny. I got a full-ride scholarship to a community college, and went there for my first two years. During my second year, I worked as an RA- again saving most every penny I could. I didn't expect to be able to go on to my bachelor's right away, because nowhere in state had the major I wanted, and out-of-state tuition seemed too high. Then, I was offered a very generous scholarship (my 3.9 GPA helped) to Washington State University. I immediately called WSU's housing department to get interviewed to be an RA (free room & board is a great deal) and was offered a position. I figured between the scholarship, the job, and my savings that I would be able to afford it. Well, between the cost of tuition raising every term (at a higher rate for out-of-state students) but my scholarship and wages remaining fixed, strict standards for being able to gain state residency (hopeless), and unexpected fees, I was out of money in one year. Cash flow was GONE.

University of Idaho, just a few miles away, was willing to let me pay in-state rates - and I figured it would be less expensive there even without the help of scholarships and paying my own room and board. (Of course, with yet another transfer there were requirement changes that tacked on more time at school, meaning more money.) I got a new job, applied for scholarships, and nervously took out my first loan. By my fifth year of school, I was finally old enough that I didn't have to report my parents income on the FASFA (not that my parents paid any of my tuition in the previous years) and I qualified for a small grant. With all that, I graduated with $12,000 in student loan debt, which didn't seem bad to me at all. I consolidated right away to lock in a low interest rate (less than 3%) and paid as much as I could each month. Unfortunately, my career path was one of non-profit work - and my income was not big enough to really take a huge bite out of my loan. I still have more than half of it to pay off, which isn't too bad, I guess, for having been out of school three years now.

- Predatory Lending

I don't recall a day in college where there wasn't a booth or a mailing somewhere offering me a credit card. My parents had always instilled a "don't live on credit" philosophy in us, so it was easy enough for me to resist the temptation. But then, I got really low on money and was concerned about my ability to pay bills. I got a credit card for "just in case." (I chose it based on the 0% APR, and the cool Van Gogh design.) I used my card to buy things online because it was more secure than my debit card, but never carried a balance. Among my peers, I was an exception. I was one of the last I knew to get a card, and most people I knew DID live on credit. "We're young. We're supposed to have fun," was their reasoning. One guy I knew racked up $10,000 in credit card debt in his first year of school. And he was just one who told me about it. I never even noticed if he had any nice "stuff."

- Health Care

I was dangerously and stupidly without health insurance for a while. In my mind I couldn't afford it. I did get sick frequently, and have daily medications I have to take. Doctor bills really add up! When I did buy the student health insurance, I still had to pay full price for my meds, and all the copays for doctors visits, plus whatever else insurance wouldn't cover. I ended up paying more in health related expenses after I was insured than I had before. Fortunately, I never did have an emergency while in college, and that would have made a big difference. Besides tuition, medical spending was definitely my biggest money eater through college.

- Gettin' hitched ain't free

So Erik and I were married in a very low-key nontraditional way, at close to no cost. But that's not the price tag I'm talking about. It's good that Erik and I are both frugal, and consumer-debt free, but he also had student loans - and not at the same low fixed rate I did. We worked hard and fast at getting rid of that debt, but still it was there.

- Makin' babies ain't free

Well... maybe making them is, but birthing them certainly is not. Because insurance rates are so high, many employers are offering less and less health benefits. If you were paying for the whole birth, insurance free (a very bad idea), the least expensive route (besides attempting to keep the whole thing a secret, never seeing a doctor, and birthing in a back alley somewhere) is a midwife - which averages around $3,000-$4,000. Don't even think about a hospital birth without insurance! With insurance, you'll still probably be paying a few thousand dollars out of pocket for a birth.

- Competing for a home

When women entered the paid working world, they doubled (well, increased anyway) the income of their homes. But, the housing market is based on what people will compete for and are willing to pay. So, when people's buying power doubled - so did the cost of homes. It's not anywhere close to the same story it was for my parents buying their first home, or their parents. Read "Two Income Trap" for a more complete picture.

- The rules have changed

Some of us did have great financial examples in our parents. Unfortunately, due to everything listed above, you can't "just not worry about it" and "get by" these days. Yes, the basics are still the same (spend less than you earn, etc.) but the vigilance it takes to live by those rules has increased. If you do get by, there's still a huge lack of safety net if one member of a two-income home loses a job and can't go back to work. Job stability ain't what it used to be. Retirement and health benefits ain't what they used to be. And because of incresed life spans (and the medical costs often associated with it) inheritances ain't what they used to be.

So, although Erik and I both have college degrees, they are only a small advantage due to the fact that neither of us pursued high-income career paths. Had we been in the same relative financial position a generation ago, me staying at home and us buying a house would be a relatively easy option.

As far as working mothers go; anciently, mothers have always worked - only recently have they not been allowed to take their children with them to work or have their children work along side them, and THAT makes a big social difference. I would actually love to work a paying job again, but only if I could bring Jasper with me, and finding somewhere like that is unlikely.

Sock Dreaming...

Today, if I had extra money to blow, I'd blow it on Baby Legs and Socks from Sock Dreams. I wish!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Low-Income Homeownership

Erik and I would like to get ourselves edjumucated on first-time home buying. We're doing very well not spending much of the money we bring in, but it would be good to have a better idea of what we're saving towards, and when we can use that saved money.

We know there are all sorts of incentives and helps for first-time home buyers.

Here is our dream:
-Buy some land (2-5 acres) close (meaning as close as possible) to the family.
-Build our own small home and farm the remaining land.

Here are some questions we have:
-Would it be better to make a strong effort now to find a home -any home- while we can still qualify for benefits for those in the "very low income" range in the area?
-How much can we afford to pay per month in a home where we'd still like to be saving toward our dream.
-Where can we find a free class on first-time home buying?
-How in the world do people with our income afford to live in homes?
-If we keep going just as we are now, how long will it be before we can afford what we want?

Tips? Pointers?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Profitable Hobbies

Erik and I love to dance! We met dancing, and we often chastise ourselves for not getting out dancing enough these days. (Erik working early hours is the biggest inhibitor - not being relatively new parents as some may think. We just take Jazz with us when we go.)

I used to teach community and university dance classes when I lived in Idaho, and it was a blast. Now, I have a prospectus to fill out to teach once again for Mt. Hood community college's community ed. courses. Hurray! It would be so fun to be teaching once again, and teaching with Erik will be even better.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Insurance Battles continue

Did I mention we sent in the official written claim to our insurance? We also faxed a copy of all the denials, and letters promising coverage previous to the birth, to the birth center's billers.
Jasper is six months old now, and they've still denied every claim, after promising coverage before his birth.

I'm totally at a loss.

We just received another denial of benefits in the mail today. This time, they've yet again chosen new reasons to deny. This time, they're also much more cryptic reasons - not so obvious that we should appeal:

"This procedure or supply is part of the global service. These charges are not eligilbe fore separate reimbursement."

and then follows:

"Your claim my have been separated for processing purposes. An additional charges will be processed as soon as possible."

In other words, we separated these items for billing purposes, and deny your claim because these can't be billed separately. At least that's what I'm understanding here.
It also shows the chart for out-of-network coverage... when they told us they would cover at in-network rates.

I can't believe this insanity!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


We just got back from a trip to go visit my sister's family in St. George, Utah.
By our standards, we did not vacation frugally. We did, however, work in almost 100% for the vacation, so we didn't worry at all about money and we didn't go over our budget.
The biggest money-sucker was eating out almost ever lunch and dinner. Eating out, as I've written before, is usually part of our vacation planning, so there was no guilt (although there was a lot of gas, but that's another story).

I had an only-available-in-Utah, Sconecutter cookie dough shake. (ok, I ordered two on different days, but could only eat half of each) Erik had never even heard of a Navajo Taco, so one of these days we'll have to get him a real one. He had the Sconecutter version, and I had one of their egg sandwiches. Not that I love Sconecutter's, it's just that you can't get anything like it anywhere else.

We bought food at no less than four different Mexican restaurants, probably more, and one nice Thai food place.

Other than food, we didn't spend that much. No hotel. We pitched in for the cost of gas. My sister already had a pass to Zion's National Park. And the dinosaur discovery museum we went to was only $3 per adult.

Well, it's time to go back to doing laundry and cleaning - recovering from the vacation.

Oh, and we decided it probably would be cheaper to drive instead of fly next time we head down there. And we'll have to go in early spring or late fall. Too darn hot!