January 10, 2009

It's your bill; check it carefuly

I think I'm getting poked to take the incoming medical bills a bit more seriously. the last add-up was so depressing, but I know from experience and the Internet :-) that it pays to check the bills carefully. My husband sent me an article about a wife saving her husband physically and monetarily and a Facebook status alerts me to a bill fighter who won.

I especially like the comments on Why I don't send a Christmas card to my insurance company. Here's a hint - one part of the family was puzzled when some, but not all, monitoring tests were covered.

In comments, you will find talk about just how big of a gift does a wife who saved the family $1,200 in a cash outlay deserve. With persistence, she was able to learn the unpaid tests were coded wrong and the health insurance company was supposed to pay.

The Good Morning America story was a bit more dramatic, so do check it out.

To save you time (so you can check your bills) here are the nine tips I pulled from Wife saves husband, then saves thousands on their medical bills

  • Keep a log of the procedures performed and medicines given.

  • Request an itemized bill

  • Match up the dates (The man was billed for procedures that happened before his attack)

  • Watch out for extra zeros

  • Beware of fat fingers - ie. one medication wad listed 7 times on their bill.

  • Know what's included so you don't get charged separately.

  • Don't pay for medical mistakes

  • Don't be afraid to negotiate - with doctors, not the billing department.

  • You can hire help. There are people who like this type of challenge.

I have been trying to find the silver lining in my daughter's fight against breast cancer. I've pointed out how helpful it will be to have these "base" scans of her body in years to come.

This might be a chance for me to redeem myself on the "good mom" list as I never finished her baby book. I am working carefully on her medical book. I've been keeping track of which tests she has had, what medicines she takes and who she sees. It's important, to me, that she not get extra radiation or that we repeat tests. Plus, it is a chance to save money, right.

I've already had the pleasure of decoding some of the bills. In network and out-of-network. Negotiated rates and .... (I'm keeping in mind what I learned from The Stupid Cancer Blog - insurance companies will deny three times because most peoplr wiill pay rather then keep fighting ...check into balance billing as hospitals and others may try to collect higher charges more then negotiated but you might not have to pay above the negotiated amount (I say might as it gets back to in and out of network issue and if you signed an agreement to pay everything)

We got a reminder of how important the lists and spreadsheets can be.Someone called to ask if we needed to work out a payment plan to pay for a test done in early November. We might. But first we need the bill.

January 9, 2009

Journalism's future: Do, preach, pick

From the Google Reader today, I find some preaching and some doing aimed at saving newspapers, or at least, the news business. Plus, there's a reminder you can help pick out a journalism leader.

First the doing - an effort by some Washington journalists who worked together to cover flooding. Their work is highlighted in Networked link journalism: A revolution quietly begins in Washington state over on Publishing 2.0.

Josh Korr's explanation of a "little inovation for journalism - "few Tweets, a bunch of links, and some like-minded pioneers" includes this:
"That’s how a quiet revolution began in Washington state Wednesday. Four journalists spontaneously launched one of the first experiments in collaborative (or networked) link journalism to cover a major local story.

But it gets better. Those four journalists weren’t in the same newsroom. In fact, they all work for different media companies. And here’s the best part: Some of them have never even met in person."

Click over to see examples of the Twitters and learn more about the effort.

Some preaching - News Content: Newspapers' Future Strategy May be the Aggregation of News Sources - found through Robin Good's Latest News on Master New Media shares these ideas for newsapers from John Blossom.
  • Get Better Than Bloggers and Search Engines at Aggregating News
  • Love Print as a Service, Not as Your Brand
  • Enable Community-generated News More Effectively (Think sports scores, eye-witness accounts, traffic reports, breaking news alerts)

Blossom, who offers services for publishers and consumers of content services, concludes:

"There's no doubt that many news organizations are hitting the right buttons in making decisions on the future of making money from news, but the pace at which those decisions are being made has left a gaping chasm between the cost of sustaining their greatest revenue-generator - print publishing - and the cost of investing more heavily in online publishing methods that will carry them forward to long-term profitability.

As much as online is the answer, though, I think that it's time for publishers to take a far more radical approach to print as soon as possible. Print will survive and thrive - the only question is, in whose hands? The time to release the medium from the brand is at hand, and it can come none too soon for most news organizations' bottom lines."

Speaking of doing, I wish I was in Texas so I could get to a workshop offered by Baylor University's Institute for Oral History. The Retooling Oral History in a Digital Age Workshop promises to explore how digital tools like audio and video can change the interview.

The effect of the tools on the collection of oral history, or stories, has been on my mind for a long time. It came up again over the holidays as once again I heard many people balking at the idea of their photo being taken or ducking when a video camera turns their way.

How will that reluctance affect what is remembered years from now. I think some answers would come up at that workshop.

(For an explanation of how journalism and oral history relates, check out Kissing Cousins.)

Still got time - today's the last day to help pick tomorrow's journalist.

January 8, 2009

It hurts to laugh; it helps to prepare


You can laugh or you can prepare for a buyout. Your choice. Free From Editors posts a couple of comics on the day that Erica Smith  tweets the Post-Dispatch is laying off more staff. (More details posted here)

Meanwhile, Steve Daley helps out those pressed with coming up with one more speech for the departing ... or as he says:
"As you may have heard (in the newsroom; at Caribou Coffee; on somebody’s blog), John P. Zenger will be leaving his role as (chief investigative reporter; TV critic; ombudsman) at this newspaper."

Of course, you know most Americans don't believe they'll be laid off. That would only happen to those other people, you know.

At least that's what I read on Silicon Valley Insider:
"79% of adult employees aren't concerned about layoffs in the next six months. And if their company's already gone through layoffs, most respondents figure the next round might take out a coworker or two, but not them.

In fact, most employees actually expect a bonus or a raise in the next 12 months."

So based on that survey from company-reviews site Glassdoor.com, I'm probably wasting Internet resources by sharing this advice from journalists. But some folks who met at Poynter suggest:

If you want it, take it now.

That means copy the names of your sources and their contact information, take home your personal belongings, weed through your files and pack up your desk.

If there are copies of your work that you want, get it now. (A lesson I learned the hard way - can't tell you how many times I wish I had the files I was promised I'd get or the ongoing online access I was promised.)

Clean up

That means make sure anything "remotely personal and/or sensitive" is out of your desk.and off the company computer. That should include copies of performance reviews.
"Yes, your hard drive will haunt you to your grave, but there's no point in leaving behind a file slugged WHYMYBOSSISAJERK."

The suggestions include remembering award citations, complimentary letters and e-mails from readers and bosses, and other recognitions.

Sharon Stangenes, formerly of the Chicago Tribune, treasures a thank-you letter from then-unknown attorney-author Scott Turow for her profile of him on the eve of publication of his first blockbuster, "Presumed Innocent."

Be prepared to stay in touch

The Poynter group suggests pulling together a list of the personal e-mails and cell phone numbers of colleagues and bosses.

"You never know where they're going to end up, so personal contact information is more valuable than office numbers or e-mails, says Mary Massingale, former newspaper reporter and editor/writer for an education association in Central Illinois

Start working on a new resume - and don't make it just old media.

Begin to think about what you might do other than daily journalism and learn to create resumes that show how your skills translate.

Make sure you have a personal, professional website as part of that. For details on how, where, examples, etc., head to the post pulled together by Judy Start, who took an early retirement in August. Also contributing to that post wereSid Hastings, Denise Lockwood, John Markon, Mary Massingale, Jane Norman, Pete Skiba and Sharon Stangenes.

January 7, 2009

Email eases some prescription pain

Wow. I leave Michigan for a few months and come back to find out my doctor now emails prescriptions in. Now, if only I coud figure out a way to get appointments and refills by email. Or better yet know in advance when I will
need medical help.
I tried the natural way of getting rid of the achy, can't talk or breathe or hear crud by drowning myself in sleep and liquids. But I gave up and slipped into the doctor's walk-in line after learning the first available appointment was in 8 days. I was shocked that I was seeing a doctor less then 30 minutes after I signed in! The next shock - right after the sting of a few shots - was learning prescriptions on paper were no longer routine.

Actually, I think emailing the prescriptions in is a good idea. It should cut down on misread prescriptions and missing pads. Plus, this way I could go straight home (more sleep) and ask my husband to pick up the drugs later.

I do hope the practice extends to nationwide - especially if the doctor sends the requests directly to the drug plan's mail order place. Think of the paperwork that can be saved on behalf of senior citizens whose only hope of avoiding the Meficare Part D donut hole is using the mail order option.

On the other hand, I feel sorry for any doctor with patients enrolled in a Medicare Part D plan. I finished out my year comparing 52 plans in my mom's ZIP code in the annual gamble of trying to find the one plan that will cover the most drugs she may take in 2009. The fun is starting with a list of 8 drugs she is currently taking. The chosing is a gamble because first you can't really know what drugs are needed and second, the company can drop at time any drug.

Imagine the pain of the doctor's office, though, that needs to keep track of which of the 52 plans each patient with. (oh yeah, seniors get to choose a new plan, effective Jan. 1 every year).

Medicare Part D has become an annual end of the year ritual for me. This year, I only helped with 2 plans and that was enough. The choosing is almost as painful as breathing right now.

January 5, 2009

Can we all tell 'hey Mabels?'

Hearing 'that's a 'Hey, Mabel' story was high praise from one of my first editors. It meant you had found and written a tale that would be discussed at the dinner table and near the water cooler.

Of course, that praise came when newspapers were delivered in time for dinner, a meal families ate together in early evening. The line was delivered before vending machines with bottled water and break rooms replaced water coolers as standard office equipment. And when was the last time anyone said 'Mabel?'

Good stories still get discussed today. My questions are: Are there too many stories? Does who tells them make a difference?

I once was an avid storyreader, who gravitated to those first person pieces in newspapers and especially in magazines. But recently I realized that even an offer to get the old standby Women's Day for less than a quarter an issue had little appeal.

I fill that need niche with blogs and rss feeds. Now, I can find quilters, crafters and do-it-yourselfers 24/7. Also available are others who share how they cope with ms, elderly parents and twenty-somethings who move back home. I can read one blog or adopt a variety through a service like BlogHer. When I find a story or cause that pulls my heartstrings, I can talk back as well as PayPal some $$.

I can get even more as the Non-profits and businesses I already support seek my stories and then share what they gather from customers, contributors and clients in their appeals, newsletters and magazines I get for my loyalty.

What I think we lose/lost is the collective knowledge that helps form community around geography

We also take on the need to filter, to think for ourselves. We have to be editors as well as readers. Certainly, mass media sometimes was scammed by storytellers who twisted their lines to elicit donations.

Plus I worry about overload - when you can choose to "know" so many stories does it become easier to tune them all out?

If the Boys & Girls Club, the United Way, the YWCA, the Girl Svouts and others use stories to illustrate impact of programming and funding do the tales all blend into one? (I have been a long time critic of how mass media chooses the medical victim of the week to feature. Now, i wonder how a church, VFW and other groups chooses who to support with an suction or fundraising dinner when so many are in need of help. Some Sundays, I am sure my entire congregation is on the sick list and in need of prayers.)

Does the technique of revealing who we are lose power when it becomes the basis for marketing and changing rather them understanding who we are?

No answers. Just questions once more.

(also, please, be patient, as this post was penned on an iPhone as I try to fulfll a resolution of posting at least 5 times a week)

January 4, 2009

Iphone photo art? Some days are like that ...

After I took the clips to head, I used the iPhone to document the mess. I am hoping someone can tell me how am I taking these pictures. I merely aimed the phone at her lovely shaved head and snapped the shot. It looked fine, so I took a few more. Those came out perfect. In fact, I only discovered the artsy look when I went to email it

Oh yea. This is my second photo in this technique

Help. What am I doing to get it to look this way.

Barber school will not help me or 'client'

For the first time ever, I used the barber shears at the request of a special client who was tired of it falling out. I argued for a strip down the middle but was over ruled.

I cut it all one length; chemo contributed the bald spots.

Shall I stick with caregiving on the local and family level and skip barber school?