Health insurance options revisited

When I’m on half pay, I have to pay for part-time benefits instead of full-time benefits which means the university contributes a lot less and we need to revisit our insurance choices.  Previously we’d opted for the family plan from the university which was a bit less expensive than the other options from DH’s company (partly because DH’s company’s plan covers a lot more stuff even if it’s not any more generous with copays or coinsurance).

This year, just to make it difficult, DH’s company has added a second health insurance option.  We can do either their PPO or their HSA.  If this were a “we have lots of extra money” year, the HSA would be tempting on the basis of the way they act as additional tax-advantaged long-term savings.

Based on my calculations the cheapest monthly payments are:
1.  DH’s family HSA:  $494.06
2.  DH cover himself and the children with the HSA I take my insurance:  $584.41
3.  DH’s family PPO:  $611.88
4.  DH covers himself and the children with the PPO I take my insurance:  $660.87
5.  DH covers yourself with the HSA, I cover the children:  $701.09
6.  DH cover yourself with the PPO, I cover the children:  $742.43
7.  I cover the family:  $791.74

Of course, these plans all have different copays and different deductibles and different coinsurances. With only a fraction of the full-time subsidy, my plan is just flat out dominated by DH’s PPO, so we can throw that out. The HSA costs more every time it is used and has a higher out of pocket limit than DH’s PPO.  All three plans have exactly the same provider networks.

So, the difference in monthly payments between DH’s two family plan options is $1413.84 annually. If DC2 stuck a pony bead up hir nose, it would be $3000 + possibly another $170 for the emergency room trip under the HSA and $500 + possibly another $170 for the same trip under the PPO-500.

Do we want a sure savings of $1400 vs. a potential additional cost of $2500 for one emergency trip? That’s a potential out of pocket loss of $1100, not counting the unknown costs of doctors visits under the HSA.

The final piece of information is how office visits are treated.  From the literature they gave us, it is clear that preventative visits are free and office visits for sickness are $25 under the PPO.  With the HSA it wasn’t clear if we had to pay for the entire visit up to the deductible or if they were free without copay.  That could make a very big difference when you have two kids going into a new disease environment for a year.  After googling and looking on the plan’s webpage only produced information from 2009, we called up.  And were told to call again the next day during business hours.  After a lengthy discussion the next morning we determined that we would have to pay the entire negotiated rate for an office visit under the HSA and just the $25 copay under the PPO.  The numbers the lady on the phone threw around for predetermined office visit rates were something in the 100 range, though she wasn’t quoting anything.  (Online rates range from $65 to $380, but I’m guessing the negotiated rates are in the $100-$200 range.  Who knows!)  Because we have children, it’s likely that we will have to visit the doctor’s office for more than just the one annual allowed well-child check-up.

Assuming no emergency room trips and that an office visit is $150, then we would need to visit the doctors office 10 times while sick over the course of the year before we lost monetarily.  Assuming a $200 trip, that would be 7 visits.  Those assumptions put the HSA in as being more beneficial.  But, thinking about it another way, we will need to have at least two visits under the HSA because you always need doctors visits for school and preschool and DC2 won’t quite be three yet meaning ze won’t have tripped onto the allowed annual well-child check-up and DC1 has already has hirs for the year.  So that would really only be a savings of $1100 under the HSA or perhaps $1000, given higher office visit costs.

Really it comes down to risk.  Will DC2 need to use the emergency room?  Will we be way more sick?

We can afford the $3000 HSA max should the worst case scenario happen.  But a sure loss of ~$1000 also isn’t that big of a deal to us if it pays for peace of mind.  Having an HSA account would be nice, but it would also be a hassle given that we’ll only contribute to it for the one year (since my insurance will be more attractive once I’m full-time again).

After a long discussion with DH, we decided we’re risk averse and, more importantly, hassle averse.  We think chances are very high that we’ll be out $1000 for the year but we’d rather not have to think about how much the doctor costs in advance of a visit or what bank to use for an HSA that we will at most put $3000 in.  So, we’re going for the PPO, even though financially the HSA would make more sense.

How do you decide between insurance options?  Do you get any options?  (And are you like me and would prefer not to have options?  That ‘more options is always better’ part of microeconomics is such bunk.)

 

ZOMG link love

Octavia’s brood

This isn’t an Onion article.

Wired doesn’t actually want to hear about women or people of color.

Bill O’Reilly’s family values.

This old post on GOT seems particularly relevant this week.  Why are you writing a rape scene?

good explanation on why not to call people things they don’t want to be called. Though he’s dead wrong about “In one short sentence, Sunny Moraine—whoever the hell she is, and we’ll get to that in a moment—has dismissed such novels as Tolstoy’s War and Peace, James Joyce’s Ulysses, Herman Melville’s Moby Dick—not to mention the epic of Gilgamesh and Homer’s Iliad.” The Illiad has women in it and Joyce and Melville are shitty specifically because they have no women (other than prostitutes whose main purpose is for the main character’s development, like in that other shitty book, catcher in the rye). I was never able to get into Eric Flint for the same reason– no female characters.

Awwww

His majesty

Dr. Crazy says hello good-bye

This is cool.

It’s always fun to be able to look at someone who is making a lot more money and then go, yeah, I’m glad that’s not my life. What a waste.  Tax the 1%!

My FIL just got shingles while waiting to find out if his insurance covered the vaccine.  Noooooooooo.

This one is deep.

Sorry not sorry.

doubles on tundra

Historiann agrees with Katie Roiphe (!!!)

Mallory Ortberg’s comments sections are awesome.  Also a kitten.  And more kitten.

Mrs. Frugalwoods is having a baby!

I find this article to be quite hilarious.

more delicious

the video on this link is pretty interesting

 

Ask the grumpies: Recommendations for post-maternity leave

Slightly Anonymous asks:

My department is writing a policy for what they do to support new parents post-parental leave.  I’m on the committee that is supposed to come up with this.  I think this is great:  if somebody misses a year or a semester with a new baby, then it makes sense that they might need some time or extra support to come back up to speed.  But what should our committee recommend?

I’m wondering if you or any of your readers have ideas?

I’m at a UK university, which means that academic staff at my university are either on short-term temporary contracts — think postdoc — or have permanent positions.  In most UK universities “lecturer” is the equivalent of “assistant professor with tenure.”  At my university there is a 1 year probationary period before your job is officially permanent, but passing probation is pretty much a formality.  There is still stress about being promoted, but much less than what comes with trying to get tenure in a US university.

Being in the US and not having been at coastal or ultra-prestigious schools, our own experience is pretty pathetic.  That whole “missing a year or a semester with a new baby” thing … not something we’re used to.  In my department we’re still trying to get something consistent in place that doesn’t involve begging other people in the department to cover your classes for a couple of weeks after the baby is born.

Off the top of my head, all I can think of is adding a year to the tenure clock for those without tenure, but that is mostly irrelevant in the UK context.  Surely someone out there has a better idea of what best practices are?  #2 has only seen terrible practices.  My poor poor colleagues.

Grumpy Nation, please weigh in with your suggestions!

would you choose your education/career path again?

The shu box asked a really interesting question to her MD peeps– if they had to do it all over again, would they?  We thought we’d extend that to higher education more generally, not just MDs but other post-bachelor credentials.

Do you wish you’d gotten higher education (earlier, given that you could always get some now)?  Would you choose to get higher education again?  Would you have done things differently?

#2:  I’m very happy with my education.  My PhD program treated me a lot better than #1’s program treated her, and I still talk to my dissertation advisor.  I still collaborate with fellow students in my program and we have published together frequently.  I am facebook friends with some of my former professors (and one or two, with whom I’m not friends, I’m glad I never have to encounter them again).  I probably should have published more in grad school, but I did some, and that was fine.

I am reasonably happy with my career choices, even though I’m now a career-changer.  I did what I set out to do: got a tenure-track job and then got tenure.  I’m glad I did that; if I hadn’t, I would always have wondered if I could.  I wish the job had been somewhere less soul-sucking.  But it’s turned out ok, and I can’t say I have regrets.

#1:  Man, if I could go back and redo the phd program now I would be so badass.  They would think I’m a genius.  I kind of wish I’d taken a year off and gotten some maturity and knowledge before starting, but if I’d done that I probably wouldn’t have gotten into the program that I did.  And, realistically, I probably wouldn’t have ended up getting a PhD at all if I hadn’t stayed directly on the academic path because as ambitious and amazing as I am, I tend to get interested in things the more I know about them so whatever path I started on was most likely going to be one I took to the end.  But who knows!

I do seem to have gotten over most, if not all, of the PhD trauma and I like my current job and current socioeconomic status a lot.  So I think I’m happy with the path life has taken me on.  DH is pretty happy with his current job now too, so I (mostly) no longer feel guilty about the years he spent in a job he didn’t like so much (and by extension, the PhD program he went to so I could go to my #1 choice program).  (He, btw, has no regrets, so it’s irrational for me to feel the least bit guilty.)

There’s an alternate world me out there that is probably deliriously happy moving to SF right after college with DH and the two of us making bank during the dot com boom (DH moreso than me– I probably ended up without stock options).  We’ve bought a house when the market was at a low and are happily living the good life.

But I suspect there are many alternate world mes out there in various states of happiness.  Even though it might not have seemed like it from middle school (where I was bullied) and graduate school (where I suspect birth control pills and poor eating habits added to my anxiety), I’m essentially a happy person who tends to bloom where planted.

What about you?

MOAR CAT PIXXX

Here are my kittens on the way to their forever homes!  They are all over 2 lbs and fixed now.  Individual (-ish) portraits taken for the adoption coordinator:

Kitten #1 on the left:

girl - black with white paws

Kitten #2 in the front:

 girl - black

Kitten #3:

girl - white and blackand another shot of this same kitten because it is cute:

portraits 017

Kitten #4 who would not hold still: boy - black

And kitten #5:

boy - brown tabby

Happy new homes, kittens!

DH discusses cell phone plans

Overview:

I’ve assumed we want two smartphones with at least some 3G or 4G data.

Smartphones default to wifi, so when we have wifi access any data should not count towards plan limits.

[ed: With our flip phones and no data we currently spend $84/mo including fees and taxes because people keep texting us.  Without the texting it would be more like $78/mo.]

Considering two extremes…
We can get as low as $50/month plus fees & taxes for 6GB data each using Republic Wireless on the Sprint network (i.e., same network we use now).

If we go for the best network, we’d be paying Verizon $90/month plus fees & taxes for 1GB data each per month.

Details:

This website has pretty good overviews.  Here’s some more info about coverage.  Also here.

Verizon has the best network in general.
AT&T seems to be second-best network in general.

If we bring our own phones, then Verizon has a 1GB “prepaid” plan for $45/month.
So that would run us $90/month plus taxes & fees for two lines.

Verizon’s contract plan (in which they subsidize the phone cost and we’re locked-in for 2 years) would run $120 / month for two lines and 2GB shared.

AT&T has a similar setup for Bring-Your-Own-Device of $90/month for two lines ($25/mo/phone plus $40/mo for 3GB), and it would be $120/month on a 2 year contract with subsidized phones.

T-mobile doesn’t have contracts, though one can pay off a device over 2 years like with a contract. They would be $80/mo for two lines with 1GB each. Interestingly, once you hit that limit you can still get data, it’s just really slow, whereas almost everyone else charges you an additional $15 for the overage or just cuts you off.

Sprint’s prepaid is $70/mo for two lines with 1GB each.

It’s unclear if Sprint’s family/contract plan has any options, but it looks like it would be $90/month for the first year, then $120/month after that.
Another factor is that Sprint has a discount on our account of 15% because of our university connection.

Then there are the MVNOs, which are services that use another company’s network.

Republic Wireless. Uses the Sprint network. No contracts. Extremely limited in phone selection. Calls automatically switch to wifi whenever possible. A flat rate depending on whether we want wifi + cellular talk & text ($10/mo per line), wifi + cellular talk & text + 3G data ($25/mo per line) or wifi + cellular talk & text + 4G data ($40/mo per line). So we could both switch to this now and pay $20 per month (plus tax & fees) instead of our current Sprint bill which would effectively give us smartphones around wifi and dumbphones away from wifi. The call quality might even be better since it’ll default to wifi instead of the poor reception we get indoors. The plans can be changed up to twice a month, and they prorate the bill.

Ting. Depending on the phones we use, Ting will use either the Sprint or T-mobile networks. It doesn’t offer unlimited talk or text, unlike everyone else, but charges each aspect based on buckets at the end of each month (and then an incremental cost past the last bucket). Ting has the potential to be the cheapest plan, but we would have to keep an eye on minutes, texts, and data, to make sure we didn’t bump up into the next bucket. For example, 500 minutes, 100 texts, and 0.5GB would be $36/mo, but add another minute and another 0.001GB and it’d be $52/mo. If we go over 2GB data the bill goes up quickly. Based on our history, we’d be paying $33 – 62 / month depending on data usage.

Cricket Wireless. Uses AT&T network. $70/month for two lines with 2.5GB of high-speed data, then throttled data after that.

Freedompop. I don’t trust them. Their website broke when I was trying to view their plans, and they required an email just to see their plans. Then, they prevented me from using a mailinator email account, which is ridiculous because the majority of people that use mailinator (to avoid exactly what Freedompop was attempting to force me to do) know that there are many domain names that forward directly to mailinator, so I just used the forwarding domain name that was prominently displayed on the mailinator webpage at the time.

Project Fi is invite only.

Review:
Republic Wireless is interesting in that it’s a low flat rate with the catch is that we can’t go over 6GB of data used away from wifi. I doubt we would since we spend the majority of our time with wifi access.

Ting is not as appealing, even though it could save us up to $17/mo over Republic Wireless, because I don’t want to have to keep a sharp eye on usage. I think we’d end up around $45/mo, but then be anxious about using data during trips.

Verizon’s network sounds great. The bill would not be so much more than we’re paying now for dumbphones. In the end, I think we just don’t use our phones enough to make the extra cost over Republic Wireless or Ting worthwhile. Maybe once we have smartphones that will change, but who knows.

Ed:  None of these are affiliate links.  #2 would like to put in a plug for Credo Mobile, because they have a social justice bent.

What will we do?  My best guess is nothing.  We will continue to put this decision off even as other plans that offer more than our current plan get less expensive.  My best guess is that eventually one or both of our phones will break and we’ll go through this process again and actually make the switch at that time.

What do you all use?

link love

The depressing thing is that this, while terrible and unfair, is nothing compared to other racist stuff the police do.  Like this was what I used to think the worst stuff the police did was and it bothered me, but not to quite the extent that, you know, the beating and killing and harassment does.

racist principal

hiring bias

50 year old mystery about measles solved (maybe)

excellent article that is far better than the stupid article that inspired it

This was spot on– they matched the worst hell on that list with my type.  Of course the ESTJ is pretty terrifying too and that’s not me.

The shu box discusses minimalist thoughts, not being a minimalist, and related things.

I’m a classic.  #2 is Radical Red.

Thrift shopping in less than 37 steps.

Fantastic piece about NYC.

grump grump grump

worry work and the possibility of change

deez nuts

poor seal

should you read middle grade books?

the explanations here are hilarious

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