Archive for the 'First-of-month grocery shopping' Category

Family welfare

December 3, 2010

Andrew Hicks

At the time of The Event, I had health insurance for my entire nuclear family through my job as restaurant server, bartender and hourly manager. All I had to average was 25 hours a week, and they took a nice fat chunk out of each check. It was my first time being health-insured since just after my college graduation, and the Hicks clan quickly racked up a few high-ticket items. There were two live births, Sarah’s hospitalization for RSV* and the bizarre incision and drainage of an abscessed cyst in my right armpit. Which, if you like grossness, is a pretty interesting story for another time.

Then came the compound ankle fracture. Ambulance, emergency room, surgery, hospitalization and physical therapy with a lady who told me I’d be out of work “for at least a week, maybe even two.” I’m closing in on three months missing work, and the simple fact is, when you don’t work, you don’t automatically get your health insurance money withheld from your check. You also aren’t making the money you usually make at work. Money got scarce fast, we racked up a balance with the insurance company and got dropped halfway through last month.

Now, remember, I work an hourly job with a bunch of restaurant folks. Some of them are kids who live at home and may or may not roll out of bed by 2 pm; others are my age and have multiple kids. The whole way through, there were people telling me I could get free health insurance through the state if I qualified on an income-based level. I consider my lifestyle to be lower-middle class, and I figured if we did qualify for state medical cards, it would be just barely. And I also figured, I had earned the right to have health insurance as a benefit, so I might as well get it and pay for it. Responsible, right? Maybe even noble?

The nobility, real or imagined, fades a bit after you can’t work, and your existing bills – which you were not quite in full control of even before the accident – start backing up while brand-new accident-related bills start pouring in. Long story short, just before becoming uninsured, Tiffany and I applied for public aid. We got a notice almost immediately that the babies were covered, which brought peace of mind. Then, probably a week later, the rest of the results came back. Insurance for the whole family, free of charge. With all the media-bitching about Obamacare rules and regulations, this seems like some good old-fashioned welfare that FDR could cozy up to. Or wheel up to. Whichever.

Also, now there’s state-provided grocery money on a debit card each month. Gone, at least temporarily, are the days when I’d drop into the supermarket for a couple quick items, figure out by the crowds that it was the first of the month, get stuck in the checkout behind the family with the two full carts of stock-up goods, and then send out texts like, “Where’s the aisle for people who are buying items with cash they earned themselves?” to everyone I could think of while I was waiting to buy my white wine, bread and milk.

I’m still not yet earning money working, post-accident, but the money we’re saving now on health insurance, groceries and babysitting bills (you’re reading the words of a modern-day Mr. Mom) amounts to more than two grand per month. And you know, if you’d talked to me just before I popped out my ankle, I would have told you $250 a week for childcare for two children was a ripoff. Now that I’ve been home alone with Sarah and Silas for more than a month, it seems like an absolute bargain.

*I’d never heard of RSV, but it’s a pretty widespread respiratory virus among the very young. Sarah wasn’t even 2 months when she got it, most likely from a baby at the daycare she’d just started going to. It just seemed like she had a cold at first, but the virus took a quick progression on her infant body. One Sunday afternoon, when I left for work, Sarah was short of breath, and Tiffany and I made plans to take her to the urgent care first thing in the morning. Midway through my shift at work, I got a call from Tiffany, from the emergency room. Sarah had turned blue. Tiffany had called 911. Paramedics had come to the house and taken my 13-pound baby out on a stretcher**. Baby Sarah was in a room in the ICU for three days, hooked up to monitors and a baby IV. The first night, when the nurses wouldn’t let us feed her, was the hardest, but Sarah responded to treatment immediately and got better. Aside from a few chronic earaches in her early months, Sarah’s been a really healthy baby.

**Which, when you think about the heavy-lifting side of it, has to be a jackpot situation for paramedics. They don’t know whether they’re going to show up to hoist a 600-pound dude who just suffered a McRib-induced coronary blowout or a tiny, blue-faced infant. Morbid as it is, the sight of the blue baby has to at least be a physical relief as far as back pain goes. Kind of like when you’re helping a friend move, and the other guys always end up having to grab something heavy on the Next To Go list, while on your turn, the closest thing to grab is the box of pillows. Then again, my eyeballs probably zero in on the box of pillows and the box of paper towels and the box of toilet paper. I’m an out-of-work welfare recipient, after all.


Baby Sarah in the days she could be contained in a colorful bouncer.