First week with Obamacare: How’d it go?

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I’m proud to say this for the first time in four years: I HAVE HEALTH INSURANCE!!! Yep, here in the beautiful state of Arkansas, I am insured because of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. See, I’ve been denied health insurance for a number of pre-existing conditions – including asthma, anxiety, a torn meniscus in my knee, and – shock of all shocks – being on birth control. It’s been extremely frustrating, but nonetheless, I have made my doctors’ appointments, self-paid for prescriptions and physician visits, and spent hundreds of dollars on medication and appointments each month.

It was fine until 2012, when my car completely died on me and I had to get a new one. I’ve had to cut corners, and have even put off purchasing needed prescriptions because they didn’t meet my budget.

Then the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act kicked in. I was able to sign up for health insurance, I was covered on New Year’s Day, and it’s been a tremendous relief for me and my family.

So, here’s how I’ve benefited in the past week:

I got to see the same doctor I’ve been going to for 8 years. I was determined to get in a doctor’s office as soon as I was insured, and by gum, I was insured on 1/1 and saw my primary care physician for a well woman exam on 1/2. My appointment with my PCP was very streamlined. Updating my insurance information took the staff about, oh, five minutes. But no, I didn’t have to wait in a long line, and yes, my visit was just like any other visit. My doctor was excited that I had insurance! She’s been so kind to help me save money in the past four years that I’ve been uninsured.

2014-01-07 12.40.03 I got to switch pharmacies! When you’re uninsured, you discover that one drug at one pharmacy can have a different price than the other. I had a pharmacy discount card that saved me just a little bit on prescriptions, and the lowest copay I had was at a pharmacy that kept HORRIBLE hours. We’re talking “We close at 6 p.m. on weeknights, 2 p.m. on Saturdays and don’t even think about Sunday.” The pharmacy was also an extra drive away from my house.

I’m now able to use the Walgreens right down the street! Walgreens offers a LOT of refill options – including their fabulous app that lets you scan prescriptions for refills, a web-based refill and transfer procedure, AND the benefit of being just a few blocks away and open 24/7 with a DRIVE-THRU. I’ve been dealing with the pharmacy staff at my local Walgreens for the years I’ve been looking after Mom, picking up her prescriptions. Don’t get me wrong, the staff at my old pharmacy was great, but these guys know my mom’s health up and down and have ALWAYS been good to her.

Updating my insurance info with Walgreens was super-easy – although I must admit that transferring my psychiatric meds was not so easy. However, that is to be expected, and I have an appointment with my psychiatrist this week and can easily have her change pharmacies for me. Meanwhile, I had to pick up two prescriptions that weren’t able to be transferred from my other pharmacy.

And now, you are about to see a photo that is a combination of rock-star awesomeness with creative ways of hiding my personal information.

 

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When I picked up my prescriptions at both pharmacies, I almost CRIED at the price I paid for four prescriptions. I had a $2 copay for a brand new Albuterol inhaler. Anyone who knows anything about asthma KNOWS how expensive albuterol is – especially since they were able to renew their patents when they had to change the canister to prevent from releasing CFCs into the environment. My ENTIRE cost for four prescriptions was FIVE DOLLARS. I teared up. Because I’ve been spending so much money on my medical expenses, playing roulette with my life, and self-treating illnesses instead of going to the doctor and paying nearly $200 per visit!

ALSO, I have the added benefit of no longer having to add up ALL my insane medical expenses during tax time so I can hope to get some kind of break that is greater than the standard deduction. (It never is, but it’s always in the range of thousands of dollars, but just enough not to meet the standard deduction. Blech!)

I know that not everyone has had the same experience as me. I have friends who are paying more for prescriptions, for instance – and are trying to work things out with their insurers. But this has been a lifesaver. Because I made a deal with my dad that if I ever got so sick that I would need a very expensive treatment, I would go to another country to have said treatment because no matter how much it cost there, it would be less than here. But now, Dad doesn’t have to worry about that and neither do I. I feel like a massive weight has been removed from me.

I’m very happy with my experience with the Affordable Care Act. It’s given me peace of mind.

My weight loss journey with Lean Cuisine Honestly Good Frozen Meals

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I have some exciting news, Bellesouth readers and friends: Since May, I have lost 32 pounds!!! Check me out!

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The photo on the left is one that I took right before heading out to a cocktail party at SoFabCon back in May. I’m wearing Spanx, so while I may look cute, I feel like a sausage and am thinking, “I am going to die before the night is over.”  The one on the right is me right before celebrating the last day of Summer by going out to the lake with some friends. I am very thankful the shorts I’m wearing have a drawstring, because they are two sizes too big for me!!! You really don’t see the difference until you compare photos of yourself.

Lots of my friends have asked me what program I’m on, or what I’m doing. Here’s my secret: It’s this AMAZING breakthrough plan called “Counting Calories and Exercising.” It really works, and I use a handy app called MyFitnessPal to help me out. I’m not on a “diet.” I don’t deprive myself, and I don’t beat myself up if I go over my daily calorie limit. As a result, I’ve dropped a shirt size, am about to drop a second pants size, and I’m really feeling better about myself. I was given the opportunity to try out a new line of healthy meals called Honestly Good 100% Natural meals by Lean Cuisine. These meals are ready in about four minutes, and are extremely tasty!!!

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At around 350 calories each, these meals are a great way to watch your calories, eat good-quality foods with delicious and healthy ingredients, and definitely NOT feel like you’re depriving yourself.

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These come in six varieties and are available in some Walmart stores. One of my favorites is the lemongrass salmon pictured above, which features a whole coconut-crusted, wild-caught salmon filet, ginger-lemongrass sauce in a separate pouch, a vegetable blend of snap peas, orange and yellow carrots and edamame, and brown rice with wheatberries. Sounds NOM, right? Trust me, it is – and it’s only 350 calories for the whole thing. That’s a good, healthy lunch or dinner.

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Each meal comes in steam-friendly packaging and is accompanied by a sauce packet to complement your meal. You defrost the sauce packet under warm water during Step 1 of your cooking process, and pour the sauce over the meal before you put it back into the microwave to complete it.

When it’s done, you have a beautiful, steaming-hot meal that just needs your fork and your mouth. Let’s watch the magic happen.

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Bite after bite of consistent yumminess!! An absolutely GORGEOUS meal that cost less than $4 and was just as tasty as it looks. I loved the coconut crust, and the salmon has a light taste, which was surprising since normally salmon has a very strong, pungent smell and taste. The vegetables were an amazing blend; I LOVE edamame and the addition of the other veggies really complimented the fish and the wheatberry rice quite well. Even in spite of the mishaps, This meal gets an A+ from me. I’ve already tried two of the six varieties – the Salmon and the plum-ginger grain-crusted fish, and these are some of the best frozen meals I’ve had.

Other flavors include: Honey Citrus Chicken, Pomegranate Chicken, and Roasted Red Bell Pepper Chicken. You will find these meals in the “Healthy Meals” section in your grocer’s freezer; close to things such as organic meals and vegetarian dishes. I hope the rest of these are as honestly good as the other ones!

I have struggled with my weight my entire life. I’m sure I will struggle with it for the rest of my life. But all I know is, when I’ve lost weight, I’ve never lost more than 30 pounds at a time. And yet I keep losing. And this is my philosophy: Don’t deprive yourself. If you want that slice of pizza, eat it. Just put it in your daily calorie intake. Get outside and take the dog for a walk, or chase him around the house if it’s too cold outside.

Don’t think there is a food you cannot eat UNLESS, of course, you are allergic to it or have an intolerance for it. And if you splurge over the weekend, do not beat yourself up over it. Just go back to counting your calories, and eventually you’ll make better food choices, such as Lean Cuisine Honestly Good Frozen Meals.

Most importantly, if there’s someone in your life who is not helpful to you along your journey, or, worst yet, criticizes you on how you “still look” while you’re on that journey, either tell that person not to speak of it again, or remove yourself from that person. Because they will only hinder your journey. Surround yourself with people who will cheer you on.

And, of course, always consult your physician before beginning any type of diet or exercise program.

I tell people – I don’t know if this will last. But so far, this has been the easiest and most reasonable way I’ve done this. And I feel like I am LIVING.  I’m trying to beat diagnoses of Type II Diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and heart disease. I’m winning so far. I’ll check back in with you in a few more months to see if I’ve made any progress.

Win a two-month’s supply of Estroven Weight Management – a $44 value! (ENDS 8/22)

Estroven WM Estroven contacted me directly for this sponsored giveaway. Thanks to Estroven for providing the prize. All opinions are my own.

LADIES! We all either know it’s out there, is happening or has already happened, and I guarantee every one of you knows someone who is going through Menopause.

The word scares me just to think about! Here I am, about to turn 36, and I can already tell my body is going through some sort of second-puberty. I have shown experiences of perimenopause, which women typically get in their 30s and includes light symptoms of hot flashes and irregular periods. Fun fun! Then you wait until The Change Of Life occurs, and with that comes all kinds of craziness. Night sweats! Hot flashes! You’ll be running the A/C when it’s snowing outside! You will be the only one in the Igloo who asks, “Is it just me, or is it hot in here?!” And then comes the weight gain. Oh, dear.

Estroven has a new product, Estroven Weight Management, which is designed to alleviate those horrible symptoms, and Estroven and I would like to give TWO lucky people a two months’ supply of Estroven Weight Management so you or someone you love can try it out. This prize is valued at approximately $44, so why not?

Always consult your doctor before beginning any weight loss program or taking new supplements.

To enter, just fill out the giveaway form below. Good luck!

Caregiving with Walgreens Home Health Solutions

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In the past few years, I’ve written quite a bit about my life as an in-home caregiver for my mother. While I love helping her do what she

The Queen Mum

The Queen Mum

needs to do to get through the day, there are stressful moments involved. Some – like mom needing to suddenly be in the hospital or otherwise becoming extremely sick – are unavoidable as she experiences the horrible symptoms that come with kidney failure and dialysis. But fortunately, there are a lot of products on the market, including hospital equipment, that make life easier for both of us.

For instance, I assist my mother in bathing and washing her hair. She can’t shower anymore, so we’ve switched bathrooms to accomodate this. I check her blood sugar and administer insulin. If she has a wound, I help in cleaning and dressing it.

We often struggle with our relationship, because imagine being 65 and requiring bathing assistance, or being 35 and having to help a parent bathe. There’s a lot of humility that requires that kind of work.

To be honest, sometimes the staff in a clinic don’t understand what it means for someone to need help with these things. In spite of what those at the dialysis clinic told her, my mother has been determined to take baths and live as independently as possible. She can drive herself around town, she can cook family meals, she can do a lot on her own and my goal is for that to last as long as possible.

 

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This used to be my bathtub/shower. Because she has a peritoneal catheter permanently attached to her chest for dialysis, she can only take baths. We’ve made a few modifications to this tub, including adding a shower chair (covered with a towel) and a hand-held shower nozzle, but Mom still has difficulty getting in and out of the tub. I’m glad the Walgreens Home Health Solutions shop has items that could make it easier for Mom’s baths, including tub and shower grips.

Fortunately, there are many products on the market that help assist in independent living, such as those available through Walgreens Home Health Solutions. Walgreens offers a number of products that we need to make our lives better, including shower and bath chairs; grab bars and tub rails for easily getting in and out of the bathtub; and wound care supplies.

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Wound care is a big part of our home health regimen, as her diabetes and kidney failure make her susceptible to wounds and infections. As you can see, we do some shopping at Walgreens for supplies.

Occasionally my mom takes falls, so I’m glad Walgreens Home Health Solutions offers walkers and other mobility equipment to help my mother make it around the house. Walkers are extremely instrumental in helping someone who has taken a fall be able to walk, and can even be used, as it has in my mother’s case, as a way to get my mom walking again without equipment.

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Mom can easily peruse the Walgreens Home Health Solutions catalog from her home office. Here she is looking at grip bars for her shower. Right now she has to reach far to get to the bar that came with the shower/bathtub, so this could be very useful.

I didn’t know that Walgreens Home Health Solutions even offers diabetic shoes!!! If you have diabetes, you are likely to develop problems with your feet – particularly nerve damage. This means you must wear diabetic shoes at all times to avoid being cut, being unable to feel the cut, and suffering an infection. They provide a free Diabetic foot assessment, information on how to learn to care for your feet, heat-molded inserts to match your feet, and a wide selection of stylish diabetic shoes. Things have changed over the years!

Walgreens will even bill Medicare and Medicaid for certain items. And one of the greatest things is that these items can be purchased online and be shipped to your store, and if you decide to have home delivery, orders over $25 are shipped free. Since our Walgreens is just down the street from us, this makes it so convenient to get the supplies we need.

Mom and I were both very impressed with the Walgreens Home Health Solutions catalog. It was extremely easy to navigate, we could check out customer ratings, and view descriptions of products. Since this is the pharmacy my mother has trusted for nearly 15 years, I trust that Walgreens will be there to help my mother and I should we have our home health care concerns or needs.

Check out these caregiver stories by others!

Spin Into Action for the Children’s Advocacy Center #spinbrush4kids #cbias #shop

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Earlier this year I found out that here in Benton County, Arkansas, there were 432 reported cases of child abuse in 2012. It’s a heartbreaking number for me to read and write, because these children are at a vulnerable place in their life and need all the support they can get. I have this crazy notion that every child who is born deserves to be loved, educated and supported – if not by the family, by the community. So I was happy to take a trip to Walmart and purchase goods for a SIMPLE Service project for Champions for Kids.

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Located down a country road in Little Flock, Arkansas, The Children’s Advocacy Center of Benton County serves sexually and physically abused children who have called the Child Abuse Hotline (1-800-482-5964) in a supportive, child-friendly environment.

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The CAC provides counseling, examinations, advocacy, forensic interviews and an array of other services to these children and non-offending family members. These services are provided free of charge, so the CAC counts on funding and charitable donations to continue to provide these services.

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As part of the Arm & Hammer Spinbrush Spin Into Action campaign for Champions for Kids, I went and purchased Spinbrush For Kids toothbrushes and children’s books.

In-kind donations are accepted and distributed based on need to those who seek services from the CAC. I contacted them to make sure these items would be accepted, as many organizations often have enough or too much of some items and not enough of other items.

Even with a $50 budget, I was able to make a bit of a difference. I headed to the Spinbrush web site, where I was able to find a $2 coupon off any Spinbrush product. This includes their new item, Tooth Tunes, which do not have the spinbrush function but play two minutes of your favorite music as your child brushes his teeth. They have Tooth Tunes with songs by Rihanna, Bruno Mars, Big Time Rush, Selena Gomez and a ton of other popular artists.Two minutes is the recommended time to brush your teeth, so it’s a great way to get your kids started on a good habit. You can find a lot of information on Tooth Tunes on the website as well.

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I chose to purchase the Spinbrush My Way! toothbrushes, which allow kids to personalize their toothbrush with 141 stickers to choose from. I figure that children who come to the CAC need the opportunity to express themselves, and I thought this was a great way. If you visit brushmyway.com, you can test out the My Way! toothbrushes and create a virtual My Way! toothbrush and toothpaste tube. Here’s my creation. As you can see, I refused to follow gender stereotypes, since I played with dolls AND action figures as a kid.

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I also purchased a selection of children’s books, because I never realized how valuable a book was to a child until I taught a 14-year-old how to read four years ago. This was someone who had been through a very tough life and had never been read to as a child. So there was no doubt in my mind that children’s books would be part of my donation.

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When I brought my donations to the CAC this week, I said to the front desk person, “I hope you all can use these.” “Oh, yeah,” she replied.

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To find a Children’s Advocacy Center near you, visit www.nationalcac.org and click “Find a CAC Near You” in the menu bar.

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