Being healthy or rich

Being an independent today is not too viable an option, primarily because of corporate malfeasance, but also, indirectly, because the government in this country doesn’t support it.

For instance, most companies won’t hire an self-employed person because of the infamous IRS Twenty Question bias, which basically boils down companies forcing people who should be employees into being contractors so that you don’t have to pay benefits, but then the contractors don’t pay their tax and the government gets stiffed. The government invented the Twenty Questions to be able to go after the companies when this happens.

The side effect of this is that a lot of companies won’t touch independents, and you have to incorporate. Believe me, who has incorporated in not one but four states, that’s not a great option, either.

If you do get gigs, a new corporate ploy lately, called the Wal-Mart gambit is to basically not pay your contractors. You hold on to the money and you hold and you hold and you hold, because the longer you have it, the more interest you get. Smaller sub-contractors don’t have the resources to force a payment, and most don’t want to antagonize the bigger company. Years ago, there used to be a level of trust between businesses and their sub-contractors, but no longer. In today’s corporate world, all that matters is bottom line. Quarterly profits, and bonuses to chief executives.

Jeneane is facing this with a company, most likely a major, well known company, not paying her in a prompt manner. Of course, she’s independent now because she way laid off from her company, so she didn’t have years to accumulate the funds to tide her over through the ‘corporate asshole’ payment system.

To add fear to the uncertainty, though, she also found out her COBRA payments are being increased to $1300.00 for coverage for her, her husband, and her daughter. That’s 1300.00 a month. Not a lot of people in this country can pay $1300.00 a month for insurance. But not a lot of people can afford to take the risk not to have the insurance.

You see, it’s a catch 22 situation – the laws and the business climate in this country force people into becoming employees, at about the same time that companies are fudging their profits by using contractors, or offshorting their work. No matter which way you turn here, well, you’re fucked.

Of course, Congress, outside of some Democrats, care little about this, as demonstrated by passing the only major medical initiative the President would tolerate – a Medicare ‘reform’ bill that basically gives subsidies to HMOs for people that can afford to subscribe. Doesn’t help Jeneane though. Doesn’t help the millions in this country who don’t have insurance, or have to pay rates they can’t afford.

I, myself, just came home from the oral surgeon today with not good news, not good news at all, and I have some dental insurance. I go to the doctor this afternoon because my foot I injured earlier this year, when I didn’t have medical insurance to get it checked, has lost feeling in some of the toes, and one is starting to turn a not very good color and to look a bit odd. But at least I now have medical insurance. As long as I keep paying that $203.00 a month, I can afford to get sick.

Today comes the good news that the economy is just blistering, it’s doing so well. Now this could be that the economy is doing better, and this is good. Or it could be because companies are making a profit using their lessons learned from Wal-Mart; while unemployment is driven lower because less people are being counted because their unemployment insurance has run out.

Or there are people like Jeneane, who took a chance to go independent when she was laid off – only to feel her heart in her throat everytime the postal worker delivers the mail, because she has to pay a $1300.00 health insurance bill, and she can’t get paid for her work.


The new class system

Last week my cheek started swelling, and sure enough, I have an abcsessed tooth. I went to the dentist on Friday and got some antibiotics, as well as a referral to the specialist. Luckily I have dental as well as medical insurance. An embarrassment of riches.

Class in this country used to be based on race, or ethnic background, or what you owned and where your kids went school. It was a complicated formula, and no guarantees that depending on what you were and how much money you had, you’d be in one class or another.

It’s a lot less complicated today. Today’s class system is based almost exclusively on one factor: what type of health insurance you have.

Now you can have no health insurance and you’ll either be the working poor, or you’ll be rich enough not to need it. Being completely poor, and I mean on the street homeless, you’ll not need it either because you use the emergency rooms for all your medical needs.

The middle class has health insurance, but the degree of coverage and cost defines your status now. Try going into a dentist office or doctor without health insurance, and see how you’re treated compared to when you have insurance. Then, see how you’re treated depending on what type of coverage you have, and who the carrier is.

Health insurance is also the new corporate American chains to bind the working class in this country. People are less likely to make a change in employment now because they’re worried about what will happen with their health insurance. The recent grocery strike across the country? That was almost completely having to do with health insurance.

Still, even if you have insurance, there’s no guarantee how you’ll be treated. When I called the specialist and said that yes, I had insurance, I was welcomed. But when asked if I had a job and replied that I was self-employed, I was told that I would have to pay upfront and then bill my insurance company myself.

I wonder what it would be like to be in a country where when you’re sick, all you have to worry about is getting better? In this country, the first thing you think of, is “How do I pay for this?”

(Of course, other countries like Iraq worry more about whether there’s even a doctor to see, and if you’ll get shot on the way to the office, much less how to pay for them, so I guess things could be worse.)

Hmm. Just one of those things going through my mind now. Excuse me, as I go call around to find a specialist who won’t demand payment upfront.


Image of a different kind

Lovely storm rolling through – more like ones we get in the Spring than the Fall.

In addition to the very welcome encouragement in the comments to my previous posting, I’m also getting some good discussion about photos and resolution necessary for publication. Among them, a suggestion for a PhotoShop plug-in that might help me salvage some of my existing photos for publication. It would be nice to do so, because there are some that I really like and are going to difficult to recreate with my film camera. Any and all suggestions, extremely welcome.

I spent the morning with a different type of photography – I had my MRI today rather than last Monday. The session was postponed from the earlier time because of a mixup in the sedatives, i.e. I didn’t get a chance to get the prescription for Valium filled from the doctor. Since the MRI is a closed one, I was strongly urged to get the sedatives if I have even the slightest tendency to claustrophobia.

Today, after taking two Valium, I felt I was ready to face the Machine.

I just know there are people reading this who have had MRIs and probably had no problems and slept through the thing. I wish I could say that you would have been proud of me, and that I was a brave little soldier, but I have to admit that Stavros is not the only Wonder Chicken around. I was okay until I was pushed into that long, dark, tiny tube and sedatives or not, I yelled, “Take me out! Take me out!”

The technician was wonderful, talked with me about what to expect, gave me a panic button and turned the lights in the tube on high. I laid back down and closed my eyes tight and this time I was able to stay in the tube.

An MRI isn’t a quick snapshot like an X-Ray – mine took 45 minutes, and several images were captured based on different magnetic frequencies. With each, the machine would measure my respiratory rate and then match it. As I breathed in, it would stop; when I breathed out, it would make The Noise.

And what noise – even with headphones playing my favorite radio station, the sound shakes your bones and you find yourself clenching your teeth, hands, and various other body parts. I now know why the doctor told me not to drink much before going in.

I was okay until the second to the last image. There was a longish time between pictures, and the silence was actually worse then the vibration. I hollered out, “Are we done?”

No answer.

“Are we through?”

No answer.


No such luck, two more to go. I breathed faster, thinking to hurry it along. Instead of:

****in**** beeeeeep ****in**** beeeeeep ****in**** beeeeeep

The pattern became:


I got a chance to see the last set of images before I left. Question: are we the shape we are because this is the optimum package to hold all those odd organs? Or are the organs odd because of our shape? Regardless, it’s rather interesting to see what you look like from the inside out.

As for the test, no worries. Routine stuff, now out of the way and I can focus on photography that’s much more interesting – taking photos of my world, from the inside out. However, I’m in a writing mood, a major writing mood, so be ready for words coming your way.