HR Tip of the Week

I've been talking about this subject more often than I would like to lately.  It's one thing when those conversations are work related-- they pay me well. But, having these talks with friends has really, really sucked. Consider this my Public Service Announcement for 2008. A PSA that hopefully, fingers crossed, will be utterly useless to you. It's about what happens to your employer subsidized health benefits after you lose your job and how COBRA is not always the miracle you think it is. Hang on, I'll explain.

COBRA (the Federal Consolidated Omnibus Budget and Reconciliation Act of 1985, duh) was designed to allow employees (and qualified dependents) to keep their group health care rates, for a limited time, when they lose their jobs due to no fault of their own. This could mean long term unpaid leave, or a few other circumstances, but it usually means after you were fired. I mean, laid off. So the logic is that the group health care rates will be much better than rates you would get if tried to purchase a health care plan on your own, as a private citizen. COBRA lasts from 18-36 months depending on the specific 'qualifying event' (or life status change as we say in the trade), but 18 months is the most common scenario so let's just concentrate on that one. Also, we could complicate things by including Cal-COBRA (and specifically Senior COBRA) but let's not do that either. So, 18 months of group medical coverage after you are laid off.

If you elect COBRA you are responsible for both the employee and the employer portion of the health care premiums, at the group rates. That means, expect to pay considerably more than what had been deducted from your paycheck while you were working. That is the first thing that confuses people. Pay attention to your COBRA rate sheet.

The second thing that confuses people is the assumption that COBRA is always cheaper than what they can get on their own. In my case, this is probably true. But that is because I have a chronic medical condition that makes my fine ass virtually uninsurable at the tender age of 38. Gym membership or no gym membership. In your case, you might be okay. So, here's what you do:

1) Review the benefits covered by COBRA and see which ones you will need. Most likely this is Medical. Dental and Vision you may be able to hold out for until you get your next job. Evaluate what your particular situation is.

2) Review the dependents (spouse, children, NOT domestic partner-- separate but equal, my ass) covered by COBRA and see if any of them have access to other Medical, Dental, Vision care. They may be on your plan because it was the cheapest and that may no longer hold true. Or maybe you just don't like them anymore and don't care if they get sick. I'm not here to judge your life.

3) Actually research what a plan purchased all on your own might cost. Contact the main providers in your area. You may be able to get away with a plan that has less benefits (and cost) than your group plan, but still covers all your health care needs. 

4) Check out this resource: They can help you see if there are plans in your area that you or your dependents might now qualify for. Mainly they let you know about Government and community funded plans are available. And they also have resources about which private insurers are in your area and statistics about local and national uninsured populations.

5) Thanks to the crappy health care situation in this country, when we talk about medical premiums, we are talking about a lot of money. Money that can be better spent on clothes. Get creative with your analysis. If you are researching how much a plan would cost for you, your spouse and a child, still take into account everyone's individual situations. Children often have more free and low cost health care resources available to them. So maybe you elect COBRA for you and the spouse, but find an alternative for your child. Maybe you are someone who is expensive to privately insure because of pre-existing conditions, but no one else is. In that case, maybe you get COBRA for you only and buy private insurance for everyone else.

6) Stay insured. I cannot stress enough how important it is to have the health care coverage, even if it is very expensive. Look into ways to keep costs down, but don't jeopardize your long term financial picture or your health, by getting less insurance than you will actually need or by going without altogether. Trust me, if you saw my medical bills, before they get submitted and paid by Blue Shield, you would cry. And I'm walking around on two legs looking as healthy as all get out.

That's it. Easy enough. If you have questions contact your HR Department or me if you know how to find me. Don't attempt this on your own; I'm a certified professional.


Birthday Resolutions

I know, I can't hardly believe I'm 38 either. You're right, I don't look a day over 25. Still, I feel it. It's been a good birthday. I kept it low key. After spending Friday and Saturday-- working, making out with strangers in the front seat of my car, hiking, drinking whiskey, hanging out at the MOMA, cat sitting, meditating, getting a brazilian wax, eating cupcakes, being sung 'happy birthday' to by my gym weight class, buying poetry books-- I was tired.

I started with the resolutions, what to concentrate on for this coming year:

1) Get back on track for remembering and acknowledging everyone else's birthdays.

2) More time on my writing and photography.

3) Using my MOMA membership instead of just renewing it for another year.

4) Buy more clothes!

Because I'm an over achiever, I woke up early this morning, despite a busy weekend, to get a head start on#4. Also, the Thakoon for Target collection arrived today and I knew that bitch would be selling out very quickly. Even though I made it there before the coffee kicked in, I had to settle for a less than ideal size in the dress I wanted. On-line it was sold out altogether. Sigh.

Then I got treated to a movie, hiked in the Oakland hills. Rounded off the day off with a hot tub, massage, dinner and drinks. We had a rousing birthday toast: "Please let us age like Marisa Tomei and not Mickey Rourke."

When everyone gets back in town, you know who you are, we'll celebrate with a larger crowd. Still, I want to keep it simple. Something involving strippers, tequila body shots and an in depth discussion of Abstract Expressionism.


Lived In

The slight ache of Tuesday. Somehow, with my eyes shut, I 
see the last two stars get scattered out of the morning's sky.
The pillow gets pressed against your face. I pull my hair
into a pony-tail; turn toward the floor. This day is already
impossible. You lean in for a kiss. Straddling the side of
me. Hip bone to pelvis. I capture your bottom lip between
my dirty teeth. Bite down. I don't know. Twisting, you fold
yourself back into sleep. I throw my eyes open. Settle my
sights on that awkward picture of us, crooked. Against the
cream-colored wall. No one throws my mornings off like 
you do.


Broken Poems

For the record, I have been writing. Poem after broken poem. Do you remember when all I did was write? When you were forced to stare at my badly typed xeroxed pages of poems and short stories every time you accidently ran into me on the street? How you hid? 

I don't know what it is. The journals get carried everywhere, and mostly written in. Am I more critical about the free write and refuse to even try to turn that crap into finished work? Am I too lazy? Have I written everything I'm going to write that has a decent helping of artistic merit? And everything else will just fill small black journal after small black journal. The lexicon is stale, and my form can be pegged from 1,000 paces. I stopped caring about that a long time ago. 

Fuck it, I don't care anymore about any of it. There are two prose poems that I'm going to finish even if I hate them and three more experimental ones-- somehow a combination of L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E and Confessional Poetry. I don't know how that is really possible either, but I keep looking at them and I don't know what else they could really be.  Sometimes the words get to the finished page the same way they get out of my pen to the draft, as if they were put through a blender. 

Have fun when I make you read them!