Trench on ‘surprise’ medical charges

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Lately an article from the New York Times about surprise medical charges has been making the rounds on Facebook. Once again people are taking the article at face value without doing any further research. Luckily for you I’m here to tell you the real deal as I call upon my 20+ years experience in the healthcare field. If you doubt my credentials they just happen to be that I worked for a major health insurance company for ten years and for the next 15 I’ve been working in various medical clerical positions mostly including medical billing.

The article seems to be mostly focused on one man’s plight when he received a rather astronomical bill for a surgery that he had. The charge was for an assistant surgeon who was out of his insurance’s network. The article gives the impression that there is no recourse even though there is.

First off this is a rare occurrence in my experience. If you going to have surgery in a hospital that is in your network and the primary surgeon is in your network then the odds are that the assistant surgeon will be in your network too. If the assistant surgeon is not in your network a majority of the time the insurance company is willing to make a deal with the doctor and most doctor’s offices are more than willing to work with the insurance company. The article also seems to give the impression that doctor’s will know ahead of time they they’ll need an assistant surgeon. Usually an assistant surgeon is called in during the surgery when an anomaly or difficulty is discovered. Also if you read deep into the article you’ll find that the man’s insurance company did end up paying the assistant surgeon’s fee.

Here’s the one tip that everybody needs to keep in mind. Doctor’s do not know how billing procedures work. They are usually too involved in treating the patient to worry about each individual insurance policy covers. That’s what medical billers and coders are for and most of us bust our asses to get the most benefit from your insurance company.

Self-harm hashtags

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Any social network worth its salt these days allows its users to use hashtags. For the uninitiated hashtags are keywords that allow users to find other posts with similar interests and are usually preceded by the pound sign (#). Unfortunately some of those interests may be detrimental to the user.

In the past I’ve talked about certain self-harming behaviors like the pro-ana movement. That’s where people, mostly young girls, believe that eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia are lifestyle choices and use ‘Thispiration’ or thinspo for short as their rallying cry. Other self-harm behaviors I have not talked much about before are self-cutting or self-mutilation and the ultimate self-harming, suicide.

In the past some social networks have banned certain hashtags that promote self-harm such as Tumblr and Instagram. However those in the self-harming community are supposedly using new and supposedly secret hashtags like #sue and #secretsociety123.

This is all part of a much larger problem than just teens on social sites. In this day and age of alleged social enlightenment there is still a stigma on mental health treatment. Just because your son or daughter may need mental health treatment that does not make them broken or any less of a person. And if you are a teen and you know someone who is seeking or receiving mental health treatment you should be giving them your support. Self-harm in any way shape or form is not normal or healthy. If you are self-harming please get off of the social sites where there are triggers abound and ask your parents or school about finding resources to get help.

There is no shame in wanting to get better.

Vaping will make you a cocaine addict say researchers

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In a study published by the New England Journal of Medicine, a pair or researchers claim that e-cigs and vaping will make you predisposed to becoming a cocaine addict. The researchers made this bold claim after testing mice with cocaine and nicotine. They claim that the mice that were given nicotine before cocaine had more of a craving for the cocaine.

I realize I don’t have the background or education that these researchers have but this study sounds like a load of crap. I smoked for 30 years and I’ve been vaping for one. Never in my life have I snorted a line of cocaine. Granted that is anecdotal evidence however I’ve known a lot of smokers and vapers in my time who have also never tried cocaine. I’ve also known cocaine users who refused to smoke because they thought it was unhealthy but that’s another story.

Without trying to sound like a conspiracy theorist I think a lot of these studies about cigarette replacements like e-cigs are mostly scare tactics designed to get people to keep smoking. Vaping isn’t even a gateway to smoking like a lot of people claim. That would be like saying that methadone is a gateway to heroin. The majority of people only vape so they don’t have to smoke anymore.

The Fall of Atlantic City

I grew up in the shadow of Atlantic City so I’ve been sad to hear about the casino closings and the loss of jobs that is going with it. Unfortunately this has been a long time in coming and it seems like America’s Favorite Playground didn’t do a while lot to prevent it.

I’m old enough to remember when the casinos first moved into Atlantic City. At the time of their initial openings there was only legal casino gambling in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. The casinos injected a cash flow into the city that in my opinion went a long way to improve the city. While it never was white picket fence America it wasn’t exactly Camden either.

Then other locations started legalizing gambling but they were so far away that it didn’t really affect A.C. In the northeast there was the Foxwoods casino but that only took a small bite from the overall casino pie. It was at this point that Atlantic City should have been looking into alternative industries to support the city. When Las Vegas was facing a serious downturn in their tourism market they made a sweeping change and became a family destination. In my opinion it seems that Atlantic City’s death knell came when neighboring Pennsylvania legalized gambling. Most of the casino traffic in A.C. came from the Philadelphia market but now that they had their own casinos there was no longer any need to plan a trip to the Jersey shore when they can just hop on a bus or the El to go to their local casino.

Atlantic City is not without hope though. They went from a major tourist town in post-World War II to a blighted city then bounced back with the ushering of casinos. Hopefully the city that I do have such fond memories of can bounce back again. The problem is can they do it this time without taking decades?

Comic of the Week: Action Comics Future’s End

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MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD, YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED

In my entire life I’ve never cried at a movie or about a book or any work of fiction for that matter, until this past week. Believe it or not I was legitimately moved and almost got choked up over a comic book. But I’m getting a head of myself.

For those of you not familiar with the Future’s End storyline permeating DC Comics this month it takes place 5 years in the future after a war with an alternate Earth (Earth-2) has changed the world for the worse. Superman is among the missing however an incorporeal being grants three different people an aspect of Superman’s powers to see how they would use them and then how they would continue their lives after they were taken away again.

I started getting choked up for two reasons. The first is that two of the three people had issues that I have had to deal with in various stages of my life. So screw you to all the people who say a Superman story can’t be relatable. The second reason is that the ending left me with the most amazing feeling of hope. Not just in comics but in the real world. Call me immature or childish if you want but what’s wrong with a grown man being inspired by a funny book?

Overall the Future’s End issues this week we’re all very good and inspiring. Usually when a comic depicts a future it’s usually dystopian or apocalyptic. Very rarely is it this hopeful. It’s been so good I even took to reading titles in the story I don’t normally read. In the series that was out this past week I also recommend Phantom Stranger, Green Arrow and Swamp Thing.

Comic of the Week: Daredevil #7

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I haven’t done a comic of the week recommendation in a while because frankly, nothing has really blown my skirt that much lately in the world of comics, until today. Mark Waid’s run on Daredevil has been nothing short of excellent and issue #7 of the current run should be looked upon as a classic issue.

After the Original Sin event Matt Murdock has a flashback to his dad who he idolized. Except the memory shows Matt that his dad may not have been the man he thought he was so Matt suits up as Daredevil to find the only person who can tell him the truth, his mother.

I guess the reason I liked this issue a lot is it because it touched upon a lot of things that I experienced in my life both young and old but I won’t spoil it for you. Pick up this issue as soon as you can.

Why the States’ bad deals with tobacco are bad for vaping

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Recently ProPublica published an extensive article about their investigations into the U.S. states and how they’ve used the money from tobacco settlements. Turns out, not so good. Too many states entered “it’s my money and I want it now” type deals with Wall Street think that the tobacco money would be as steady source of capital.

While I wouldn’t be foolish enough to say that this is the main reason why so many states are eager to regulate vaping and e-cigarettes I would definitely say that it is a major contributing factor. Since they bled the tobacco well dry they’re going to follow its old users and try to collect the money from their new, albeit less addictive, hobby.

Wal-Mart sells vaping products; why this is a good thing

The Haus Personal Vaporizer

The Haus Personal Vaporizer

First let’s get this out of the way. In the interest of transparency I am not adverse to selling out but this is a non-sponsored post.

Since I’m poor I have to shop at Wal-Mart to help get by. It’s not new that they sell e-cigs but imagine my surprise when I see that they’re selling vaporizers and e-juice too. Just one brand though, The Haus Personal Vaporizer by the same company who makes Mistic e-cigs.

I didn’t purchase one due to funds being tight and I don’t feel knowledgeable enough to do a product review on one of these but allow me to present this informative review that I found on YouTube at the Gear Obsession channel.

So it appears to be a decent product.

What really caught my attention is that it says it’s cheaper than a trip to the vape store. After looking at the prices on their website I wouldn’t necessarily say cheaper but Wal-Marts, and some gas stations, are definitely closer to home than my vape store.

While it may cut into the vape store profits a little bit I think this is good for the vaping community as a whole. If a large-scale retailer like Wal-Mart is backing vaping even on a starter kit like this it could mean having a very big dog in the fight against over-regulation by the FDA. I think this is also good for vape stores because the Haus e-juice is only available in one nicotine strength and that’s full flavored. They list it as 2.4% nicotine. If I had to hazard a guess I would say it was at 18mg or above. Anyone looking to decrease their nicotine intake would inevitably end up in their local vape shop.

I realize this is all ‘perfect world’ theorizing on my part but you never know.

Trench’s adventures in Linux: Zorin OS 9 Lite takes the EEE PC challenge

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Recently Zorin OS released the Lite version of their Ubuntu based Linux distro. It is intended for older and low powered computers so I was anxious to see how it would fare on my Asus EEE PC 701 4G Surf. For those of you new to this feature the 4G means it only has a 4GB hard drive.

The good news is that it Zorin OS 9 Lite does fit on the 4GB hard drive after install. The bad news is there’s not enough hard drive space left to do any updates.

However if you have an older or low-powered computer that is in need of repurposing that has a hard drive larger than 4GB I would highly recommend Zorin OS 9 Lite. Zorin always makes a solid distro without a steep learning curve for new users. OS 9 Lite is no different.

Suicide is selfish

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So as we all have heard by now a renowned celebrity killed himself recently. When my wife told me the news I said that I don’t get it. She said to me that I of all people should get it. What she means is that I suffer from depression, horribly. Also in my younger years I have attempted suicide. I tried in my teens because of a hellish situation at home and in my mid 20s because I experienced a drastic life change for the worse at the time. I have not made any attempts since then. That’s not to say the thought never enters my mind but I digress.

Getting back to the celebrity in question, the reason I don’t get it is because as far as I can tell he had the means and resources to get help. I’ve heard reports that he committed suicide due to financial issues but how bad could they have been? Would they be to the level where he would have to live on the street? I doubt it. I’m not faulting him for being successful in his career but he should have taken advantage of that success in order to get help.

Suicide mostly has to do with mental illness, no one knows that better than me, however it is also an act of selfishness. No matter who you are if you take your own life it will have repercussions among those closest to you for years to come and may affect someone in a negative way for the rest of their life.

Take me for example. Like I’ve mention ad nauseam I suffer from depression. I take medication for it which helps but there are still bad days. For example right now I’m unemployed. I have been for the past 7 months. I didn’t work at my previous job, which was a temp job, long enough to be able to collect unemployment. What little money I’m able to scrounge up comes from panhandling to friends and strangers on the internet. I can’t even get hired by retail or fast food let alone my own field.

My car is in a serious state of disrepair. Because of my financial situation I am unable to get the car repaired which means I can’t get inspected or registered for the year. Because of that the car has been ticketed multiple times for having expired tags. In less than 30 days I have to do one of the following, pay a $250 fine which only delays getting ticketed again, turn in the tags which leaves me with no transportation, or go to jail for not doing the previous two.

Speaking of my meds, I have to ration them because I don’t know when I’ll be able to afford them again or be able to afford a visit to the doctor’s.

The past seven months have been very hard not only on me but my family as well and yes there are some days where I’m so depressed that I pray for the release of death. A situation like this I’m sure has broken people before but I persevere. I have to. There is no other way. I have no choice. I have a family who would be devastated if I were to take my own life. I care for them too much to ever do that to them no matter how bleak my situation gets. I don’t tell you this for your pity, I tell you this because suicide is not a normal or healthy thought.

If you are considering suicide I urge you to get mental help as quick as you can. There’s no shame in admitting that you need help.