Thursday, October 27, 2011

So many people facing foreclosure...

Another foreclosure story. Erin has some very good, heart-breaking posts about what her family is going through.
This post about their attempts to keep everything together for the kids really resonated with me. And for my next trick....

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Banks Loan Modification Scam

Trial loan modifications are the way banks stretch out the process and pretend to be helping the borrower, when in reality they are killing your credit rating.

We have been trying to get a loan modification from our lender, Citimortgage for over two years. Citi is, of course, one of the "too big to fail" banks that we bailed out, and who are now reporting $3.0 billion in profits.

We bought our house in 1999, did some work on it and refinanced in 2002. In 2003 my husband was diagnosed with cancer. He underwent an surgery and returned to work. Six months later his employer (of 10 years) laid him off. Since then he has had another surgery and although he has finally returned to work, it is a lower paying job with no health care benefits.

My job does provide health insurance, but there is no employer match, so we pay $1200 per month. Yearly expenses are minimally $1200 for a CT scan and $400 for one dr visit. (We pay the first $3500 in out-of-pocket).

So our medical expenses are pretty high, but mortgage holders are not required to take these costs into account when they figure out if you qualify for a modification. So even if they do approve us, our gross income (about US median) means a mod of $1500 per month, which is what we are currently paying.

We have tried four times over the past two years. I can't even begin to detail how insane the process is. Lost paper work, no one able to give us an answer, and now finally this week we got two letters from Citi, one said, "Sorry you've been denied." The other said, "You have been approved for a trial 3 month loan modification of $1343."

Trial loan modifications are the way banksters stretch out the process and pretend to be helping the borrower, when in reality they are killing your credit rating. Because when you go on these trail modification plans, where you pay less, they still charge you late fees for the amount you are not paying, and accrue interest and fines each month. These are reported to credit agencies. So even if we could possibly get out from under our house, our credit rating has been ruined.

We can't sell the house, because, well you try to sell in this market. We're about $20-30,000 short.

The banks have no incentive to modify your loan because they already got paid. We bailed them out, remember? They get that money and they get to resell your house.

Please spread stories like this. It's the unseen crisis, and no one wants to talk about it. Homeowners don't want to because you feel like a complete jerk if you tell people you can't make your house payment and you're going to be foreclosed on. There is a huge stigma.

But there are many, many people in our situation. And no one talks about it. We are part of the 99%

My new most-favoritest quote

"One of the things I will talk about, that no president has talked about before, is I think the dangers of contraception in this country. It's not okay. It's a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be."
                                                --Rick "Don't google me, man" Santorum
Can you say, I'm going to alienate normal, non-radical people everywhere? Why yes, I think you can, Rick.

"Contraception is dangerous?" This is obviously spoken by a member of the species who has never been pregnant.

"Counter to how things are supposed to be" On what planet??? Country, this is your abstinence-only education at work, because all the things that I can think of that are (in someone like Rick Santorum's mind) "counter to how things are supposed to be" prolly wouldn't result in pregnancy. So why is this idiot talking about contraception?

Actually, why is what Rick Santorum says, in any way something of importance in our society? The man has zero, none, no credibility, other than he's a Republican in 2011. But I repeat myself.

Elections have consequences

Elections have consequences. Your vote chooses:

A Democratic proposal of a 0.5% surtax on income above $1 million would raise enough money over the next 10 years to cover the $35 billion cost of hiring and retaining about 400,000 teachers and emergency responders next year. That means if you net $1.1 million, on a gross income of $3 million, you would pay $500 more in taxes.


A Republican proposal, the "Ryan Plan" would cut Social Security and Medicare benefits,and lower tax rates on millionaires.

We could raise taxes on those most capable of paying, and those who have gained the most from our country over the past 30 years, or tax our most vulnerable. For me it's an easy choice.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Why I support ObamaCares Pt2 (HCR Primer)

Health Care Reform is a three-legged stool: one leg is no denial of coverage, one leg is individual mandate and one leg is subsidies. Like a three-legged stool, HCR cannot stand if one of the legs is removed.

***If you're reading this via Facebook click "View Original Post" to read the entire blogpost***

In part one I shared something I wrote back in 2009. As I read through it, the common theme was, "What if we cannot get health insurance?" That was certainly our biggest issue then. Prior to Health Care Reform (HCR), because Bill has a pre-existing condition, if we lost our employer based health insurance, we may or may not have been able to get health insurance.

So let's talk about the main things HCR does:

1) Insurance companies cannot deny someone a health insurance policy ever. 

No denial for pre-existing conditions. No rescission (where they deny and stop your coverage after you get sick). Now you cannot be denied a health insurance plan. Period. This is huge for our family, and many other families like ours where someone has an illness. Knowing that you cannot be denied a health insurance plan is a giant weight off your shoulders.

2) The individual mandate: Because insurance providers now cannot discriminate based on your health, all US citizens must purchase health insurance.

If you think about it, you cannot have 1) No denial for pre-existing conditions, without 2) mandating that people buy insurance. Otherwise everyone would wait until they got sick and then buy insurance. It's like saying you can buy car insurance after you've had an accident. Insurance companies would go out of business. Insurance is predicated on the fact that some people will not need the insurance they are paying for and so their premiums pay for the people who get sick. It's a classic statistical "pool," get enough people in and everything evens out.

3) If you cannot afford health insurance, the government will help subsidize you premiums.

This is the most difficult part of HCR. Some people simply can't afford to buy health insurance. What we do now is that we let them. We let them go without health insurance, saying "It's their choice." (It's not really a choice. No one goes without health insurance by choice, it's always by necessity.) The problem is what happens when they get sick? (Because they will. Everyone of us, will, at some point in our lives, get sick. We will get sick and die. This is a basic fact of human existence) If we have allowed them to "choose" to go without health insurance, who pays for their care?  

I ask again, when someone without health insurance gets sick, who pays for their care?

The answer is we do. The costs of uninsured care are built in to the system and passed on to the rest of us via higher premiums, and higher doctor/hospital bills. So even if you don't want to subsidize someone else's health care expenses, you are already doing so. Right now those costs are "hidden," meaning we pay them in various ways that we aren't even aware of.

HCR puts those costs out in the open. It may not be pleasant. You may not want to help pay for some else's health care, but you are doing it already. We might as well get the costs out in the open so we can see what those costs are, and maybe, maybe get a handle on them so we can begin to lower them. It's like bank fees. You might pay any number of fees, but if you're not aware of them, or what they are for, you have no way of reducing them. So HCR says the government (meaning all of us) will subsidize health insurance premiums for people who cannot afford to buy them.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Why I Support ObamaCares (pt1)

I'm having a conversation on twitter about health care. Now twitter is many things, but nuanced is not one of them. So I'm going to post a more thought out, reasoned, nuanced take here. If you've never had a major illness then you have no clue how badly the American healthcare system is broken. 

And just for the record I don't post what's going on with our family for sympathy or because I think we're special. I post because I know our case is NOT special. I think that people need to hear the stories of health care failures of US system.

This blogpost is part 1, written before ObamaCares. I'll post what that law means to our family in part 2.

This is what I wrote about our journey through the healthcare system in 2009, before the ACA (ObamaCares) bill was passed and signed into law:


In 2003 my husband was diagnosed with cancer. He underwent an expensive surgery ($80,000) and returned to work. Six months later his employer (of 10 years) laid him off. Whether this was a coincidence or a premeditated act to get him off their insurance rolls is something we will never know, however there is great pressure on employers to keep health insurance costs down, and one way to do that is to make sure you don't employ people who need insurance.

At the time, I was a stay at home mom, not working, so we went on Cobra, paying $800 per month until our savings ran out, then we went on Minnesota Care. We qualified only because we made almost nothing.

I needed to go back to work. During my job hunt, I had to worry about what to put down on the insurance forms if I got hired: when you know you will increase your employers premiums just by signing on it's a REAL dilemma. You can't lie. But then when you tell the truth, the job could disappear. This happened to me. A company offered me a job, but when I inquired about health benefits suddenly the job offer was rescinded.

I eventually found work. At first we were afraid to put my husband on the work insurance plan, because if he had a claim they might lay me off, but we had to do it because we couldn’t keep him on MNCare. I talked to my very understanding employer and she agreed to put him on our plan in 2004. Because we went on three different plans during that time we ended up with over $10,000 in out-of-pocket expenses as we moved from one plan to another, even though all were “Medica”.

In 2007 his cancer reoccurred. He had another operation. This one was more expensive because he came down with a MRSA staph infection which required even more hospital time.

The past two years our insurance premiums have gone up 22% and 23% respectively. Each time it’s resulted in a pay cut for me as my salary does not increase, but our health care costs do. This year I will take a $200 per month “pay cut” so we can have health insurance. Additionally we pay a $1500 out-of-pocket and a $3500 deductible. My husband's latest CAT scan cost us $1240, and the doctor visit was $357, and he will need to do it again in 3-4 months because it looks like there may be re-growth of his cancer and we have to decide on whether to start Chemo. I don't even want to think about how much that medication is going to cost us. At that point we will pay 20% of every bill (outside of the few things covered at 100% like office visits) because our plan is 80/20.

Our total medical costs per year are around $10,000, making health care almost 20% of our gross wages each year (2009).

If there is no public option and I lose my health insurance or the small business I work for goes under what insurance plan would we be able to afford and who would insure us? I know that if we do not let our insurance lapse they can't turn us down, but our reserves are gone, and keeping up on insurance premiums without an employer's help would be almost impossible now. If we lose our health care insurance because we can't pay for it any more, waiting times to see a doctor are the LEAST of our worries. My husband won't be able to get the care he needs because we won't be able to afford it.

If I lose my job, then our only option at this time is Cobra. That cost us $800 per month in 2004, now it’s more likely to be $1200 per month. Since we already burned through our 401k to pay medical expenses not covered by insurance from 2004 to today, then that option (Cobra) is a magic pony as far as we are concerned. So then what? We can qualify for MinnesotaCare if we don't make any more than $15,000 per year (family of 4), so if we are completely destitute we can get coverage.

I think the answer is to pool everyone. You can't cull out health care "abusers" the way you can refuse to insure, or raise the rates on bad drivers, because health issues (much of the time, though certainly not all the time) aren't a result of bad choices. My husband got cancer. He didn't DO anything that caused it, it just happened.

When you have health care predicated on PROFIT then they will maximize their profits by refusing to insure or raising the rates, or rescinding people's policies.

Capitalism works well in many cases. It's just that the profit motive won't work for health care. If you have a public plan that only enrolls the people that NEED it, it will fail. So you have to cover everyone.