It was a beautiful early spring day today. I was able to make my own breakfast, and then Marty and I got ready to go out--first to a church in Duxbury (about an hour away), where one of his colleagues was discussing the Israel/Palestine situation with another panelist. I had planned on lying down while this was going on, but decided to sit and listen because I didn't feel too tired and I was interested.
After that, we drove to pick up Donna (about a half hour drive) to go out for lunch. Donna had bought Marty a bunch of small but useful presents (like gift cards to various places), a birthday balloon, and a bunch of silly cards. I've been feeling bad because I hadn't been able to get anything for him, but I told him yesterday I wanted to take him shopping for a new gold pendant of a Jewish star or chai (the Hebrew word for life); when we met he had both of them and somehow doesn't anymore, and it's possible that I might have lost one of them, although neither one of us is sure.
When we left the restaurant and got into the car I realized that my portable oxygen machine was empty. Donna said that there was a fire station just a few minutes from her house, and since we'd had such a good experience with the North Attleborough fire station in February, on our way back from Providence, we stopped there. Marty talked to a desk clerk, who said they were unable to help, and suggested we try the nearby hospital. We discussed it; we were both sure that the hospital would put me through the whole emergency room routine (for which I have a $100 co-pay), and that it made more sense just to drive home, which took about forty-five minutes. As soon as we got home, I went onto the big oxygen tank, and seem to be all right. I've been resting since we got home and I'm fairly comfortable.
Meanwhile, the other big worry is my health insurance situation. When Celeste, the hospice social worker, was here last week she asked me to find out when I become eligible for Medicare, since, as she put it, "Your health insurance company is being difficult." I wasn't sure exactly what that meant, but on Friday I got a call from the insurance company case manager, who said I had "used up" my hospice benefit. I called Social Security--I started receiving Social Security Disability in December, 2007, and there is a two-year waiting period for Medicare. I automatically become Medicare eligible on my sixty-fifth birthday, which is in October. What I wasn't sure of was whether the five months of retroactive payments they gave me when I first qualified were counted in determining the two year waiting period, but it turns out they aren't.
I'll be talking with Celeste on Tuesday (Monday is a holiday here) to see what happens next, and I'll also be putting in calls to some advocacy organizations. All this is, of course, just one manifestations of the craziness of the U.S. health insurance system, which is much more centered around excluding people from coverage (and in corporate profits) than in meeting the needs of sick people. I need hospice services; the problem will be in finding a way to pay for them.