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Let’s talk about healthcare in America…

I’ve waited three days after Independence Day to talk about this one, because I hope everyone has gotten over their patriotism hangover by now and we can get back to the issues at hand…

Last week I had an urge to look into health insurance.  You see, I was placed on Medicaid shortly after moving back from Canada, and I only recently lost my benefits.  It’s cool, I’m not trying to “be on the system,” and I’ve been looking forward to the opportunity to shop this infamous “Marketplace” and sign up for coverage.  I’ve also been excited to finally  have a health plan that not only helps take care of my genetic “pre-existing” Hemophilia, but also hopefully helps with the costs for me and my husband to conceive a child free of this condition through the help of IVF…just like we planned to do in Canada. (See Part 1)  Even if we don’t go through IVF, I want a plan that would help take care of the “what if” costs if we risked the 50/50 chance of passing my condition on by conceiving naturally.  Most importantly, last week I was happy to finally get good health insurance so I could go for my overdue annual exam, because that’s something I have to stay on top of.  (Also See Part 1)

Anyway, back to shopping for health insurance.

It’s not like you just lose Medicaid, and immediately get to replace it with something else.  In my case, I had to go online and fill out the proper forms only to get a response to send in more information.  After sending in what was requested of me, I had to wait.

And wait, and wait.

I lost my Medicaid at the end of April, and waited the entire month of May for a response from the Marketplace.  And then, I waited the month of June….

Last Saturday, on July 1st, I finally went online and checked things myself.  First, I checked my email just to make sure I hadn’t missed anything.  No email since May 2 saying I had a message online.  When I logged into my account, that message was from May 2 requesting the additional info I had to send in.

…but, wait!  Now I can scroll down to more pages!

Even though the original message is dated May 2, there was an addendum to the message saying I qualified for special enrollment through JULY 1.

…which was last Saturday!

I think to myself “well, at least I still have today!,” and I fully prepare myself to find some health insurance at 8am on a Saturday.  I log into my account, click to shop plans, and….

NOPE.  Denied.  Although my online message says I qualify for special enrollment the web page says my file change doesn’t qualify me.

Literally, wtf.

Since the Marketplace hotline is open 24/7, I call to see what’s going on.  I get told that although my message says July 1st is the last day to enroll, it was actually June 30th.  I don’t get it.  I ask him why my message says I have until July 1st, he says he doesn’t know.  I ask if there’s any change that can be made, he tells me there’s nothing he can do.  He tries his best to be positive by telling me open enrollment is in November.

…but, is it really?  With our current government fighting over the ACA, how can we know if there will be open enrollment in November?

When I asked him that very question, he answered with a “we plan on having open enrollment in November.”  When I asked him if there’s a chance that plan wouldn’t be followed through with he responded with “well…..yeah……you know….” and a nervous laugh.

Welcome to America, folks.

After getting off the phone, I cried.  I literally cried over the frustration of not being able to get health coverage.  Then I got frustrated, and the Libra in me wanted justification.  I went back and scoped all of my emails to make sure I wasn’t missing anything.  No emails since May 2.  I went online to my Marketplace account and checked my messages. Nothing but the one that had somehow been added onto at a later date…without changing the original date or sending me notification.

So, I called back.  I spoke with someone different about my situation, and this time I got a completely different answer.  Apparently a technical glitch in the system was preventing me from enrolling.  Fortunately, this CSR spotted it and transferred me to someone to fix it.  Long story short, they eventually fixed it so I could enroll.

Let’s just pause here and reflect on this whole situation.  How many other people had the same problem, tried to call, and was told there was “nothing they could do”?  How many people might have given up after that out of frustration?  If I suffered from a technical glitch, I’m sure others did, too.

That’s just one of the issues with the system.  Let’s talk about another: affordability.

After being granted access to the Marketplace last weekend, I was never able to follow through with purchasing a plan.  Even with a qualifying credit of almost $500/month, I still couldn’t justify the costs of a plan.  To get a plan covering some of the doctors in my area and some of the drugs I could potentially need for my condition, I would be paying almost $600/month.  That means these plans are $1000+ without assistance.  Not to mention I only had 4 semi-ok plans to choose from.

…and who knows what will happen in 2018 after all of the legislative changes and insurance companies rewrite their policies…

$600 is a good portion of our income.  While, yes, we could afford it if I absolutely needed care right now, it’s hard to justify that much going to a plan that doesn’t even cover all of the doctors or prescriptions I may need.  I would rather put $600 a month into an “emergency health savings fund”, and not let my money go to waste the next 6 months while everyone figures it out.  It’s sad I have to make that kind of justification in the first place, but that’s our healthcare system for ya.

Now, about that annual exam…

Despite making the choice to wait on insurance.  I’m still overdue for my annual exam.  When I first moved to Iowa, Planned Parenthood was my go-to.  I was in limbo between getting dropped from Canadian healthcare and not yet being able to get American Medicaid, and PP stepped into handle everything.  They made sure I received my necessary biopsies and tests, and they stayed on top of me to make sure I got my exam when I needed it. Even when I got Medicaid and qualified to see a different doctor, I stuck with PP.  They made me feel welcome and cared for, just like in Canada. (See Part 1).

The problem is, my local Planned Parenthood just so happened to close its doors on June 30th.  Thanks to the recent decisions of our state government, 4 clinics have been forced to close, including the one in my local community.  Now the place I turned to for trusted care is gone, and I’m stuck in healthcare limbo needing a very necessary exam because of my health history. (Really, if you haven’t read Part 1, do it.  It explains everything).  There’s a local community health clinic I plan to reach out to, but, I may end up having to drive 45 minutes to the next nearest PP instead.

The whole PP issue is for another blog.  For now, we’ll just stick to healthcare in general.  The American health insurance system is incredibly frustrating.  The government’s support doesn’t help.  We talk about the “American dream”, but, the truth is, if you’re an American actually trying to build your own dream with a small business, good luck getting health insurance.  If this country really wants us to succeed, why can’t it develop a better system?  Why can’t it support us?  And why can’t it support our women?

Sometimes, I really do miss Canada.

It’s sad as an immigrant I received better care there than I do as a citizen in my own country.  It’s sad that when it comes to healthcare, I’m a dollar sign in my home country, but a human being in another.

…And it’s sad that things like technical glitches and unmotivated, uncertain customer service representatives in the Marketplace could be deterring who knows how many people from being able to secure healthcare.

Add the price hikes, the uncertainties about changes and legislation, and the budget cuts that will inevitably happen, and I’m very very scared for the future.

I just want to be able to get the care I need as a woman, and feel supported to have a healthy baby.  Is that too much to ask for???

Hopefully, one day, it won’t be…

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Today is July 2nd.  On this day after Canada Day I can’t help but reflect on my time “up North”.  I miss doing beach yoga on the clear, clean lakefront in the summer.  I miss my Canadian friends.

…and I sure do miss having free access to medical care.

While living in Canada I was eligible for OHIP, otherwise known as the Ontario Health Insurance Plan, otherwise known as “Universal Health Care”.  I qualified, because I was living and working in Canada underneath a work permit.  It was a no questions deal.  I went through the necessary immigration steps to move into Canada for my job, I lived and worked in Canada for 3 months, then I went to the appropriate office and filled out the paperwork to get my OHIP card.  I got it the same day.  BOOM.  Just like that, I had free healthcare.

And, it’s a good thing, too.  Because if I hadn’t been granted eligibility it might have cost me my life.

Let’s back it up to pre-Canada.  In February of 2012 I was preparing for my job transfer and move when I got “the call”.

All of you women know “the call”.  It’s “the call” they say they’ll only call you for if something comes back abnormal.  It’s the call that if you get it, you freak out either to answer or to check the voicemail, whichever you see first.  It’s the call I never expected to get, because I had never gotten it before.

I never worried about the call, because I thought I was healthy and took care of my body.  I never expected the call, because, well, stuff like that happens to other women, not me, right?

But, it happened to me, and I got “the call”.  I got the call 2 weeks before moving into Canada that my results had come back abnormal and they wanted me to immediately come in for more testing.

So I did.  I got my very first cervical biopsy…or I guess I should say biopsies, because they “take samples” from multiple areas…and it was not a pleasant experience.  It was painful during and even more painful after with all of the cramping.  Oh, and not only did I bleed, but I also bled orange for a day or so from what they use to help the area heal.

But, it was necessary.

Flash forward a week later, and I get another call.  You guessed it, abnormal results again.  This time they want me to come back for more testing.

But, I didn’t have time for more testing.

I didn’t have time, because I was busy making arrangements for my father who had just passed away.

I didn’t have time, because I was moving to Canada.

I didn’t care, because all of my energy was focused on grieving.

And I didn’t care, because part of me hoped it was cancer so I could just die, too….but that’s for another blog.

(Side note:  Grief is HARD, and depression shows its face in many forms.  Not only did I find out I may have cancer, but I found out the same week my father committed suicide.)

February through April I basically brushed my health aside and dove into transitioning my life around all of these changes: loss of a parent, move to a new country, new job opportunity, and, eventually, I got back to my health.

I had health insurance through my job, so that wasn’t the issue.  I did have to find an OBGYN office in the Detroit area, but I lived close to the border and could easily cross.  After 4 months, I finally went and got checked out.  My tests were still abnormal, and it was more vital than ever to start taking biopsies….again…and on a regular basis.

So that’s what I did.  Biopsy after biopsy, test after test.  Aside from the occasional copay, it didn’t cost me anything else at the doctor’s office.  I had a job with health insurance and a reliable vehicle and a driver’s license, so having this kind of health care was affordable and accessible.

…until it wasn’t.  In October of 2012, in the midst of all of this testing, I lost my job.  Not only did I lose my job, but I lost it without warning, and I lost my health insurance the same day.

I also lost it the DAY BEFORE my next biopsy appointment.

I certainly could’t afford the doctor’s visit, tests, and labs on my own, so I cancelled the appointment.  My doctor was insistent that I stick to the regular tests, but what could I do?

I could turn to Canada, that’s what I could do.

I didn’t even know that I was eligible for Canadian health care…probably because I had American health care and that was good enough.  But, luckily, I was, and all it took were a few phone calls to figure out what to do.

I started with googling “Planned Parenthoods in Canada”….were there any PPs in Canada?  The answer is no.  That’s an American thing, as we all now know thanks to our government and the media….but back in 2012 PP wasn’t on the radar as much and I didn’t know a lot about them.  Although there wasn’t a Planned Parenthood, there was a similar place for women who didn’t have OHIP to go for care.

So I called them.  What I found out was that they only helped girls under the age of 18, but I could call the number of a local OBGYN they use and make an appointment.

So I called them.  When I explained my situation:  that I had just lost my job and American health insurance, and that I was living in Canada and needed to get biopsied for cervical cancer testing, they made me an appointment right away.

…and by “right away”.  I mean for 2 months later.  Welcome to the Canadian healthcare system.  It has its ups and downs.

Anyway, after setting the appointment they provided me with the information I needed to sign up for OHIP so I could take care of that while waiting on my appointment.

…and I already told you how easy that was.

The worst part about my experience with the Canadian healthcare system was the wait.  I had to wait 2 months before seeing a doctor, but, once I did, my experience was beyond what I expected.  On my first visit, my doctor sat down and explained in detail what was going on with my body and what my chances actually were of developing full blown cervical cancer.  He educated me and answered all of my questions, and my appointment was probably nearly 30 minutes long.  I know he most likely did that with all of his patients, and that’s why the waits for appointments take so long, but I still appreciated the thoroughness.

I continued to be biopsied and tested regularly the entire time I lived in Canada.  In addition to this care, I was also set up at the local Hemophilia Treatment Center for my genetically inherited bleeding disorder.  During my visit there I received a full exam, including blood work, and met every single doctor involved in my care.  I was also referred to genetics so I could be placed on a waiting list for IVF in hopes of hopefully conceiving a child without passing on my condition.

Oh, and that IVF?  That was also partially covered, too.

My overall experience with the Canadian healthcare system was pretty awesome.  I even used it to go to “merg” (what they call the ER), when I needed to and walked out without a single penny owed….or should I say nickel? (Canada got rid of the penny.)  I received more detailed explanations of my health than I ever had from doctors in The States, and I felt like everyone actually cared.  I wasn’t a number, or a dollar sign, or another person to push a pill on.  I didn’t have to set my health aside because I couldn’t afford it.  If I didn’t know what to do, people helped me.  In Canada, I was a human being needing care, and I got it. Period.

“I didn’t have to set my health aside because I couldn’t afford it. If I didn’t know what to do, people helped me. In Canada, I was a human being needing care, and I got it. Period.”

Flash forward to April, 2015, when I moved back to the U.S.  Of course, I lost my OHIP, but I was still dealing with abnormal test results.  I was left back in my home country needing a biopsy, but not having health insurance or the money to afford it without.  I went back to square one just like I did in Canada.

I started with googling “Planned Parenthoods in Iowa”.

And I found one in my local community.

…but that’s for Part 2.

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Today is the first day of summer!  Also known as summer solstice, this is the longest day of the year and a great time to recharge your energy for the new season.  In the yogi world, we do this with Sun Salutations…108 of them to be exact!

Why 108???

108 is an auspicious number that shows up in mathematics, religion, nature, and even martial arts!  In yoga it usually shows up as the number of beads on a mala (meditation or prayer necklace…kind of like a rosary), in pranayama (breath work), and, in today’s case, sun salutations!

The distance from the earth to the sun is 108 times the diameter of the sun, and the diameter of the sun is 108 times the diameter of the Earth.  There are said to be 108 meridian lines of energy that flow in and out of the heart chakra.  In Sanskrit, there are 54 letters, each with a Shakti (feminine) and Shiva (masculine) energy…leading to 108!  There are many other examples of this number.  Ultimately, it means spiritual wholeness.  Here’s how I apply the meaning of 108 in the #mothermoonpath

There is one source energy.  Some call it “Universe”, “God”, or “Spirit,” others call it “Nature”, “Gaia”, or “Mother Earth”.  There are many other names.  They all represent the energy of UNCONDITIONAL LOVE.

When we are connected to universal energy, or spirit, we feel whole.  This represents the ONENESS we all have: we are all human beings living on this planet, and we all want to be loved.

The number 8 is also known as the infinity symbol.  When we learn that energy is never created or destroyed, we can start to protect and honor our energy.  When we understand that our energy can be transferred and affect others, we begin to live a more mindful, peaceful life.

We flow through Sun Salutations to show gratitude for the energy we receive from the sun.  Through every pose, breath, and transition we engage our core, our solar plexus.  Strengthening this internal “sun” within us, helps us cultivate more energy.  By flowing through 108 Sun Salutations on summer solstice, we fully honor that spiritual energy and pull in all of the power of the Universe to make change.  Summer is a seasonal shift.  Tear out the old pages of your story, burn them away with the “tapas” of summer, and use the spark of the sun to ignite something new!

If you want to flow through your own 108 rounds of Surya Namaskar today, go at your own pace!  This morning a few yogi friends and I did them 9 sets at a time, for a total of 12 rounds.  Another yogi friend of mine couldn’t make it, so she’s doing 10 at a time throughout the day.  However you do them, go slow, take breaks if you get tired or too hot, stay hydrated, and have fun! Always always, make your practice your own.

We have a full moon coming up in a few days on June 23rd.  New moons are also a great time to start new beginnings.  Between the power of the sun and the moon this week, you’ve got a lot of universal support!


By the way, did you know the distance between Earth and the moon is 108 times the diameter of the moon?!  There are never coincidences.

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I’ve always been fascinated with the cosmos.   When I was little, my dad and I would lay on a blanket and stare up at the stars for hours.  Sometimes he would teach me the constellations and other times we would watch meteor showers and make wishes on falling stars.  As I got older, we’d stare out into the abyss and discuss the power of the Universe.  We’d talk about black holes, and space-time continuum, and the sheer infiniteness of it all.

…and we also talked a lot about the moon.

It’s funny, I really never thought about it until now.  I haven’t quite been able to figure out why the name “Mother Moon” came to me.  I never really had a great relationship with my mother and I haven’t seen her or spoken to her in over 15 years, yet the name “Mother Moon” has continued to whisper to me.  In my thoughts, in my dreams, in my meditations, Mother Moon calls to me.  I thought maybe it was because I’m contemplating taking on the role of “mother” myself…or maybe it was because I’m a prenatal/postnatal/baby yoga teacher…or maybe it was because I’m specializing in women’s wellness…or maybe it was because I’ve always called the moon grandmother moon, but I felt I was too young to call my studio Grandmother Moon Yoga!

I now know I chose “Mother Moon” because of my dad.  He was my mother AND my father.  I know that, because from the very beginning of creating this concept I’ve wanted to include dads, men who are preparing to become dads, men who are thinking about it, men who don’t want to be dads at all, and all humans who identify with more masculine, or “Shiva”, energy.

Dads can play the “mom” role, and many of them do.  Mine certainly did.  And he did an amazing job at it.  I feel like he really embraced his softer side for me, and that was important as I developed into a young adult and then a woman.  Now that my dad is gone, I find myself turning to the moon for so much guidance.  Not only do I feel his energy there, but I also feel the nurturing energy of my grandmothers, my great grandmothers, and all of these generational mothers before me.  I feel the power of Mother Universe in the moon, and then I feel that power within myself.

When I turn to the moon, I am filled with so much light and energy and love.  That’s what becoming a mother means to me.  Filling yourself up with the ecstasy of creation.  Embracing a journey of complete surrender to your path.  Whether it be a physical baby or something else you desire to “birth” into this world, when you surround it with the pure joy of what you love to do, its power is limitless.

Mother Moon is about embracing what’s inside you.  It’s about loving you for who you are and believing in who you want to become.  It’s about providing you the nurturing energy you need to grow, and holding space and support for you when you need guidance.  It’s about supporting fathers, mothers, sisters, and brothers.  It’s about FAMILY.  Walking the Mother Moon path is about balance.  Just as the moon shares half the day with the sun, we too can learn to share our energy between our masculine and feminine side.  It’s ok to be soft.  It’s ok to grow hard.  It’s ok to not know where you are headed.  Embrace the balance, and the flow will come

Why the moon?  Why not?!  What better example do we have than to turn to the cosmos?  What better path than to search amongst the wisdom of the stars?

Just as the moon shares half the day with the sun, we too can learn to share our energy between our masculine and feminine side.”

~Mother Moon