Billing and Bullshit

I’m not only paying bills today, but I’m wading through the morass known as “medical billing.” I completely lost focus when I came across this charge:

“Insertion of needle into vein for collection of blood sample. $22.00.”

Now, after you pick yourself up off the floor and change your pants, this ridiculousness doesn’t only apply to medical billing. I found another gem, from the propane company:

“Service Labor, 1 HR, $53.99

“HazMat Fee, $10.00

“Fuel Recovery Fee, $5.02

“Service Dispatch Charge, $19.99”

That’s a total of $89.99 for the guy to come out and change a hose from an old barbeque grill to a new one. It cost $20 for them to give the guy our address, $5 for his gas, and $54 for 20 minutes of work. I guess the $10 was in case he blew himself to kingdom come . . . I really have no idea.

This isn’t the first time, or likely the last, that we, and everyone else, has been faced with goofy charges. When we owned our bookstore in St. Louis, our sewer bill included a “hazardous waste” charge simply because we had a business account. Because, I guess, they assumed we regularly flushed toxic books . . .

What happened to the general business principle of the “cost of doing business?” Maybe it started with those as-seen-on-TV products, the ones that not only charge for the product and shipping, but this supposed charge of “handling.” Like when they tell you they’ll send a second identical product for “only” shipping and handling—the product is probably only worth that handling charge, which, by the way, means someone takes it off a shelf and puts it in a box.

Let’s say a handling charge is, oh, $5.00. Let’s further assume someone can pull the product, box it, tape it, slap the label on it, and stick it on a truck in five minutes—and that’s being generous. Do you really think the worker is being paid $60 per hour? More like $10. That’s $50 going in the company’s pockets, every hour, per employee.

Go back to the “insertion of needle.” We all know that sometimes this takes a few minutes, which seems like hours when you’re the one getting stuck with that needle. But how many needles can a med tech stick in a person in an hour? Five? Let’s use five. That tech might earn $15 per hour—not $132, which is how the math works on that example. The hospital gets the rest. That comes to $117 per hour per tech that’s collected by the medical facility.

Sure seems to me that this fee should be part of the cost of the hospital doing business, just like that “handling” charge.

Look at the propane company—who gets that “dispatch charge?” We’re not talking life and death, a 911 call, we’re talking someone who answers phones and relays the information to a driver. Feel free to tear apart their other charges . . .

I remember back when I worked for Domino’s Pizza. Customers ordered pizzas, drivers delivered them—30 minutes or less or it was free—and that was it. Drivers worked hourly and for tips, and bought their own gas and usually used their own cars. Today, there’s a fuel charge or a delivery charge.

Owning a publishing house, I can attest to additional handling charges when ordering books. Here’s an example: I purchase books wholesale, which means about $5 each; the printer already makes about $2.50 on each one, yet they charge me to box them and ship them, on top of that. Any change in text or cover also costs me, as well as an annual fee to “list” books on different sites. And that last part, they usually screw up . . .

I’ve owned businesses. I didn’t charge anyone for “cost of cleaning supplies,” because that was part of MY cost; I didn’t have a separate fee for “driving to customer’s home” or for “scheduling” or any other random, mundane bullshit.

I didn’t charge for “ringing up purchase at register” or “picking up and re-shelving books that customers left on chairs.” Or even “wiping fingerprints off front door.” These things, like all the above examples, are PART OF THE JOB OR THE COST OF DOING BUSINESS!

And, since medical stuff pisses me off the most—BJC sent a bill for “hospital stay,” five figures’ worth, with zero explanation of any of the charges, and expected me to just pay it, no questions. No, thankyouverymuch—here are some more fun fees:

$86 for “blood glucose test performed by handheld instrument” That’s the same thing my husband does several times a week at the kitchen table. Far from a specialized procedure.

$43 for the EXACT SAME THING as the one above.

$12 for “insertion of needle into vein, etc.” I wonder why there’s a difference . . . did the $22 charge include multiple attempts? Special needle? WTH??

And yet, the government thinks having health insurance is of prime importance—how about taking a close look at medical billing? Or so-called HazMat fees, or anything else that is lining someone’s pockets at the expense of the American people?




Homestead Life

Had a few visitors this weekend to see the new foal. Two cute little girls who were, as I predicted, enamored of little Trinket for about 20 minutes—I think that included time spent petting some of the other horses. They were not interested in the least in shoveling manure, which was no surprise, haha! But they did listen while I explained lunchtime feeding and helped carry hay.

They wanted to ride in the Mule, naturally, but we only went down the road and back because I needed to check on the neighbor’s property. When they said they wanted to go farther and longer, I told them that this was a work Mule and that there were always chores to do on a farm.

That’s not to say we don’t ever take time off, but it has to be planned and of course, we’re at the mercy of the weather. For instance, this morning I had a lot of the aforementioned manure to shovel, and tomorrow it’s supposed to a lot warmer with rain predicted in the afternoon. So it has to be done today.

We can’t always just sit around or run into town for the day or take a nap.

Next up, they wanted to see the cabin we’re building. I took them inside, gave them the so-called tour, and about ten minutes later they wanted to go back and play inside because it’s “cool.” Points for the coolness, but there are a lot of tools and things lying around, so again, no, sorry, it’s not a playhouse.

I must be a grumpy old woman . . .

And of course, with a new baby, things have to be kept fairly slow and quiet. Charm is, after all, a wild mustang who is far from being completely domesticated. She’s nervous, baby is running around a lot to keep up with her, and I’m trying to minimize stress on the little sprite. And Mama.

Hmmm. I may also still be grumpy . . .

Now, like I said, we don’t work all the time; or maybe we do. Having horses, or any livestock, is kind of like having pets. They all need to be fed, usually twice a day or more, but pets live in your house and livestock is, of course, out in the weather. Litter boxes need to be cleaned, yes, and dogs need to be walked or taken outside and both need time and attention. But with horses, particularly, there are more chances of accident or injury, and they seriously need to be cleaned up after A LOT. Ergo, the manure issue.

It’s not easy, sometimes, when it’s freezing cold or pouring rain, to shovel manure and put out hay, so you have to do those things on your better-weather days, regardless of what else is going on. Same goes for cutting firewood or doing vehicle maintenance, or just cleaning up around the place.

Of course, drive down any country road and you’ll see folks who don’t care about that last one—we’re not like that. We don’t take the luxury of naps whenever we want, and there are times we don’t “feel” like doing something, but usually you can’t just let things slide.

If you’re thinking of homesteading, you better be sure you have the fortitude and energy to make things work. Not only will you fail if you don’t, but you’ll be miserable regardless.

A really good test is to spend some time with friends who homestead or farm. I don’t mean going as a guest, but stay for a few days and pitch in—expect to work hard, and to be given direction on how to do so, and then think long and hard about doing these things day in and day out.

Here’s a typical day on our farm:

We get up around 6:00 a.m. Yes, every day. We don’t sleep until 10:00, even on weekends. We’re adults, after all. Yes, we drink coffee and check our email and read or listen to the news—have to keep up on any potential zombie uprising, after all!

We feed the horses—not just dumping food in a dish or bowl, but measuring out feed as per each horse’s need which has to do with condition, weight, and age. We have to throw out hay, about 30 pounds’ worth or so, in two different paddocks right now because we have the “nursery.” We fill water troughs, or sometimes have to break the ice on them, depending on the weather.

The dog and cat are fed and the house picked up, regular housekeeping chores attended to throughout the morning, laundry done, and meals planned and eaten and cleaned up after, just like regular people.

Some days, we shovel that dang manure, clean water troughs, and move the horses to the pasture for a couple hours. Most days, we have training schedules to work on domestication and learning to be useful horses, e.g., brushing, leading, halter training, barn training, standing still, picking up feet, and carrying a saddle.

Our current project is the cabin, so there’s work to be done there, but the pond project will be on hold until spring. Right now, we’re winterizing the campsite, barn, shop, and house, plus the greenhouse needs tending and firewood needs to be cut. A few other small projects need finishing up, and as always, there’s maintenance, like fence repair.

We do go to town, at least once a week for groceries and horse feed, usually another time or two for hay or parts we need to make repairs or for projects. Each trip takes away from our usual work for at least 90 minutes—the nearest towns are a half-hour drive just to get there, before running errands. Not like in the city or the ‘burbs where you can just run to the store in ten minutes.

Now, before you think it’s all just drudgery, I’ll also tell you that sure, we watch TV or a movie in the evenings, we take breaks during the day, and we do try to take it easy at least one day a week—but some things have to be done every single day, no matter if you feel up to it or not, if it’s snowing or not, if you’d rather go somewhere or whatever. You can’t call in sick, or even tired.

Maybe this is why I’m grumpy . . . But hey, we chose this. And unlike some folks, we knew what we were getting into. A lot of people don’t, and when faced with all the hard work, they give up. It doesn’t mean they move back into town, they simply stop doing anything—and their homesteads or farms reflect that.

People who live in the cities and ‘burbs give up too. Maybe they don’t pitch in around the house and instead lay in bed all day. Maybe they whine about how “bad” they feel, even if there’s not much wrong with them. Maybe they don’t value their relationships, or any other part of their lives.

And if they want to do that, fine. You only have one life, and you have a lot of choices throughout that life. Make the best ones for you, but also for the people in your life; you don’t get to just check out and let someone else pick up the slack, whether it’s your significant other or the government. Have a little pride in yourself and your life.

Not everyone wants to live on a homestead and do hard physical labor, and that’s okay. SOMEONE needs to process my Amazon orders, amiright? 😉