one girl’s guide to surviving unemployment

Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the healthcare category.

free meds

Was browsing the GSK site the other day for coupons or discounts on one of my meds.  Even with the amazing Together Rx Access plan, it’s still about $300/month. (Don’t get me started on why prescriptions are cost-prohibitive for those of us on the dole, but you get a massive discount when you’re making the bucks . . .)

The lovely folks at GlaxoSmithKline have a pretty rockin’ program called Bridges to Access.  It gives an amazing discount on your GSK meds, plus free refills by mail.

The catch is that it’s a pile of paperwork, both for you and for your “advocate.”  Your advocate can be a doctor, social worker, registered nurse; any one who helps you with the meds that you take.  According to the GSK site, the reason for the advocate is two-fold:

Recognizing the important role that healthcare professionals play in the overall healthcare of patients, Bridges to Access uses “Advocates” to help patients enroll in our program.

For the purpose of Bridges to Access, an Advocate is any non-family member who:

  • has a relationship in the delivery of healthcare services to the patient, and
  • agrees to help the patient enroll and manage ongoing participation in Bridges to Access

You’ll need to identify an advocate, get them to register and fill out some paperwork, and you will need to do the same.  While again, this is a fair amount of hoops to go through, if you’re on the ball, you can get same-day coverage.  There is a small co-pay for the first 60 days of medication ($10ish, depending) and then refills are free via mail.

As with most services, there are income and residency restrictions, so do some digging on the site to see the criteria for yourself.


put down the donut and get off the couch

For the first three weeks of my unemployment, I was a complete and total couch potato.  It was when I put on my interview suit — and pooked out of the top of my pants — that I knew that my lethargy and comfort eating was starting to catch up with me.  So I got off the couch, got on the bike and didn’t look back.

Look, this isn’t an exercise blog.  And I’m the *last* person to preach about health and fitness.  My point is that unemployment isn’t an excuse to let yourself go.  From a purely economic perspective, now is not the time to invest in a new wardrobe for those important interviews.  

The good news here is that you also don’t need to invest in a fancy gym to stay fit.  Here are some cheap — or free! — strategies that are working to keep my energy up and my size stable.

  1. Go for a walk.  Set aside 30 minutes a day and get outside.  Go around the block a dozen times if that’s what works for you.  If you’re feeling more adventurous, check out some great walking resources online.  Many cities and regions offer local walking maps online.  Better yet?  Find an unemployed friend, family member or neighbor to go with you.  Start a walking group at your church, temple or school.  Post a flyer at your library.  Keeping a date with someone else will help you to stay on track.
  2. The same goes for riding a bike, if you have one.  If not, ask friends and family if you can borrow theirs.  Keep your eyes out for one at a garage sale.  Similar to walking maps, there are awesome trail maps and local routes online that show bike-friendly paths.
  3. Too cold, hot, polleny, unsafe, whatever to go outside?  Pick up a fitness DVD at your local library or garage sale and borrow some from friends.  If you’ve always wanted to try yoga, kickboxing, salsa aerobics?  This is a low investment way to keep you entertained and challenged.
  4. Free gym in your apartment or condo building?  Use it.  Do your friends have a free gym in their building (either at home or work)?  Ask to tag along.  Two benefits here – you’re getting some exercise AND hanging out with your friends for free.
  5. Check your local TV listings.  There are still some darn good fitness programs on television.  If you have cable, there are a ton of options.  If not,  your public TV station usually runs one or two exercise shows a day.
  6. Blast some loud, fun music of your choice and boogie around your house.  No one is watching, so don’t worry about the moves. Just have fun!
  7. Do you or your kids have a jump rope?  Jumping rope is a great, cheap, heart-pounding workout.  Combine it with some crunches and arm work (lift cans, dead weigh lifts with a chair, push ups, tricep dips on your couch . . . you get it).
  8. Grab an exercise book at the library.  Some good ones?  Bottom’s Up by  Joyce Vedral,  Making the Cut by Jillian Michaels   or  The Real Age Workout by Dr. Roizen.  There are many, many more out there.      
  9. If you’re in good enough financial circumstances to get a gym membership, make sure you’re getting your money’s worth and go.  Check out your local Y or JCC; they’re often cheaper alternatives to traditional gyms.  In addition, many Ys, JCCs and gym chains run off-peak memberships at a discount.  Sure, you can’t go at 6:00 in the evening.  But as you likely have some time on your hands, this shouldn’t be an issue.
  10. Into tennis, soccer or outdoor sports?  Go to your local park and play.  Whether it’s a pick-up game, playing with a friend or simply doing drills by yourself, it’s a good — and free — chance to get moving.

Also, it goes without saying, but eat good food and drink plenty of water.  

Your interview suits will thank you!

creative spending: options for health care

The drug companies have done a nice thing and issued a discount card for their meds – it’s called Together Rx Access.  It provides good savings on most medications.  Also, many major retailers including Target, Wal-Mart, Safeway and others are now offering $4 generics.  These discounts don’t cover ALL generics, only a certain subset, so be sure to check their sites or at the pharmacy to see what’s eligible. 

Along the lines of generics, consider that store brand antacids, pain relievers, antibiotic creams, allergy medications contain the EXACT same active ingredient as the brand name.  Flip both over and compare side by side.

In addition, talk to your doctor.  Does he/she have any samples that could help offset your prescription costs?  I know that many physicians are cutting back on the freebies they take from the pharmaceutical companies, but it’s always worth a phone call to your doc. Is there a generic alternative to anything you’re taking?  Can he/she work on a sliding scale?  Can you get on a payment plan for any ongoing care?

As far as immediate care is concerned, look for low-cost options for the things that aren’t major: sinus infections, colds, sore throats.  CVS has a discount clinic that may offer a considerable savings in comparison to a traditional doctor’s visit. Wal-Mart has a health clinic as well.  Planned Parenthood is an amazingly low-cost resource for womanly issues: PAP smears, vag infections, UTIs, etc.  If you’re just not comfortable with Planned Parenthood (no judgement here), there is likely a women’s clinic in your region that can help you for cheap.

Lastly, definitely check out an organization called FACT.  The membership is nominal (less than $10) and they offer fantastic discounts on medical, dental, vision care and more.  

caveat shoppor: I’m not a doctor.  Nor do I play one on TV.  Only you can determine what makes most sense for you and your fam.

Post-publishing update: Apparently Target has a few medical clinics as well.

10 things to ask hr

You’ve conquered the mean reds, filed for unemployment and dealt with health insurance.

This clearer headed time is a good opportunity to revisit your exit paperwork and loop back in with your former company’s HR person.  (Any decent company will give you a few days to mull this over.)

Before I get started on the questions, I’ll just ask that you have a little sympathy for the HR person.  There’s a 99% probability that they had nothing to do with the decision to can you.  So, think compassionately and approach thusly when you drop them a note or give them a call.  While you don’t have a job, it still sucks to have to fire people and deliver bad news, which HR peeps are doing more and more of these days. 

Onto the questions that you need answered:

1. While you’ve given me a lump sum severance, how long does it “officially” last?  (This will be important to understand as far as budgeting.)

2. Will my severance come in the form of a check or via direct deposit?  If it’s a check, is it coming via registered mail / FedEx / UPS, or will I need to pick it up?

3. Am I being paid for unused vacation time?

4. What happens to my stock options / 401K / other profit-sharing benefits?

5. How long am I covered under the company’s health insurance plan?  How long is my Flexible Spending Account active?

6. Can you send me a copy of any non-compete or other pre-employment agreements?

7. What address and phone number do you have on file for me? (important for tax and other purposes)

8. Can I come by to pick up any personal items left in my office / cubical / workstation / locker ?  Or – when should I expect to receive my personal items by mail? 

9. Can I have a copy of my personnel file?

10. How do I submit for expense reimbursement (if you have any outstanding expenses)?

Lastly, as pissed off as you might be, don’t burn your bridges on the way out, either with HR or your former boss.

The last thing that I said to my former boss was to follow up with the client, as they were expecting something done by the end of the day.  I’m not trying to imply here that I’m a saint — I had more than my share of less than stellar moments in the work place — but to hopefully show that a little class will make you feel better. 

This counts for the HR person as well.  They don’t need to be the brunt of your anger.  Remember your manners and don’t let the anger boil back up. 

Now it’s time to get crafty with that severance!

COBRA: the snake in the grass

Ah, COBRA. Look, you need medical insurance, there is no getting around that.

Make sure that you take a thourough look at the paperwork once it arrives. COBRA will keep you covered exactly as you were when you were working.

The downside to COBRA: how are you supposed to pay for it when you have no income?

The upside: Did you know that in the case of a lay off, your former employer is now required by law to cover 65% of the monthly premium. Makes the payments a little more manageable.  

In addition, COBRA can be (somewhat) retroactive in case of emergency – provided you DON’T decline coverage — you have 60 days to elect. Review your paperwork in detail to see if this is the best option for you.

At the end of the day, COBRA is awesome if you can afford it.

When when I lost my job, COBRA was far too expensive for me. (I was on the fancy-schmancy plan at work and wasn’t able to downgrade.) 

Recognizing that no insurance wasn’t an option, I looked into gap / short-term insurance. Many health insurance companies provide high-deductible plans for a reasonable cost. When looking into non-COBRA options, your first step may be to call your current/former insurance company and see what they can provide to you. The risk that you run with gap / temporary / short-term insurance is that often it does NOT cover anything pre-existing. This includes prescriptions.

Don’t panic – this an opportunity to get resourceful.