I am at war. At 6:00 p.m. I won the first battle against Old Fashioned Donuts. With the help of a late afternoon nap I was victorious over the urge to drive 40 minutes to Chicago’s Southside in the pouring rain to buy a dozen donuts for my one person household.
With that shop now closed for the remainder of the weekend I am trying to beat back the urge to walk across the street to Dunkin’ Donuts to take the edge off. At this moment I want all of the sugar. What is stopping me from consuming it? I would like to say that it’s a commitment to healthy eating.
Alas the only thing keeping me from logging into the Insomnia Cookies app is the feeling of grapefruits rolling through my abdomen. I’m hungry as fuck but feel full at the same damn time.
No, this isn’t PMS. It is day 12 of IVF. Before you start congratulating me on an impending pregnancy, let me stop you right there. I’m not trying to have a baby. At least not right now. I just want options if trying to start a family happens later rather than sooner…so I am freezing my eggs. I got the idea from a grad school friend who was considering the procedure right before meeting her now husband and popping out some cute babies less than two years later. As it turns out contemplating the procedure is not necessarily the catalyst for meeting a great guy who wants to bear my children.
In the Beginning…
It all started easily enough. I received a referral from my gynecologist to a fertility center and met with a doctor early in the summer. He outlined the entire procedure and instructed me to return for baseline testing between the second and third day of my next menstrual cycle. Being the procrastinator that I am I didn’t get back to the office for almost three months. There were blood tests, an ultrasound, and some pee in a cup, all of which allowed my doctor to confirm that my reproductive organs still appeared to be functioning. He put me on the pill to suppress my cycle for three weeks, after which I returned for another ultrasound and more blood tests. Once my baseline ovarian follicle count and estrogen level were established the fun really got started.
Pens and Needles
Four days after taking my last birth control pill I gave myself my first injection. One shot in my tummy with a pre-filled pen needle. I sterilized and stuck myself for four nights then headed back to the clinic for another ultrasound and more blood work. Now if one injection per night is good then two are even better. This time I was even tasked with mixing the meds and filling my own syringe. I knew all of my years of medical training from watching Grey’s Anatomy would come in handy one day. One week into the cycle I learned that the needles that aren’t so bad on day one start to make your tummy itch by day seven.
Two days later it was back to the lab for another ultrasound and to give more of my blood. When someone is tying off your bicep and tapping your inner arm for a vein you start to feel like Cain’s momma in the opening scene of Menace to Society. Good test results mean more injections. I added another syringe to the party, now giving myself three shots a night for another two days. I don’t know exactly when it started but sometime after day seven I started feeling my ovaries. In the more than three decades I have been on this planet I have never before in my life been able to press on my abdomen and feel my freaking ovaries!
The Home Stretch
Since day ten I have been at the clinic daily for blood tests and ultrasound. I think I’m starting to get track marks. Thankfully, this is all coming to an end. I took my trigger shot (in the ass) this evening and will be going in for retrieval on Monday.
As you can likely guess all of the medications, ultrasounds, blood tests, and egg mining do not come cheap. From my first consultation through today I have received $11,000 worth of treatment, not including the fertility drugs. Considering the fact that I will be (f)unemployed in one week this does not seem like the most prudent expenditure at this time. Well it’s a good thing that I’m not spending my money.
Affording It All
Over a month ago I lamented all of the ways I wanted to spend my final paychecks. I mentioned an elective medical procedure that was covered by my insurance but would still require a hefty out-of-pocket portion for me to pay. Well this is it. It just so happened that the co-pays that were making me hesitant to proceed were not going to be a problem after all.
Procrastination. Because I did not start the process until October I was at the point in the year when I was right near the out of pocket expenses maximum for my insurance plan. I have never been to this land before, but I have to say that it’s fan fucking tastic. I did not realize just how good my health insurance is until now. Here is how it works. I have a high deductible plan. That means that for everything other than routine preventative services I have to pay for $1500 of my healthcare costs before insurance kicks in (the deductible). At that point different services are covered at varying levels from 30% to 90%. Here is where it gets good. I am responsible for paying another $1000 for my care (in co-pays), after which all insured services are covered at 100%. The max I will pay for my healthcare in any given year is $2500. To make the deal even sweeter I get to save for these expenses in a tax free HSA (money goes in before I pay taxes on it and I can withdraw it tax free for qualifying medical expenses). The cherry on top was my employer kicking in $1000 to the HSA each year. To keep it 100, I’m going to miss the healthcare benefits more than I could ever miss the paycheck.
I hit the out of pocket max $557 into paying for the fertility drugs so everything else is an early Christmas present from BCBS. This gift is a doozy because many insurance providers do not cover any of this even for women who are trying to conceive. I figured since my plan wants to be so daggone generous I may as well
abuse it as much as I can before the year is out. I’m getting all the healthcare I can get my hands on: months of prescription refills, some dermatologist visits, and who knows what else. Have you ever dug into your insurance coverage? I highly recommend it because there could be some gems in there: weight loss programs, nutritional therapy, mental health services, and more.
What’s In Your Health Plan?
Even if your employer health plan isn’t as rich as what I am describing it could still be a great time of year to get elective treatments at a much lower cost if you’ve already met your deductible. Even coverage at 30% could make affordable what was once too expensive. Since health plans operate on a calendar year cycle now is the time to go H.A.M. because in January everything starts back at zero. Get that mole checked out. Start seeing a therapist. In the words of Kit DeLuca, “Take care of you.” Also, do not forget to find a way to use up the funds remaining in Flexible Spending Accounts as any unused portion goes bye bye if not spent by the end of the grace period (some employers have a $500 carryover option instead). Just this year I put a family member with a chronic condition on to the beauty of paying for his meds with pre-tax dollars through an HSA or FSA. If you’re not already enrolled in your employer’s FSA program or don’t know if it’s even offered now is the perfect time (hello open enrollment) to look into it and set up 2018 contributions. Added bonus is that it reduces your pre AGI taxable income which could prove helpful to those on the bubble of phasing out of certain deductions (e.g. student loan or IRA).
The Hidden Treasures of Benefits Packages
Healthcare isn’t the only goldmine either. Every year employees leave hundreds to thousands of dollars in perks and benefits on the table simply because they have no clue they existed.
Do you work for a publicly traded company? They might could offer an employee stock purchase plan which would allow you to buy shares at a discount (usually 10-15% but it depends on the program). So if your company’s stock is currently trading for $50 per share as an employee you can put aside a bit of post-tax income from your check and then buy it for $45 (assuming a 10% discount). When that stock value rises to $55 per share you’ve made $10 per share while everyone who had to pay market price only made $5. I had no clue stuff like this existed before 2015. In a little over two years I have made thousands of dollars.
A lot of companies also offer perks like employee discounts for fitness clubs, cell phone providers, movie tickets, amusement parks and more. I save 16% on my wireless plan, pay for public transportation with pre-tax dollars, buy movie tickets for under $10, and more. I made to sure to stock up on the movie tickets now.
Another benefit to be on the lookout for is tuition reimbursement and education assistance. I used to think you had to be a student in a degree program to take advantage of this benefit but many employers also cover the cost of certifications and more. I got the General to pay for both an eight week test prep course and my GMAT exam (which I used to leave the company a year later).
I am no HR expert but I do know that it would likely behoove you to actually attend the next Workplace Benefits presentation your employer hosts. As Jay-Z said, “There’s money to be had,” or at the very least a free boxed lunch for your troubles. Checking out the company benefits website can also yield great information. If you’re going to spend 40+ hours a week
surfing Facebook working you may as well squeeze every drop of compensation possible for your time.
And in case you were wondering…I lost the war.