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Member since: Thu Jul 19, 2012, 11:44 AM
Number of posts: 4,299

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Your 2018 Federal Tax Estimator


I'm letting my payroll-manager freak flag fly...this was just released. If I hadn't changed our W4s and kept the new tax tables in place for myself and DH, we would owe next year!
Wonder how many folks will get an unpleasant surprise next spring.

Harm Reduction

Let me start by saying that my son is a recovering heroin addict.
There is a controversy raging in Philadelphia right now about "safe sites" where drug users can use clean needles and be supervised by medical personnel who carry Narcan in case of overdose. These sites would also provide information about recovery programs and (hopefully) a fast-track to rehab when the drug user is ready.
You can hear the objections now - "This will only encourage them!" and of course "but not in MY neighborhood!" But to me, parent of an addict, if these sites save one life then I am 100% in favor. Yes we want to end the scourge of addiction. We also want fewer people to die.
This is harm reduction - we're not going to solve this problem now but we can take steps to save lives and make the problem a little less awful while we work on a solution.
The gun nuts (we all know them) most common argument is "the bad guys are going to get guns anyway!" Yes BUT if there were restrictions maybe SOME people would not be able to get a gun, and there would be one less school shooting. One less needless death. Can we start there?
One of my son's HS classmates committed suicide at age 16, with his father's gun. Teenagers are impulsive. If Dad's gun wasn't handy, would this boy still be alive? More than likely.
We're not going to solve this problem overnight but we can work for fewer deaths. Of course their 2nd Amendment Rights are far more important.

Meet the Parents

We have 2 children.
Laurie, 31, is the one I never worry about. She's an RN, working on her MSN, teaches new nurses at a nearby hospital. Married to Steve, a great guy, and mother of our two wonderful little grandkids. She's smarter (and makes more $) than either of us.
Tom is a whole other story. Handsome, smart, articulate - and a recovering heroin addict. Started with pills when he was in HS and eventually, like so many of them, switched to cheaper heroin. (Our small PA town is infested). This was off and on for 6 years, during which he managed to get a BA in Life Science from Penn State. He originally wanted to be a science teacher but couldn't handle student teaching while being a drug addict. Inpatient rehab twice during this time - he is alive because I have good insurance. First time at 20 didn't take at all. Second time at 23 he stayed clean for 9 months, during which time he finished his degree and got a good job at a local bank. Then he got sucked into it again, lost his job, had a car accident while high...a true nightmare time, 2 years ago. His dad and I told him he had one more chance at rehab while he was still 25 and on my insurance.
This time, so far, it's working. He's clean almost 2 years. Decided to move to Florida to get away from this drug-infested town and his dealer "friends". He hooked up with a good, reputable rehab down there where he now works FT as a discharge coordinator. Has his own apartment and a cat. Goes to NA meetings and he's a sponsor as well. And now, he's in love.
They say, in recovery, don't start a new relationship until you're clean for a year. A year and 3 months in he met Jennifer, who also works at the rehab. She's clean 2.5 years. She's gorgeous, his age, they're inseparable. She had a similar journey with drugs and plans on finishing her college degree which got interrupted much like Tom's did. He told his sister he wants to marry her. I am thrilled he found a great partner.
Our family is pretty political and we're all on the same page including Tom. So we've never had a "what to do with the RWNJ uncle at the holidays" issue before. Tom and Jennifer are coming home next week and we are meeting her parents over dinner at our house. (She's from Ohio but has relatives fairly nearby). I just found out that her dad is a Trump fan...thank God they live in Ohio.
In the interest of peace DH and I will carefully avoid politics at the dinner table and will change the subject if necessary. I understand they are just as happy as we are about Tom and Jennifer and I want it to stay that way. But knowing the dad is a RWNJ has put a little damper on the menu planning etc. Help.

Health insurance question

I am very blessed to have great health insurance as I work for a school district. I am payroll and benefits manager but this is a personal concern.
6 weeks ago I took my husband to the ER with severe abdominal pain. He had a CT scan and later that afternoon had laparoscopic gall bladder surgery. He got 1 night in the hospital- semi-private room, regular floor not ICU.
We are self-insured with Aetna as administrator. Aetna was billed $65000 (!!!) by the hospital. That's just the hospital, not the surgeon or anesthesiologist. Those charges seemed reasonable. But $65000 for ONE NIGHT and an ER visit??? Of which my employer paid $27000! Since we're self-insured that's coming directly from my school and will certainly make our premium increase next year. What do they charge for a complicated illness with multiple days' stay??
I honestly think this is a mistake. Had an appendectomy 2 years ago (similar circumstances- ER visit, 1 night stay, same hospital - and I think Blue Cross (we had then) might have paid $5000.
Called Aetna and could not get a straight answer. Only "that's what they billed us, we paid our share and you owe $100." Like it wasn't my problem that my employer paid $27000.
Was this a mistake? Or is the list price for 1 night in the hospital really $65000??!

This is personal now

My son is a recovering heroin addict. 14 months clean. He is now working as an addictions counselor-in-training at a recovery center in Florida and doing great.

When he turned 26 last summer I put him on COBRA. The rehab he was at (not the one he works for now) did not take any of the Exchange plans so I had no choice. It was worth it to me to maintain his good insurance that I can get through my work.

His new job will offer insurance after his 90-day probation period (July). If it's a decent plan I would absolutely love to save $500 a month and stop his COBRA coverage. But now that the GOP has fucked the nation, I'm scared to do this. Once you stop COBRA you can't go back on. What if he lost his job? He's got a hell of a pre-existing condition and you know damn well Florida will elect to end "essential benefits" in a heartbeat.

I've read that the pre-existing condition thing would only kick in if you allow a 60+ day lapse in coverage and if you bought a plan right away it wouldn't matter. Is this true? I know I should read the fine print but the assholes who voted for this thing didn't. If he lost his work plan I would get him a private plan immediately. The "lapse in coverage" thing is the deciding factor in whether I could risk taking him off COBRA.

Does anyone know for sure?
I hate Republicans with the heat of a thousand suns.

"Apples and oranges" arguments - there's a name for this

I'm seeing this on FB a lot. For example, a response to a post about the Women's March will be "how can you complain when women in the Middle East have no rights." Huh? It's true but what does that have to do with American womens' rights being threatened?

The latest one is in response to the refugee crisis - "but Bill Clinton banned illegal immigrants in 1995!" Again, huh? We're talking about people who went through all the hoops to get here and are still denied.

There's a name for this kind of argument, it's in Wikipedia and someone posted the name and definition on FB recently but I can't find it. Would love to have this handy for rebuttals.

Disturbing Trump radio ad

Playing in the Philly area, maybe nationally?
Young man introduces himself as serving with the US Marines. He starts by stating that "in January 1981, on the day of Ronald Reagan's inauguration, the Iran government released the US hostages." He goes on to say that our powerful military, a legacy of St. Ronnie, is in danger of being cut by the Democrats and that only Trump can keep the nation safe.
I was only 22 then and just starting to be aware of politics, but I remember that well. The Hostage Crisis was the top of the headlines in 1979-1980. Incumbent President Jimmy Carter was made to look ineffective by his failure to have the hostages released. And it's a well known fact that somehow, candidate Reagan paid off the Iranian government to delay the release, to embarrass Carter and make him lose the election. It worked, and the ultimate kick in the face was the release on the day of the inauguration.
So--Ronald Reagan committed TREASON by colluding with the enemy to influence the outcome of an election, not to mention harm to the hostages by delaying their release--and the GOP is BRAGGING ABOUT IT in their ads??? Can they sink any lower?
Our side must put out a rebuttal to this and remind people what their hero St. Ronnie really did, before he was even President.

Do old boxes of Jello and instant pudding go bad?

Cleaning cupboards today (LONG overdue) and found a stash of them I forgot. "Best if used by June 2008"...but do they really go bad? No biggie if they have to be tossed, just a shame. Thanks!
I did chuck the boxes of Rice-a-roni that expired in 2006 I found elsewhere.

West Palm Beach -- visiting, looking for recommendations

DH and I are headed to WPB on Monday to visit our son who recently moved there. Restaurants, things to do (I know there's lots)? Unique food that we can't get home in PA? Other advice? DH went to Disney when he was a teen but I've never been south of N Carolina. We're taking the Auto Train to Sanford (how long a drive to WPB?) and Amtrak home to Philly. Thanks!!

My church was seriously vandalized

Late Wednesday night people broke into my church. They ransacked the pastor's office but found no cash, took nothing. Then they turned off the water and proceeded to remove all the copper pipes from the building, so we will have no running water (or working bathrooms) and heat until this is fixed. The church secretary discovered this yesterday morning, the police investigated, an insurance claim has been filed. So far, of the congregation only the council members have been notified; pastor sent us an email last night.
Stripping a building of copper pipes is a "big city drug addict" thing that simply does not happen up here in the distant burbs. Our building is located right in town but on a side street and not really close to any houses, so I imagine it wasn't that hard to pull this off in the middle of the night. The biggest question to me is, why this church when there are so many others, many rural and isolated, around here? I can only suspect that we were "cased" by someone attending a Narcotics Anonymous meeting that is held our building. Makes me sick that someone would violate a house of worship that does a lot of good in the community. Sometimes you hear about a church being vandalized simply because the criminals want the thrill of destruction; this was strictly an act of desperation for money.
Truly a church is not a building, it's the people, and as a congregation we will get through this. I don't know how long it will take to get things back in order to use the building again but we cannot hold services or Sunday school without functioning bathrooms and heat. I'm sure we will be welcome at the other Lutheran church in town for a while. The hardest thing to me will be explaining to my 3-year-old granddaughter, who loves going to Sunday school and church with me, why we're going to another church now. Hopefully not for long.
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