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Scott's Column
Cutting the Cord

December 1, 2013
By Scott Lewis

2013 has been the worst year for me financially since I separated from my wife. Worse than the actual year I separated and had to change my income tax withholding status and give Uncle Sam an additional $460/month.

So I do not have anything pleasant to write about.

The straw that broke the camel's proverbial back, and provided any content for me to give to you, was a "new" medical insurance fee.

See... My ex-wife and I are still married (separated with no chance for reuniting). It has been easier for us to use my medical insurance to cover us as a family. My medical coverage has been significantly better than what her job offers. So I just pay for Employee and Family.

Well, this year my insurance asked a new question... which I did not see because I just did the passive enrollment and let last year's choices roll over to this coming year. What was that new question? Does your spouse have medical insurance available to them even if they choose not to use it? If the answer is yes, I have to pay an extra $150 a month. The difference between Employee and Family vs. Employee and Children is $254/month. Basically they are sticking it to us twice because we choose to use the better medical coverage available to our family.

I can see no valid reason for this extra fee. Why can't we use the best medical coverage that our two jobs offer? Why are we being penalized because one of our jobs offers inferior coverage?

The biggest problem with this is that her "open enrollment" period passed before mine came up. To make it worse my open enrollment ended as well, as I received notice of this question and its impact a little over a week after my open enrollment ended.

But wait.... there's more! Since our "open enrollments" don't align... I can't drop her without her being without insurance, because it is too late for her to opt-in to her own. Thank you Obama.

Our options are few... 1) Try talking to each of our HR departments to see if we can go outside the open enrollment time frames to change both of our medical choices, 2) Figure out how to pay this $150/month until her next open enrollment in October, or 3) Get a divorce to force a change in life status.

Option 1 is the only one that does not have serious costs associated with it. I have no idea how much a lawyer will charge us for an amicable divorce. That is the reason we have not divorced so far. Because it is too expensive, and there has been no upside since we did split on good terms.

Cutting the Cord

The above issue caused me to look up the actual cost of my medical insurance and I saw they are raising my rates as well (joy!). They are raising my rates approximately $60 a month starting in January. I have already cut my budget to the bone and have so few bills as it is:

Rent
Water/Trash (one bill that gets paid with rent)
Electric
Cable TV/Internet
Car Payment
One Credit Card
Car/Renter's Insurance

I can't drop insurance; I can't live without electricity, water or trash; and have to make my CC payment.

The only optional item is Cable TV. I have to have Internet access to be able to work from home (not just during work hours... but for support and deployments which happen after hours).

So it looks like I am going to cut the "cable" cord. My current Cable bill is $142/month. I have looked online and the current rate for Time Warner in San Antonio (as it shows on their web site) is $51 per month for the same internet service I get now. I don't know what the final rate will be with taxes and such. Also, this is the price they show for new customers. They do not show the rates for existing customers on their web site. Even the online chat I started cannot discuss downgrading or cancelling service. I have to call to get a final price.

I can only hope for a savings off my bill (after taxes and other BS charges) of $70-$80/month. I will replace that with HuluPlus and Netflix. Netflix is better for older shows & movies... while HuluPlus is better for current shows.

Since this is being worked out as this is going to press... I will have to let you know next month what happens.

Conclusion

Last month I told you about a possible new business idea to make money on the side as a photographer. Hopefully that can work out, but it is at least a few months away from having the chance to help. Until then I have to take drastic measures.

I'll keep you posted.

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