Busy and....Something / by Alan Strathman

I haven't written in more than a week and today it dawned on me why that's the case. I'm so busy!  And of course it's my own fault. I tend to take on more things than I have to.  I heard so often that PCVs have so much free time on their hands that they get a lot of reading done. Well, not me.  And for me that's probably a good thing.

I've heard the phrase "half-assed job" several times lately and I always hate it.  I think it comes from 25 years as a professor hearing students brag that they did a half-assed job on a paper or that they didn't start a paper until the night before it was due.  At some point, the things that we should be embarrassed about became badges of accomplishment.  So, I tend to take on a lot and I try not to do a half-assed job, because it is not something to be proud of.

Sorry about that little rant. Anyway, here is a smattering of the things that are keeping me busy. Note, that in general these are good things, and tasks I am glad to be engaged in....but they are making me busy.

1. My Grade 1 co-teacher Amanda, with whom I worked last year in Grade 2, has come to embrace the idea of balanced literacy and we have literacy stations during our literacy block, This is very good and I think the students will really benefit, but it means each night I have to prepare for the next day. 

2. Currently I am feeding four dogs and two adorable puppies. As anyone who knows me knows, I am a dog person and I love them all. Not only am I the only one feeding them but I am also the only one giving them flea/tick prevention and heartworm pills.  All on a PC stipend. Ugh! Plus, my service here is up in 11 months. All that means that I am actively looking to find homes for these dogs.  There are two dog rescue organizations and tomorrow or the next day I will post pictures of the dogs on their Facebook sites and see if I can find permanent homes for them.

Scruffy -- skin and bones despite my ongoing efforts

Scruffy -- skin and bones despite my ongoing efforts

As yet unnamed puppy -- still hasn't let me close enough to touch her, but she's getting there

As yet unnamed puppy -- still hasn't let me close enough to touch her, but she's getting there

3. I am beginning to work on organizing a parent workshop. The Primary Literacy Program that I am a part of has three main goals: teach students, train teachers, and reach out to parents and the community at large. One giant problem here is that parents are typically very uninvolved in the education of their children. Parents think that teaching is the school's responsibility and not something they need to contribute to. But each school day here has only 4.5 hours of class time (for Grades K-2 and 4.75 for Grades 3-6) and often that time gets wasted in one way or another. And so I am hoping to persuade parents that they can use some of the remaining 19 hours each day to help their children learn and succeed.

As I said, parents are typically uninvolved in the educational process.  There are two main reasons for this. One is that a lot of parents, and I never thought this would be true but I can tell you it is, just don't care enough about their children to make an effort to help them. They sometimes don't make an effort to feed them! How can I expect them to read with them. Maybe I can make inroads with this group or maybe I can't. I'm not sure yet. But the second main reason that parents don't help their children is that they just have no idea how to help them. If they knew what to do they might be more likely to help.  And this is the group of parents I'm after. The workshop will basically involve teaching parents some literacy skills so that they can use some of the 19 hours productively.

4.  I have just started to think about what I will do when my time here is up.  As I mentioned above my service is up in 11 months.  This is not tomorrow of course, but the time will fly by. And some things I would need to apply for well in advance. Looking into options has been taking some time. I had a variety of ideas, that is ideas to do this or do that, but I realized the only think I am qualified to do is teach.  And after this 27 months I will be able to do more than just teach psychology to 18-22 year old Americans.  The new skills and experience are more marketable, it seems, than a Ph.D. in social psychology so that's good.

I will be done here around August 25th 2017 and I would like to have some time off before I do the next thing. But if I have some time off I will need health insurance. The PC will continue my coverage for a month after my close of service, but it might be nice to have more than a month off.  So, I began my education into the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  And aged 10 years. Here is the situation. My PC stipend pays me about $10,600 US per year (though half of this I use for rent). I have friends in the U.S. who earn more than this and still qualify for subsidies that reduce their insurance cost to next to nothing. So imagine my shock to learn that....and get ready for this..... I actually earn too LITTLE to qualify for a subsidy and will have to pay full price.  That means, of the $10,600 I earn yearly, I would pay more than $6,500 of it for insurance.  Yes, I would pay more than 60% of my salary in health insurance.

I know you are thinking that I must be confused. And the few friends I emailed about this to check on it said just that.  But here is how it works. The Family Poverty Line (FLP) is $11,800 a year for a single individual. So my income would put me below the poverty line. My stipend is 89% of the FPL. In order to qualify for either subsidies or premium tax credits I would need to earn between 100% and 400% of the FLP.  Yes, I would have to earn more to be charged less. If I made 44% of the FPL or less than I would qualify for subsidies to reduce the cost. This seems to be known as the Medicaid coverage gap. Individuals (and I think families) who earn between 44% and 99% of the FPL must pay full price. Full price is more than $6,500.

But here is the catch--all of the above is true only in Missouri or one of the other 18 states where Republican Governors did not want the Affordable Care Act to succeed and did not agree to expand Medicaid to cover those in the 44%-99% FPL gap. Those f%$%^&*! Here is a sample of the statements/explanations I have received:

  •   Person #1 (age 52) doesn't appear to be eligible for a premium tax credit or other savings.

Based on the information provided, members of this household don't appear to be eligible for a premium tax credit or other savings on health insurance. But you can use the Health Insurance Marketplace to shop for a health plan at full price.

Below $11,880

Since your state hasn't expanded Medicaid, you probably won't qualify for Medicaid based on your income alone. You also won't qualify for savings on a Marketplace insurance plan. 

 Next steps

If your income is below $11,880:

·       Since your state isn't expanding Medicaid, you won't qualify based on income alone. 

·       Your income also falls below the range needed to qualify for savings on an insurance plan. If you wanted to buy a Marketplace plan, you'd have to pay full price. 

All of this really threw me for about two days. Eventually I learned (I think) that because I will have lived outside the U.S. for 27 months and will have just lost my insurance coverage I will be able to return to a state that has expanded Medicaid.  Will I ever live in Missouri again? Nope.  I also can't live in Florida, which given that my dad lives there, was a likely destination. 

So, the "and...Something" in the title of this post refers to feeling a little depressed, harried, put upon, etc. This too shall pass. And other than what I learned about the ACA and its implications, I don't know what I will do when my service ends. Though Thailand looks cool.