Sunday, January 15, 2012

Planning 1,2 3!

Wedding planning – a never ending job. There's always something else on the list! 

Every trip to San Francisco since September (there's been five!),  has had back to back meetings and events. I'm excited to announced that many of the the wedding big-ticket items are done.

Venue – check.

Photographer – check.

Florist – check.

THE DRESS – check.

Bridesmaid dresses – check.

Engagement photos – selected, but need to be ordered.

Catering - check.

Invite list including addresses - check!

Ceremony musician - check.

Save the dates - in transit to Chicago...
Wedding website - almost done.

Wedding hotel blocks - booked.

On one hand, I review the list and feel accomplished. There's 7 months left before the big day. However, there are a number of other items I want to get done and I know those 7 months are going to fly. With 7 weddings to attend, next year already has a number of busy weekends. Plus, I'm in 4 of the weddings (including my own), which means, bachelorette parties (wee!!) and bridal showers (yay). It's going to be an expensive year.

My other fear is that now I need to get into the details. With spreadsheets, I'm incredibly detail oriented, but centerpieces are a completely different ballgame. Is it important to me to have one silverware design over another? I have no idea. Plus, now I need to think about the little things that just make the event pop...hmm.

Still on the big list:

Alcohol - started discussions with the venue.

Limo – haven't even started looking.

DJ – waiting for a response.

Photobooth – investigation needed.

Bachelorette party list – in process.

Linens and table settings - meeting scheduled.

I know I'm missing something(s), just not sure what they are right now.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Polar Heart Rate Monitor

I'm absolutely stoked! I finally purchased my Polar flowlink, which will link my fancy FT60 to the internet.

During the holidays I was asked what I wanted for Christmas. Let's be honest, I would not consider myself needy by any means. I am quite fortunate to be able to buy what I need or what I want with a little financial planning. So given the blank check of a request for a Christmas wish list, I was stumped as to what should be included on it. After careful thought, I decided that the Polar heart rate monitor that I have been contemplating for months could be the perfect holiday gift. It fits that you stuff yourself during the holidays with great food and then need to reverse those actions by optimizing your workout. ;)

I was given the heart rate monitor and ever since I set it up, I've been completely entertained. There are some activities that while I feel extremely tired, are anaerobic in nature and thus, my heart rate never goes much above 85 bpm. In addition, I've noticed that when I'm on the treadmill, my heart rate shows on the side without having to hold the handle bars. It's all because of my fancy heart rate monitor.

In the end, there are reasons for everything and I'll be honest, my reason for selecting a heart rate monitor is because my health insurance company incents me to submit verified workouts to earn points, which can then be used on goodies. If I'm going to workout, I figured I might as well get credit given that my gym is not "in network." The benefit of the flowlink is that I can now upload the data from my monitor to the internet, leading me to earn my points.

Sometimes it's the little things in life. Off to Vegas this weekend... :)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

To Generic Drug or Not?

Working for a healthcare company can by incredibly interesting. There are more moving pieces than many people see and the government, federal and state, is always changing the rules. It means that nothing is set in stone. One aspect I don't like about the industry and company in particular is that I'm blamed, in a sense, for all the decisions the industry/company makes. Not to mention, people, my family included, feel the need to tell me their thoughts and feelings regarding the company's decisions. Most of those decisions are out of my control.

My dad, who has recently moved to Colorado and can't seem to pick up the phone to say 'hi'
(that's a different post), sent me a text today about the fact that he dislikes that my company is now requiring him to be on the generic drug for Lipitor as opposed to the brand drug. Furthermore, he felt the need to follow up my return text with an email stating that his insurance company should not be the one making his healthcare decisions.

I get it. Healthcare is an emotional and personal part of life. It is very hard to separate that feeling from any decision that is made, especially one that was seemingly made without you. In addition, many people outside the healthcare insurance industry simply think decisions are financially driven (which dad did point out). While I'm not going to tell you that decisions are not made with some financial incentive, I do want to point out some facts.

1. Healthcare costs in the United States have been rising and rising and rising
2. Generic drugs, while not identical, are bioequivalent to the brand
3. Many people have taken generic drugs with no complications
4. A generic drug is typically a fraction of the cost of a brand drug to both the individual and the insurance company
5. The decisions, while made in light of financial incentives, are not always for pure profit

So why does this matter? Lipitor, arguably one of the best blockbuster drugs of the 20th century, went generic in Nov 2011. My company made a decision, which I can say included medical expertise, to require members of fully insured plans to take the generic instead of the brand as of Jan 1, 2012. The decision, while saving money, is a way to push the common person to use generic drugs. Most generic drugs affect people the same way the brand does. And should a person find that they respond differently or adversely to a generic, healthcare companies are apt to make exceptions for people to use brands or another alternative. This is often known as step-therapy. They try to find the cheapest alternative that will get the job done. I recognize that that might not sit well with a consumer, but here's another side.

First a little insurance 101. Health insurance is supposed to be a means of spreading the risk of a catastrophic case over a number of people instead of having to bear the risk solely, much like car insurance. However, in contrast to car insurance, Health insurance has become a full maintenance plan where the average American believes a company should cover everything. The problem is, someone has to pay for the services. Generally, everyone pays a premium (often covered in part by an employer). As healthcare costs rise, the premium rises. The premium is set mostly to pay medical/ pharmacy costs. It is possible that if you are a healthy individual, you do not use your "fair share" of the medical costs. Contrarily, someone who has a heart ache or surgical complications may rack up hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars in medical bills. With the appropriate insurance, the bulk of those costs are covered and subsequently, an individual has a slightly more affordable bill (I do recognize there are varied circumstances and I am generalizing a lot.)

Back to Lipitor. Lipitor is a top 10 drug, which means, if you were to look at spend for the top 10 drugs per year, Lipitor would sit in that category, comfortably. Lipitor's sales were roughly $7.8 billion last year in the US ( Now that Lipitor is generic, as much as $4.5 billion annually can be saved by 2014. This savings is transitioned into premium pricing for health plans around the country. Should people not actually switch to the generic, the assumed savings basically becomes an underpricing of a health plan. Consequently, in the subsequent year, this premium discount may be repriced to better reflect the actions of the population. Much like any business, an insurance company wants to make money. Though the profit margin baked into group premiums is not nearly as much as people think. After broker commissions, sales commissions, administrative costs, and medical costs, the profit is typically 2%. That money is often reinvested into the business to make IT improvements and acquisitions among other things. Fact is, there are many moving pieces and while some hit home harder than others, we're all trying to balance cost and reward. Healthcare is personal and don't think that we or anyone else making decisions doesn't realize that.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Great Things About 2011

While it's cliche, the end of the year is always a great time to reflect. It helps put the next year or the one after into perspective. The couple of years, I've completed a year in review. It's fun to remember all the great experiences I have had and know that even better ones are on the horizon. Here are the Great Things About 2011:

1. July 16 - Darden friends in town, engaged to my best friend and a fabulous engagement/birthday celebration to cap off the night
2. Derby 2011 (where my brother was engaged after the 6th race)
3. Great American Beer Festival (Why did I wait so long to go?)
4. Wedding dress shopping (Definitely found "the one")
5. Moving to Chicago
6. Charlottesville reunion weekend
7. April '11 - Cubs game followed by Uberstein and Art of Pizza
8. Monday nights at Tokyo sushi (I miss those!)
9. Vegas soccer tournament (still one of my favorite weekends every year)
10. Cooking Fools pasta making class
11. Q101 Jamboree Concert
12. Getting our Pottery Barn couch
13. Discovering Pilates
14. Humana Race to Taste (with an awesome race time!)
15. Brazil (Belo Horizonte, Iguassu Falls and Rio)
16. Sergio and Maria’s wedding in Brazil (absolutely amazing!!)
17. Volunteering for Boo-Palooza Wicker Park (little kids + Halloween costumes = adorable!!)
18. Brook’s 60th Birthday Bash in the Bahamas
19. Picking a caterer for our wedding (it’s going to be YUMMY!)
20. NYE 2012 @ Ana Mandara
21. Wedding Weekends: Christine and Scott, Sarah and Brian, Melisa and Chris, Madeha and Moshan, Angela and Nick
22. Brett goes skydiving!
23. Greenbrier (and shooting clays)
24. Mom’s successful Masquerade Ball in SF
25. Attending a show at Second City
26. Soccer!
27. IMAX: Transformers 3, followed by an amazing dinner at Japonais (all with great company)
28. Joe’s Seafood Engagement Celebration
29. Our engagement party