Health Insurance in the USMon, 2nd Nov '15, 9:40 am::

Now that the health insurance open enrollment period has officially started, it is time for me to decide how sick my son and I plan on being between January 1st and December 31st of 2016.

If I decide that we will not fall sick, get injured, or use any emergency medical care, then I will go with cheapest insurance plan where I can have a Health-Savings-Account. For us here in Tampa Bay Florida, the cost is $400/month and we have to bear 100% of all medical costs up to $12900/year before insurance pays anything. This means if we both get really sick, even though we decided well in advance not to, we will pay a total of $17700 for the year for the insurance plan and out-of-pocket medical costs.

If I decide that one or both of us will fall moderately sick and have to see our doctors a few times but still not get in an accident, require an operation, or be rushed to the Emergency Room, then I will buy a Silver Plan that costs about $500/month and we only have to pay $30 to see our primary doctors and $75 to see most specialists. If we decide to change our mind in the future and get into an unscheduled accident or choose to get a major surgery without planning in advance, we will pay a total of $17200 for the year for the insurance plan and out-of-pocket medical costs.

If I decide that one or both of us will fall severely ill, get in an accident, require an operation, or be frequently rushed to the Emergency Room, then I will buy a Gold Plan that costs about $585/month and we only have to pay $10 to see our primary doctors and $40 to see most specialists. When we finally get into our scheduled accident or elect for major surgery, we will pay a total of $17000 for the year for the insurance plan and out-of-pocket medical costs.

The beauty of the health insurance market is that it doesn't matter how correctly I decide my future health conditions, the worst case condition is about the same for almost all the plans - between $15000 and $20000 per year for a 35 year old male and his 9 month old son. That is, if both my son and I are in a major accident or we get sick for a prolonged time and require hospitalization, we will pay about the same amount regardless of the insurance plan I pick.

Deciding the best case is what health insurance is all about. If I correctly decide that we will not have to go to the hospital all year and we stick to our decision no matter what, we only pay the low monthly cost of $400 and can squirrel away over $6000 into a Health-Savings-Account, which we can use in a later year when we decide to get sick or be injured. Too bad, only the lower cost plans enable you to save into a Health-Savings-Account. If I incorrectly decide that we will get a little sick and see an ENT or two a few times but instead we remain perfectly healthy throughout the year, then I just wasted $100/month in extra insurance that I didn't use and cannot get back.

You might have read all of the above and wondered why I keep using the word 'decide' instead of 'guess' or 'predict'. That is because I use guess and predict to denote market risk, where you can gain or lose depending on how the future turns out, for example the stock market or even elections. You can make educated guesses and predict the outcome. But I feel very dirty trying to bet on the health of my infant son. Of the thousands of spreadsheets I have made in my life, the only one that made me feel sick to my core is the one in which I had four different rows of his predicted health, the best-suited insurance plans, and the corresponding premiums.

By definition, a health insurance market with competing insurance agencies requires me to take a gamble on our future health. But from my son's point of view, I am not gambling. I am deciding. I am deciding whether I should pay higher monthly insurance premium or not. If I do, we don't have to wonder if his fever is high enough to go to doctor - we can just go if he feels warm enough because it only costs us $10 to see the pediatrician. But if I decide to opt for a low premium plan, then going to the doctor costs $125 every time and we don't want to do that unless it is a real medical issue.

There is now a financial incentive for everyone to diagnose themselves. The more you want to diagnose yourself, the lower the cost of your health insurance plan will be, especially since the worst-case is about the same for all the plans. So yes, I am 'deciding' if we plan on being healthy or not next year. The cheaper plans that don't cover anything until you first pay over $12000 in medical costs, require you to self-diagnose everything and work well for healthy people who won't need to go to doctors. The expensive plans make doctors visits cheaper so you rarely have to second guess yourself and work well for people who have health issues. What I am deciding now is which group I want to belong to next year. Once I have that answer, then I have to make sure my doctor, my son's doctor, and most of the specialists we have seen (e.g. ENT) accept the specific plan from the selected insurance company.

And that my friends is why it takes me a month to decide.

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Sat, 10th Oct '15, 12:15 pm::

Juliet is on a 4-day trip with her coworkers, leaving the baby in my care. I got most of my tech work done earlier in the week, giving me ample time to look after Naveen. I have been doing chores non-stop since 8am this morning and I still have a lot of things to do. I cleaned, watered, and fed the zoo outside, changed and fed Naveen, installed a new steam dryer, video-conferenced with my parents, took out the trash, put Naveen to sleep, cleaned the porch and gym, cleaned the duck pond, emptied the dishwasher, filed a week's worth of paperwork, and readied food for both of us. Next up is feeding the baby after he wakes up and getting him ready for my friend's birthday party tonight. Tomorrow I'll probably have a similar list of chores.

Life without the wife is pretty tough. I miss her so much. Even Naveen misses her because he keeps looking around for her when he's playing with me. Last night was especially tough because he's teething and kept waking up every 15-20 minutes in pain. I gave him some numbing-gel that Juliet bought and then he finally feel asleep.

Juliet comes back Monday morning. Can't wait!

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Level 35Sun, 4th Oct '15, 12:15 am::

For the past two years, I have been rounding my age to 35 anytime someone asks. For the next 12 months, I will be accurate when I say 35. Then for 2 more years, I will be incorrect again when I continue to say 35. Probably around age 38, I will incorrectly start saying that I'm 40. My actual age felt like a big deal all my life until I turned 30. Suddenly after that, it stopped being important.

Now the age I care about is my son's. He's turning 8 months this week and is a shining example of curiosity, giggles, and chubbiness. Since his day-care was closed for a Teacher's event on Friday, he spent the day at home with me. It's definitely a lot of work to keep him busy, fed, and clean but it is great to see the progress and development. He's already saying Mama/Baba and trying to walk. All I'm waiting for now is for him to start playing with some of the toys I love, like legos, puzzles, construction sets etc.

Speaking of toys, I spent quite a few hours yesterday and today playing with Juliet's amazing birthday gift to me - Ozobot. I usually don't like getting tech gifts because I am super picky with my gadgets. But she did her homework well with this one. These little robots will follow any colored line on a flat surface and change colors, direction, and speed based on the marking on the lines. It's like a real-life Pac-Man robot!

Over the last two months, I have started to take better care of myself. I am regularly exercising, taking walks, eating healthier (esp. avoiding junk food), and doing lots of simple things to reduce my stress level. It's taken a while but I am finally feeling relaxed and getting some decent sleep after years of craziness. I know I'm going to need my strength the moment Naveen starts walking :)

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ChangesFri, 3rd Jul '15, 12:50 am::

Tonight is a big night - it's the first time our son Naveen is sleeping in his crib in the nursery. He's already rolling and sitting up on his own and I'm fairly certain he will start crawling in a matter of weeks. My parents have continued to be amazing and we will all (including Naveen) miss them a lot when they go back to India later this month.

Once they leave, life changes for me. Instead of hiring a nanny or sending him to daycare immediately, I am going to be taking care of him during the day when Juliet is at work. I already do most of my work later in the evening when fewer users are online so I don't think my work schedule will be impacted much. But waking up early in the mornings when Juliet leaves for work is going to be hard. I am planning on having a good, fun routine for us and will hopefully stick to it until he's ready for daycare. As worried as I am about handling the new responsibility, I am tremendously excited about doing new activities with him every day. We have yet to go on the Pinellas Trail! Or the beach!

I don't plan on making this a daddy-blog - it's just a blog about my life and right now the focus is the baby. And I gotta admit, having a baby has changed me in ways I could not have imagined. Things that used to bother me to no end, are slowly becoming non-issues and sometimes even pleasant - like interruptions during programming. I used to hate it when someone interrupted me in the middle of work or activity. But if I hear the baby cry, I pay attention immediately - whether I just sat down to work or almost finished. Most of the time it only takes a few minutes to feed/change him so it is often a welcome break from hours of non-stop coding.

Another drastic change I've noticed is that I have nearly stopped procrastinating. All my life I've done things at the last moment and never expected to change because that's just who I was. But now? I jump on to every chore at the first chance I get - be it changing my life insurance policy or emptying the trash. I've been wondering why I suddenly feel obligated to do my chores without delay and I can't come up with a rational reason. It's just something that happened over the last few months without me realizing. And it feels wonderful :)

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Many firstsSat, 16th May '15, 10:30 pm::

Today was the first time my son picked up a toy on his own and played with it for a while. He also attended his first party - Rebecca's Graduation from Nursing School! Congrats Becca! My parents have now been here for a little over a month and neither Juliet nor I can imagine a life for Naveen without them being present everyday. We're so happy that they extended their stay and will be with us for two more months. Here's Naveen holding his first toy ever:

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Entire worldTue, 24th Mar '15, 1:45 am::

I still can't believe I'm a dad now. It's been over six weeks and both Juliet and I are getting back into the routine of normal life but every few hours we take a step back and go "Wow! We have a child now." My parents had me at a much younger age so it is a bit different to compare our becoming-a-parent experiences. When I was born, there was no robotic space-ship swing or constant health monitoring.

Throughout the pregnancy, delivery, and now Naveen's infancy, I haven't made any specific plans or goals about anything. Juliet's been taking charge of planning everything from his crib setup to feeding schedule. All I have done is made myself available to her and the baby 24/7, doing anything they need. While that sounds easy on the surface, it is anything but, especially because I've always been the take-charge kind of person myself. I have my own ideas and opinions on almost everything but from the moment we found out that Juliet was pregnant, I suddenly felt like my goal was to support and provide instead of plan and decide.

After the first few days of Naveen's birth we realized how critical sleep was for both of us. I need at least 6 hours of uninterrupted sleep. She needs about 8 hours but can handle waking up a couple of times. After a bit of trial and error, we ended up with a schedule that has worked for over a month now. She takes care of him from 6am-8pm and I take over after 8pm until 6am. She gets to sleep at least 8 hours in between and I get about 5-7 hours of sleep before I start getting tech support phone calls. It's not a perfect system nor is it sustainable in the long-term but it works for us, for now.

In a few weeks my parents will be here and Naveen will start sleeping longer than 3 hours at a stretch. So we'll come up with a new routine. Then just when we're all getting used to it, Juliet will go back to work. Then after a month of another new routine, my parents will return back to India. Then we might get a nanny. Or I might reduce my work-hours over the summer to take care of him myself. Then we might put him in day care. And all of this is just in the first six months of his life.

I can't even think beyond the next few weeks at this point. That's why I'm glad Juliet's taken charge. I'd rather not worry about every doctor's visit or baby development tracking. And I kind of like staying up all night in the living room with the lights dimmed while Naveen sleeps right next to or on me. I'm listening (via headphones at low volume) to nature and science documentaries playing on my iPad all night as I code away peacefully. Every few hours I take a small break to feed, change, and soothe him.

I was pretty concerned before he was born about my role in his early life. I was never worried about being a good role model and teacher once he starts walking and talking but I did not know how I'd be able to help out Juliet while he was still a baby. But surprisingly, everything just came naturally. I don't mean I innately know how to feed, bathe, or clothe a baby - Juliet had to show me all of that (multiple times). I mean it just felt natural to me that this is what I'm supposed to do.

Before he was born, I kept thinking that I will only feel like a real father once he starts playing with toys or climbing trees, so I just have to make it through the first few years and then the fun will start. And now, I don't even want this night to end because he's resting on my chest, snuggling like I am his entire world.

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Just over a fortnightSun, 22nd Feb '15, 5:25 pm::

Finally after over two weeks, I got to sleep non-stop for 7 hours tonight. Juliet still hasn't slept for more than 3-4 hours once since Naveen's birth. Meanwhile, it's all easy livin' for the kid:

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Naveen's First WeekSat, 14th Feb '15, 3:30 pm::

It's been only a week since baby Naveen was born but already, our whole world has changed. We are both singing nursery rhymes, barely sleeping, and learning how to calm the baby. Here are some photos from Naveen's first week.

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Baby Naveen MehtaSat, 7th Feb '15, 2:55 pm::

Happiest announcement of my life: Baby Naveen Mehta born today at noon weighing 6lb 15oz! Both mom and the baby are doing well. He's got my hair, eyelashes, and hands. He's got Juliet's cheeks, complexion, and mannerisms. The name "Naveen" means "new" or "novel" in my mother tongue Gujarati.

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Sat, 31st Jan '15, 10:25 pm::

Juliet's doing well and despite her early contractions over the past couple of weeks, the baby remains snugly comfortable inside her belly. Though her due date is still 3+ weeks away, I'm not sure we'll have to wait that long. As for me, my old dry cough has returned and I've been coughing non-stop for the past 6 weeks. None of the meds I've taken have helped and I'm going to see my doctor again this week. Thankfully I'm not contagious, just miserable.

So because of my cough and Juliet's contractions, we've been spending almost all of our time at home. The good thing is that this has given us enough time to set up the baby room and clean out the house. We have the bassinet, crib, changing table, car seats, stroller, and most of the nursery all ready. Just waiting for the baby boy now :)

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