Without Health Insurance Until Obamacare

Without Insurance:
I never thought I’d see the day when I would be scrambling to get healthcare and not be able to find it anywhere. I never imagined what it would be like to have no recourse when I became ill. For years I had gotten insurance from my employers and then, when I went into my own freelance business, I bought and paid for my own health insurance for over 15 years. I barely used it. I paid $85 a month. I had no problem until my provider stopped offering health insurance. I looked around the prices had gone through the roof.
Then came the mini recession in the late 80s and companies started using fewer freelancers. They brought almost all jobs on premises to save money and hold the rights to an artist’s work. An entire stable of freelancers in the area found themselves out of work. Recognizing this, employers seized the opportunity to offer minimum wage to people who formerly earned between $20 and $30 an hour. Most were offered part time work. Many employers engaging in this practice would brag about how they had former New York art directors working for them for $9 an hour.

And of course, no health insurance.

Fortunately I found a full time job and was happily employed until we lost our largest client, a big department store. I was the most recent hire and therefore, the one to go. My boss was grief stricken to have to let me go. I was a good worker. But it was the fair thing to do.
I was out of work and began suffering gall bladder attacks. I managed to pay for the scans. With no insurance, I would curl up in bed until the pain stopped. A kind doctor gave me pain killers to manage it. She called in the mornings to see if I was alright. The only way into a hospital, as she explained, was to be brought in on an ambulance with my life in danger. I had to find another job as quickly as possible.
I found a job at The Record newspaper. A year later I went in for surgery and that suffering ended. I would work full time at The Record for 10 years until I was laid off. I got some severance and I signed up for COBRA. During that time, it paid for three breast biopsy and my doctor visits for my diabetes. But then COBRA ran out and so did most of my savings.
I barely made rent and spent days, and then months, and then 2 years searching for any kind of insurance I could use. Yes, you could get insurance in New Jersey with a pre-existing condition, but there was a catch–the insurance company would not pay for any health problem that might be related to your pre-existing condition for a year. So there you would be, paying almost unaffordable monthly premiums and getting nothing for it. You see, almost any health problem could be attributed to diabetes. I asked them about it and they told me right to my face that was indeed the case. Nothing would be covered for a year.
When you don’t go to a doctor for a while, they stop renewing your medication. I was a diabetic with no medication and no money to pay a doctor’s fee. I became sicker and sicker. Finally one day, I felt like I was dying. I frantically searched and found an Urgent Care type of place that was sore like a doctor’s office. it only charged $89 a visit no matter what they did for you. There I met Dr. Nunez. She was wonderful. My blood sugar was so high, it was hospital time, but without insurance, she kept me there the whole day, slowly reducing my blood sugar with insulin. She also discovered I had a bad yeast infection. Sshe prescribed all the medication I needed and gave me good advice. She was my angel.
Then I started having cramps and bleeding. It wasn’t stopping. I knew I had fibroids, but it seemed like my stomach was larger. I began to fear the worst. Dr. Nunez, gave me an internal and a pap which was negative. That was a relief, but I knew I was in danger. Soon after that, the office stopped their $89 policy and I was on my own again.
I started freelancing for The Record and then was hired part time, but still no insurance. I found a site on line with hundreds of pages of people who had lost their family and friends to terminal illness or who were themselves dying with no hope of healthcare. I began to fear I might become one of them.
I called hospital after hospital to join a clinic. They were mostly full and my earnings were just a tad over the maximum admission rate. When I called a woman at the Valley Hospital Clinic and explained my situation, she screamed, “YOU HAVE CANCER!!!” I asked what to do. She told me in a nasty voice to go to Planned Parenthood like the girls do. So I went. I still was in pain and bleeding.
They were very kind to me at Planned Parenthood. To my surprise there were all kinds of people in the waiting room, young and old, men and women, an elderly couple holding hands. I paid on their sliding scale. They gave me an internal despite the blood and pain and paid for the tests. The Pap smear was still negative. They suggested Holy Name Hospital. I called. Their clinic was full. No room at the inn. But Planned Parenthood gave me excellent advice about getting tests done in imaging places. If you pay cash, they will cut your price as much as half their rate. They gave me a list of all such places.

The Incredible Insurance Scam:
I again began my desperate search for insurance. Then I found something. The American Trade Association. Now I knew There were trade associations, mostly located out West, that groups of small companies joined to provide lower insurance costs to their employers. This must be one of them, I thought. But then I smelled something foul. After a month I received no papers or cards.
After searching, they turned out to be bogus. Many people had joined, and patients and doctors were scammed out of payments. One man’s wife ran up $90,000 in medical bills before her death, until he discovered that none of it was covered. I began collecting as much information as possible about these people. They moved around using many different names and locations. I managed to get my money back by calling them on the fraud. Since I worked for a newspaper, I presented the editor with a huge pile to papers to back the whole scam up. All I cared about was that some unfortunate, unrealizing person would be scammed like this:


They were caught. But still, I had no insurance. I prayed for Obamacare to come through.

The bleeding got worse. The one day, I was in a public bathroom and had some kind of hemorrhage and there was blood everywhere. I was alone and frantically cleaned it all up. I just finished when I woman walked in. I turned so she wouldn’t see the blood all over my hands and forearms. I had begun to feel that something was growing inside of me. I went to Holy Name ER the next day.
After testing, they decided I wasn’t in danger (you have to be in danger for them to keep you) and they sent me home. I had taken so many iron pills that I barely registered anemia. It’s a myth that ERs abutomatically take you into the hospital for advanced treatment. They do their best, sometimes no more than a bandage, and send you home if your life isn’t threaten. So it goes.

As soon as I heard it was coming in I registered. I had no problem getting it and I started paying my monthly fees. At first it was hard to get a gynecologist or hospital that would take the coverage, but thanks to a good doctor and Holy Name Hospital, I got my help. The doctor said my uterus was the size of a melon and filled with large fibroids, one of which had nearly grown out of me. They couldn’t do a pap, so she decided to do old fashioned surgery where she cut and removed it all a once. Yes, there was cancer, but it was slow growing and basically encapsulated.

Obamacare had saved my life.

Two months later when testing, they found a series of blood clots in my lung. They took me right in and saved the day. No problem getting help. I had another large embolism where my lungs filled with emboli, but now I had Medicare and there was no problem. Most people don’t understand what it’s like to know you have a life threatening problem but can do nothing for it. It’s an unending nightmare. I would sit at work and hear other people say they had a sore throat and would be going to see the doctor. I used to think how wonderful it would be if I could do the same. How I wish everyone could do the same.

Now I see that the GOP wants to end Obamacare. How I dread the thought of so many people suffering without health care and beginning to die again Something has to be done before it’s too late. We are our brother’s keeper no matter what excuse these people might have.

Solder: A Love Story

It would happen on a Sunday afternoon when everyone was relaxed and engaged in some sort of activity. If there was something to be fixed my mom would pull out her soldering iron and get ready to work her magic. The iron would be plugged in and gently settled in its little stand made of stained wood with a small coil of wire affixed to the top side. The can of flux would be opened and she would sit and look at the loose connection waiting for repair as the iron warmed.

As my brother and I waited she would tell us stories about her job at Bendix, proudly speaking of how she had worked on wiring the guidance control systems for the Saturn rockets. It was just the beginning of those space dreams born of all those science fiction novels and movies. She was so proud of doing her share. She wanted to see it happen more than anything, just the idea would make her blue eyes sparkle.

We were 50s kids fed on “The Day the Earth Stood Still” and “Earth vs. The Flying Saucers.” Wernher von Braun was our idol as well as writers like Willie Ley. We dressed in 50s fashion, mom in her house dress, Bob and I in shorts and shirts, my hair curly and his in a crew cut. We belonged to our time.

Mom would check the iron one last time and it was indeed hot enough.

This process fascinated us. She would take the iron up and dip it in the flux. There would be a brief sizzle and she would hold the iron against her coil of solder and the silvery, mercury-like bubble would form. It would be just right…just the proper size…and she would pull back from the shiny little mound of metal and whatever was broken would be working once more. I was 8 years old, my brother was 6 and we were probably the only kids in our classes who knew how to solder a perfect connection.

I would sit and dream and draw and read whatever science books and science fiction I could find. Bob would do the same. He would take anything that was being thrown away and take it apart, always surprising us by somehow knowing how everything worked.

It wouldn’t be long before the whole family would stand outside at night in 1962 and watch Telstar pass overhead with many an oooh and aaaah. It was only seven years later when my mom sat with us and watched Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. She had stayed home from work that day and we all sat together, her eyes filling with tears as she watched.

Bob and I studied art and I went on to make it my business. He went for a job soldering boards for an electronic music company. He couldn’t leave electronic books alone and then discovered the beginnings of computers. One after another little basic machines entered the house only to become undone and disemboweled when their usefulness ended. He learned and taught himself day and night. He managed a CAD department and then he did systems work.

I spent a good deal of my time drawing schematics for electronic magazines. I would sit and draw, rerouting wiring to fill the space, using my Leroy lettering and electronic component guide to keep all the elements consistent. When a connection would occur in the drawing I would take the proper size circle template and draw the little “solder dot.” I would fill in this little pool of black and think lovingly of those Sunday afternoons watching the little silvery bubble and remembering the warm smell of the hot iron.

I never got tired of doing the work, just as my mother never got tired of wiring and soldering, or my brother never tired of endlessly puttering. It was the process. The Tao of the end is in the Tao of the means. The process is an act of love. It was the love for the work that put us on the moon; the same love that built this little machine I am typing this column on now; the same love that will take us to worlds unknown and produce seemingly unimaginable realizations of our dreams.

My brother sat at his computer table surrounded by piles of programming books and floppies, drinking his now cold coffee, a cigarette smoldering in the ashtray. He would work on a program, check out some software, do a drawing, and then go on Compuserve. It was all new then.

He was filled with the pride of having worked on developing a digital imaging system that would be used by NASA, cherishing the “thank you” letter he had received. Like my mother, it was his way of briefly touching the stars. He would stand with his daughters under the starry sky and share his sense of wonder and magic that was the universe. He would see the dream–the sci-fi dream–the infinite possibilities of cyberspace, the Web of Indra, the many jewels on the burgeoning Net.

As he sat and worked he looked into this magical kingdom, but by his side, just to the right, he would always keep the little stained block of wood with the coil on top where the old iron had been placed lovingly in its cradle. A spool of solder sat at its side holding the small silvery memory of that distant bubble in time.

My mother, Vera Kroenke, passed on to other dreams in December of 1983. My brother Robert did the same on March 15, 1997. Their dreams live on in the many people they’ve left behind. May we all someday touch the stars.


The Book of Michael Caine

This is here because I can’t find anywhere to send it. Perhaps someone will read it and pass it on…

Hi Michael,

This all started with a book on mosaics. I had been laid-off from work and was looking to fulfill my last required purchase in a book club when I found a book on mosaics. I became fascinated with the art form. Being broke at the time, I spent months begging around for stained glass, broken pottery, and tools. When I finally had what I needed I went at it like the hammers of hell, learning and working at the craft on my own. Well, maybe I went a bit too crazy when one night I realized I needed to take a break and set my mind on something else. I decided to rent a dollar movie at The Redbox. The only thing that looked like it might do the job was what looked like a vigilante film called “Harry Brown”. Thinking it would be another Charles Bronson kind of deal I took it home.

I was surprised. It was nothing like I thought it would be–so sad with a character filled with sorrow and regret in the midst of the need for righteous vengeance. There was a whole lot more going on here than I expected–there was so much feeling coming from you that I wondered what was going on. I returned the film and it haunted me for a few days. I went over to the library and found a copy there. I took it out again and watched the commentaries. It was then that I knew why the role had so much feeling in it. I had learned about your background and decided to look further.

I began watching all the interviews on the Internet. I had no idea there would be so many of them. I was impressed by all the storytelling and self-effacing humor, all the impersonators, the TV skits–it just went on and on. I thought, this guy is cool, I’m going to learn more about him…

Now, what I remembered about this Michael Caine guy came from the time my mother took me to see Zulu for my birthday. Knowing how I loved action movies with battle scenes she hit it right on the head that film. There we were, watching this movie on the biggest screen I think I’ve ever seen. We loved it. When we were leaving she asked me how I liked it. I told her that it was great but I didn’t like that blonde guy because was so arrogant and obnoxious. She said, but Janie, he pulled through and fought bravely with all the other men. I told her that was true but I was sure when he went home he would revert back to the same old person. Mom assured me that he wouldn’t.

I later saw you in “Alfie” which I felt to be both funny and sad (I felt sorry for him), and then later in “Educating Rita.” Now I could really relate to “Educating Rita”, having spent most of my life as a teacher’s pet and having a number of mentors throughout my life. But that was it–my total experience with the work of Michael Caine–and oh yes, I remember I was developing photo prints one day and there you were on the cover of the Ilford print package. I wondered what your portrait was doing there. I figured you probably needed to make a few bucks.

So next I read your autobiographies…

I could relate to a lot of the things that happened in your youth. My mother would send me to the door or have me answer the phone when the debt collectors came around. I hated it, it was really uncomfortable, especially when they would say that they knew my parents were there and I’d better put them on the phone. I grew up in a neighborhood that was like a real life Fellini film. Crazy, crazy–sometimes a little dangerous, at times scary and sometimes very sad.

But no matter what happened back in those days, there was one thing my family loved more than anything, and that was the movies. From my early years we would watch movies from the thirties and forties. My parents would talk about all the old actors and actresses. My mom and I would watch “Wuthering Heights”, “Mildred Pierce” and all those classic woman’s films. My father and I would watch adventure films. He loved Errol Flynn, I loved Basil Rathbone. We would watch “Captain Blood”, “The Adventures of Robin Hood” and the like whenever they came on. My side always lost, Flynn always won, of course. LOLOLOL

What was so important to me about your autobiographies as I read them was the idea that the art of acting was so interwoven with your life. Your books are full of descriptions of how you approached your art–how you grew with it and developed in it. In fact, after your autobiographies I read your book “Acting in Film” and watched the video as well.

So I guess you’re probably wondering what I got from all of this since I am not involved in acting at all.

First of all, my best friend has been involved in local theater for years and it enabled me to understand her work even better than before. Even though theater is different, I picked up enough to be more knowledgeable in our conversations. It didn’t make us better or closer friends, that was not possible since we were like sisters, but it brought a richness to our discussions.

Second, your approach to your work is very much like that of a visual artist or a fine craftsman. I realize that your mind and body, sense of observation and internalization and externalization of your character is the essence of your work. Now recognized them as your tools. When you talk about how you check the props on the set and carefully measure your steps for long, medium and close up shots, I recognize the tremendous care you take in your work. This was very inspiring. I had never read an autobiography of an actor that was so giving of their craft. I found it to be very generous indeed.

Sometimes it’s a good idea, when you are involved in a craft, to look for your inspiration outside of whatever craft you’ve chosen. This keeps you from creating work that looks like what other people are doing and that way your work remains your own. I’ve seen enough of artists whose work was so like their teacher that you can recognize exactly who taught them. No good.

So through all of this as I smashed glass and twisted jewelry apart I decided that the only way to really know Michael Caine’s body of work was to start watching the films. No book of photographs could do it justice so I started renting from the libraries. I decided I would watch what I called, “The Book of Michael Caine”…

The cooperative library system here includes over a hundred libraries from which I can order whatever I want. As time went on and I rented your films, I would come to value the poorer libraries more and more because they still kept some of their old VHS tapes and that was where I would find the old Michael Caine films. The town librarians would get a real charge out of my mission and smile as they held up yet another one that had arrived.

I watched one or two of your movies a week. I can say, at this point in time, that the Book of Michael Caine has had over 120 pages for me and surprisingly it’s been quite an education. I’d never seen most of these films. I didn’t know they existed. I’d never seen any of the Harry Palmer films or “Get Carter” or “Mona Lisa” or any other films of the Social Realism school. I watched the attitudes towards women change in your films. I saw films on racism as well as anti-war films. In a sense, it was like watching a study in Social History. Some films were obviously close to your heart, some very commercial, a few a bit more artsy (and some, forgive me, outright porkers–but we have to put food on the table.).

I will say this though, from what I saw no matter how bad the film might have been, you never short-changed the people who hired you. Many people will go see a films just to see you and sometimes it can be the only bright moment they will get for an hour and a half.

Again, it was hard to imagine how many of these films were totally unknown to me. Of course, a lot of it was because I would devote myself to foreign and art films or else the new science fiction films. I suffered from terminal hipness over the years and simply would not watch any of these films. But that’s OK, I’ve seen them now.

Well, I expect you will continue to make films no matter what you say about retiring. I can easily see you going into your 90s. One day I expect to be at work and have somebody yell, “Hey Janet, come check it out, the Oscars are doing a tribute to Michael Caine.” And we’ll all be watching and trying to keep from missing our deadline. LOLOLOL

Thank you for the inspiration and all your uncompromising excellence over the years..

Sincerely and with Best Wishes,
Janet D. Kroenke

My website: www.jdkroenke.com

My email: jdkroenke@optimum.net

Raining Star small

I will share what I’ve been doing:

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Janet Kroenke’s Blog

That’s it, yes, this is my blog. Welcome. I will fill it with my artwork. I will tell stories of my crazy old neighborhood that could have passed as a Fellini film. I will admire the people who mean or have meant something to me in my life. Also, being part of the lower end of the 99%, some of my experiences and resulting opinions may just possibly anger you. Fine with me. So here it comes. First, have some art: “Stravinsky”, painted in the early 80s while listening to the composer…


Here is my latest Mosaic/Construction: “The Raining Star”:Raining Star small

Here is one of my Digital Art pieces called “Weather Watch”:weather watch

My website: www.jdkroenke.com

My email: jdkroenke@optimum.net