How to Submit a Claim for Reimbursement to Medicare or Other Insurance for Out-of-Pocket Expenses Due to the Hack and Cyberattack on Change Healthcare

How to Submit a Claim for Reimbursement to Medicare for Out-of-Pocket Expenses Due to the Hack and Cyber Attack Change Healthcare

Thousands of people on Medicare (and other insurances) are still being affected by the hack and cyberattack on Change Healthcare, which happened, mind you, in February 2024 and which has resulted in pharmacies being unable to submit prescriptions and services such as vaccinations to Medicare (and, again, other insurances), and thousands of people across the U.S. having to either pay out of pocket for prescriptions and vaccinations, or do without. If you’ve had to pay out of pocket for a prescription or vaccination or booster because of this, here’s how to submit a claim for reimbursement to Medicare. It’s almost certainly the same for other insurance carriers as well, except they will have a different claim form and/or submission process.

If you need to submit the claim specifically to Medicare (versus a different insurance carrier) be sure to read the second part of this, which explains exactly how to submit a claim for reimbursement to Medicare because, like everything else associated with Medicare, they have made it needlessly and ridiculously complicated, so there is a plain English explanation of what you need to do for Medicare along with links to what you need.

What You Need from the Pharmacy in Order to Submit a Claim for Reimbursement Because the Pharmacy Couldn’t Submit Your Prescription to Medicare or Your Insurance Because of the Change Healthcare Hack

First, of course, you need an itemized receipt.

But second, and importantly, you need a note from the pharmacy saying the following:

Patient name:
Pharmacy name:

Please be advised that (pharmacy name) was unable to process this prescription or service to submit to (Medicare / insurance carrier) because of the inability to connect to the prescription processing system owing to the ongoing malfunctioning of the system resulting from the hack and cyberattack on Change Healthcare.

(signed, Pharmacist)

What You Need to Submit Your Claim to Medicare for Reimbursement of Your Prescription

First, a little bit of Medicare craziness: You may think that vaccinations would be submitted under your Medicare Part D (remember, D is for drugs). You would be wrong. Your friendly pharmacist has to submit vaccinations (such as a Covid booster) under your Medicare Part B. If you have, instead, an Advantage plan (Part C) well, all bets are off. (Read my Plain English Explanation of Medicare and How and How Not to Sign Up here for plain English explanations of all of the various parts, and why you do not want you or a loved one to sign up for “Advantage” plans here.)

To submit a claim for reimbursement to Medicare you need Medicare form CMS-1490S “PATIENT’S REQUEST FOR MEDICAL PAYMENT” (link to that form below, but read the rest of this first).

On form CMS-1490S you MUST check “The provider or supplier is unable to file a claim for the Medicare Covered Services” as the reason for submitting the claim for reimbursement. If you check either of the other two reasons, or if you don’t check any of them, your claim will be rejected.

How to Submit a Claim for Reimbursement to Medicare for Out-of-Pocket Expenses Due to the Hack and Cyber Attack Change Healthcare

Now, once you have form CMS-1490S filled out, you need to submit it. Here is something that may blow your mind: did you know that you don’t submit Medicare claims for reimbursement directly to Medicare? If you, like many others, have never yet had occasion to submit a claim for reimbursement to Medicare, then when you start reading the claim form (info on that in a moment) and come across the instructions which say “Send the completed form and supporting documentation to your Medicare contractor” you may, understandably say, “WTF?,” followed by “How the hell do I find that??”

Well, form CMS-1490S consists of three pages of actual form that you need to fill out and submit, and fifteen pages of advisements, instructions, and other information. Somewhere around page seven is a list of all of the various Medicare contractors who handle claims regarding vaccinations and other Part B stuff for all of the various states. That list is itself 5 pages long. In addition, you can find the actual list of Medicare contractors at the following link, because why trust a form that was printed a while ago when you can check the actual live list that, one would hope, is most up-to-date? Plus, the linked list will give you the contractors in your state for all Medicare services (Part A, Part B, and the Home Health and Hospice services contractor); the list attached to form CMS-1490S is only for being reimbursed for Part B issues.

Link to live list of all Medicare contractors by state

Where to Download Medicare form CMS-1490s

Download Medicare form CMS-1490s here:

Download Medicare form CMS-1490s

How to Pay Your Medicare Premium Online and How to Set Up Medicare Autopay

How to Pay Your Medicare Premium Online and How to Set Up Medicare Autopay

Do you know where to make your Medicare premium payment? If you are wondering how to view your Medicare bill online, how to pay your Medicare bill online, or how to set up autopay (which is called ‘Medicare Easy Pay’) for your Medicare bill, here’s how. (First, wondering “why is my first medicare bill so high?” It’s because they often bill the first two months together.)

Now this is specifically how to pay your premiums for Medicare Part A and Part B. Of course, it’s quite possible (even likely) that you won’t have a premium for Medicare part A, but you are likely to have a premium for Medicare part B (because having read this you know better than to sign up for Medicare Advantage rather than Part B). So when you first sign up for Medicare you will get a premium bill of some sort, and here is how to pay it online, and how to set it up for autopay.

[For more information on Medicare see my articles Medicare Explained in Plain English & How and Where to Sign Up for Medicare, as well as How and Where to Find Your Medicare Number When You Don’t Have Your Card]

Once again, the Federal government has not made it particular intuitive in terms of how and where to pay your Medicare bill online, or how to set up autopay for which, of course, the Feds have created a whole new, non-intuitive term, “Medicare Easy Pay”. Fortunately once you know where to look, you will find all of your payment options in one place, so at least there’s that.

Now if you like to go paperless – or at least to attempt to go paperless by signing up for electronic payment and then just for the most part ignoring paper bills – you’ll be happy to know that Medicare not only makes it relatively easy, but that there’s an added incentive: their bills come with payment coupons! Holy 1970s, Batman! When was the last time that you had to deal with that??

How to Pay Your Medicare Premium Bill

As they explain it on the Medicare site, once you find it (link below), there are basically four ways that you can pay your Medicare premium bill. You can:

  1. Pay online
  2. Sign up for Medicare Easy Pay (their autopay option)
  3. Pay by direct bank withdrawal (also known as ACH, which stands for ‘Automated Clearing House’, which is the financial network that processes electronic payments)
  4. Send a credit card, check, or money order via USPS

Here’s how they explain it:

1. Pay online through your secure Medicare account (fastest way to pay).

Log into (or create) your secure Medicare account to use this free service to pay by credit card, debit card, or from your checking or savings account.

2. Sign up for Medicare Easy Pay.

With this free service, we’ll automatically deduct your premium payments from your savings or checking account each month.

3. Pay directly from your savings or checking account through your bank’s online bill payment service

Some banks charge a service fee.

4. Mail your payment to Medicare.

Pay by check, money order, credit card, or debit card. Fill out the payment coupon at the bottom of your bill, and include it with your payment.

If you’re paying by credit or debit card, be sure to complete and sign the coupon. If you don’t sign the coupon, we can’t process your payment and it will be returned to you.

Where to Pay Your Medicare Premium Bill or Set Up Medicare Easy Pay (Autopay)

How and Where to Pay Your Medicare Premium Online

It all starts with logging in to your Medicare account, which you can do at

Paying a single Medicare premium bill:

Once you are logged in you can go directly to the premium payment link here:

The above link will give you payment options using credit and debit cards (including HSA cards), and direct withdrawal from your bank account (ACH).

Signing up for Medicare Easy Pay (autopayments):

To sign up for Medicare autopay, which Medicare calls ‘Medicare Easy Pay’, go here:

Pay by U.S. Mail

If you want to send a check, money order, or credit or debit card information by the USPS, you must have received your payment coupon book from Medicare in the mail, and you must include the payment coupon. Then mail your payment, along with the filled out coupon, to:

Medicare Premium Collection Center
PO Box 790355
St. Louis, MO 63179-0355

How to Pay Your Medicare Premium Online and How to Set Up Medicare Autopay

How and When to Sign Up for Social Security Demystified and What if You Keep Working? a Plain English Explanation

How and When to Sign Up for Social Security Benefits Demystified: a Plain English Explanation

How does continuing to work while collecting Social Security benefits affect how much Social Security you will receive? And what is the difference between “normal Social Security retirement age” and “full Social Security retirement age” and “delayed Social Security retirement age”? And why does the Federal government have to make senior benefits like Medicare and Social Security seem so freaking complicated when it’s actually pretty straight-forward?

Well, much like I have done with my Medicare explained in plain English and my Medicaid for the elderly explained in plain English, I’m going to explain in plain English how still working and earning while collecting Social Security impacts your Social Security benefits and how much you receive, as well as how your choice of when you start collecting your Social Security benefits impacts how much you receive.

NOTE: This articles deals only with regular monthly Social Security payments to the original wage earner, not spouse or survivor benefits. In other words only to your collecting your Social Security benefits based on your earnings that you earned yourself over the course of your life. Also, this article has simplified some things which may actually be a little more complex, such as how the Social Security Administration calculates paying back withheld benefits. However, it does explain in plain English enough to get you to a place where you understand your options, which is my goal in writing it.

How Your Age When You Start Getting Social Security Affects the Amount You Will Receive

We’re starting with the age part of the equation because it’s the most straight-forward (although how continuing to work affects how much Social Security you will collect is really only slightly less straight-forward).

The reason it seems so complicated is that there are three different age events which impact how much you will receive and which, in fact, will lock in how much you receive for the rest of your life. The bottom line here is that the longer that you delay collecting Social Security the higher will be your benefits once you do start collecting them.

Age Event #1: Turning 62

You are entitled to start collecting Social Security payments when you turn 62. However this will lock in the very lowest monthly payment, forever.

Age Event #2: Reaching “Normal or Full Retirement Age”

This is where the Federal government starts the torturing of senior citizens by confusingly using two different terms for the exact same thing! And then adding acronyms to boot. So let’s get this straight right now:

For the purposes of collecting Social Security “full retirement age” (also referred to as ‘FRA’) and “normal retirement age” (also referred to as ‘NRA’) are the exact same thing. They are just 4 – count ’em, 4 – different terms which all mean “the age at which you are entitled to collect your full Social Security benefits”. (Except it really isn’t, at least not for the regular definition of “full”, as you can still collect even more, which we’ll get to in a minute, and that’s why for the rest of this article we will use the term “normal retirement age” for age event #2).

Most people think of normal retirement age as being 65, but for purposes of Social Security normal retirement age is 66, plus a certain number of months (how many months depends on when you were born), unless you were born in 1960 or later, in which case your normal retirement age is 67. At least it’s 67 as of the time of this writing (this is being written in April of 2023).

Here’s how it breaks down:

If you were born in or before 1954, your normal retirement age is 66.
If you were born in 1955 your normal retirement age is 66 plus 2 months.
If you were born in 1956 your normal retirement age is 66 plus 4 months.
If you were born in 1957 your normal retirement age is 66 plus 6 months.
If you were born in 1958 your normal retirement age is 66 plus 8 months.
If you were born in 1959 your normal retirement age is 66 plus 10 months.
If you were born in 1960 or after your normal retirement age is 67.

If you elect to start collecting Social Security when you reach your normal retirement age you will lock in the ‘normal retirement age’ amount for the rest of your life.

Age Event #3: Turning 70 also known as “Delayed Retirement”

If you choose not to start collecting Social Security when you reach your ‘normal retirement age’ of 66+, and put it off completely until you turn 70, you will collect an amount greater (sometimes far greater) than the ‘normal retirement’ amount. Turning 70 is the last age event that impacts how much you will receive every month for your Social Security benefits, and is known as “delayed retirement”. Turning 70 locks in the highest amount possible.

As an example, in the chart below, taken from someone’s actual Social Security account, if this person started collecting Social Security at their ‘normal retirement age’ of 66 and 8 months, they would collect $2929 per month. However, if they wait another 3 years and 4 months, when they will turn 70, they will collect $3710 per month. While we can’t see what they would have collected at age 62, we can see that at age 65 they would collect $2603 per month.

How and When to Sign Up for Social Security Benefits Demystified: a Plain English Explanation

So at What Age Should You Start Collecting Social Security Benefits?

While simply waiting until age 70, if you can, may seem like a no-brainer, it’s not quite that simple. You have to make an educated guess as to how long you plan to be around. If you think that you will live well past 70, and if you can afford to wait, it may make sense for you to wait until you are 70 to start collecting Social Security. On the other hand, if you really need the money sooner, or if your life expectancy is limited, it may make more sense to collect sooner.

And that’s even before we get to whether you want to or need to continue working and earning income while you are collecting Social Security.

How Continuing to Work Affects How Much Social Security You’ll Get

The second thing that the Federal government makes oh-so-confusing is how your Social Security benefits (i.e. the amount you’ll receive) are affected if you continue to work (in other words continue to earn an income) while receiving Social Security. In fact, they make it crazy confusing, explaining it in many different ways, sometimes even on the same page.

They Say “Deduction”, We Say “Penalty”

How much you will be penalized (and let’s face it, no matter that the Social Security Administration calls it a “deduction” from your Social Security benefits, it’s actually a penalty for those who choose to or need to keep on working) depends on how much you earn and also on whether or not you have reached your ‘normal retirement age’ (aren’t you glad we explained normal retirement age first?) This is true regardless of whether the income is paid to you by someone else (i.e. wages) or through self-employment.

Now, while we call it a penalty, it isn’t a true penalty in as much as eventually you get it back. So maybe we should really call it “the Federal government ‘borrowing’ money from you which they will pay back eventually. Without interest.” As the AARP explains, “What Social Security does instead is increase your benefit when you reach full retirement age to account for the previous withholding.”

Call it a ‘withholding’, call it a ‘deduction’, call it a ‘penalty’, whatever you call it, it’s money that is yours which you aren’t receiving, nor getting interest on when you get it back, even though you could be earning interest on it if it weren’t being made unavailable to you.

The Good News

Here’s the good news: once you reach your normal retirement age (i.e. 66 plus some number of months unless you were born before 1954 (then it’s 66) or in 1960 or after (then it’s 67)) then you can work as much as you want, and earn as much as you want, and it will not impact your Social Security payments at all; you will still get the full amount of Social Security. So the deductions that penalize you for working while collecting Social Security are only for those who continue to work or otherwise earn an income and who are below age 66.

The Bad News

The bad news is that if you are also working and otherwise earning additional income, there is a good chance that you will have to pay income tax on a portion (up to 85%) of your Social Security along with your other income. Yes, the Feds giveth and the Feds taketh away.

The Annual Earnings Test

The first thing that you need to know about the ‘Annual Earnings Test’ (or “AET”, because they have to acronymize everything) is that it’s not really a test. It’s a calculation, and is used to calculate how much of your Social Security you are not going to receive if you have not yet attained ‘normal retirement age’ (i.e. are under age 66ish), and you continue to work while receiving regular Social Security.

The second thing that you need to know is that even though you get monthly payments from the Social Security Administration, the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) actually does almost everything (such as calculations, withholdings, etc.) based on annual amounts. So, for example, if you are getting monthly Social Security payments of $1000 a month, the Social Security Administration actually considers and calls that “$12,000 a year” – they just send it to you in nice monthly chunks.

The third thing that you need to know is that there is a difference between collecting Social Security while also working during years in which you will be below your ‘normal retirement age’ for the entire year, and collecting Social Security while also working during the year in which you will attain your ‘normal retirement age’. This is because once you attain your ‘normal retirement age’ you will no longer be penalized.

How the Annual Earnings Test Works

If You Will Not Reach Your ‘Normal Retirement Age’ During the Year

If you have not yet reached your ‘normal retirement age’, and will not reach your ‘normal retirement age’ during the current year, and you choose to start receiving Social Security benefits and you are still earning an income, you are allowed to earn (in 2023) $21,240 from your job before you start getting penalized. For every $2 you earn above $21,240 you will be penalized $1 out of your annual Social Security amount. This is based on what you earn annually, which you will report to the Social Security Administration.

Example: You earn $22,240 in 2023, which is $1000 above the “won’t get penalized” earnings limit. For every $2 you have earned that is above the limit your annual Social Security benefits will be reduced by $1, so in other words in this example you will have $500 ($1 for every $2 that you earned over the limit) deducted from your total annual Social Security payments.

Important: They don’t amortize it across your monthly payments; they stop sending you payments at all until the withholding of $1 for every $2 that you earned over the limit is satisfied.

If You Will Reach Your ‘Normal Retirement Age’ During the Current Year

If you are going to reach your ‘normal retirement age’ during the current year, then two things change:

1. The amount you are allowed to earn before you penalized with money being deducted from your Social Security payments goes up substantially (to $56,520 for 2023; that’s quite a jump from $21,240); and

2. Instead of you being penalized $1 for every $2 you earn over the limit, you are penalized $1 for every $3 you earn over the limit.

In addition, as soon as you reach your ‘normal retirement age’ the penalty ceases and you start getting the full amount of Social Security, plus a repayment added to your monthly benefit to account for the money they took because you were earning over the limit while you were below the ‘normal retirement age’.


As a reminder, this article has simplified some things which may actually be a little more complex, such as how the Social Security Administration calculates paying back withheld benefits. However, it does explain in plain English enough to get you to a place where you understand your options, which is my goal in writing it.

To check on what your benefits are or will be, and to sign up for Social Security to start accessing your benefits, go to

How and Where to Find Your Medicare Number When You Don’t Have Your Card

where how to find medicare number featured image

If you are newly signed up for Medicare you may be wondering how and where to find your Medicare number, especially if you don’t have your Medicare card yet. You know that you must have a Medicare number, because you were accepted into the Medicare plan and even received an email saying you are now enrolled in Medicare and that your card is on its way to you. The thing is, you need your Medicare number in order to enroll in either a Medicare supplemental plan, or a Medicare Advantage plan, and you also need your Medicare number to enroll in Part D (‘D is for Drugs’, just like on Sesame Street).

(If you are not yet super-familiar with Medicare parts versus Medicare plans, supplemental Medicare plans, Medicare Advantage, and all the rest, you need to be, and that’s exactly why I put together this plain English explanation of Medicare and how to sign up for Medicare. Of course if you’re trying to figure out how to find your Medicare number, you’re probably already through with all of that, and have already signed up for Medicare, and been approved.)

The way that you know that you were accepted for Medicare is that you got a note from the Social Security Administration saying something like “Your Submission Status Has Been Updated. You can check the status of your submission online with your personal my Social Security account.”

This may confuse you because you applied for Medicare, not social security, and the link in the notice doesn’t even go to, it goes to, which is the Social Security Administration website. Medicare has its own website, so why would information about your Medicare application be on a different website?

See, this is your first mistake. Trying to make sense out of any of it. You’ll drive yourself crazy.

Here’s how to find your Medicare number once you are accepted into Medicare but before you receive your card.

How to Find Your Medicare Number

1. Log into your SSA account here.

2. Once logged in look for something that looks like this part-way down the page, and find the link to “Your Benefit Verification Letter”.

where how to find medicare number

3. This will take you, not to your benefits verification letter as you might have thought, but to a new page with another link to “Your Benefit Verification Letter”. This time the link is to the PDF of the actual letter, which should also have been mailed to your home.

4. Click on the link to the PDF, and voila!

The letter will say something like:

You asked us for information from your record. The information that you requested is shown below. If you want anyone else to have this information, you may send them this letter.

Medicare Information

You are entitled to hospital insurance under Medicare beginning {Date it begins}.
You are entitled to medical insurance under Medicare beginning {Date it begins}.
Your Medicare number is 1234567890. You may use this number to get medical
services while waiting for your Medicare card.

And that’s how you find your Medicare number.

Medicaid for the Elderly Explained in Plain English: When Medicare Won’t Cover Long Term Elder Care

Medicaid for the elderly explained in plain English

Did you know that if you have an elder parent who needs to get into a nursing home it is very likely that Medicare will not cover it? That means that you may very well need to get them onto Medicaid unless you are essentially independently wealthy, or they set up a long-term care insurance policy, or they have a huge retirement nest egg, as nursing homes cost several thousand dollars a month, as does home health care.

Of course, in order to qualify for Medicaid your elderly parent has to be essentially destitute. The vast majority of our elder parents (and we ourselves) are neither independently wealthy, nor completely destitute and so won’t qualify for Medicaid. This is why trying to get adequate care and placement for our elderly causes us to take out second mortgages, sell off the family home, and go deeply into debt.

After I published my post explaining Medicare in plain English, and how and where to sign up for Medicare, I was contacted by a good friend, whom I trust implicitly, with the following description, shared with their permission, of their experience trying to get an elderly parent into a nursing home when they are on Medicare, and the nightmare that is the Kafkaesque process of trying to get them onto Medicaid (which, again, you’ll need to do because while many nursing homes aren’t covered by Medicare, at least some accept Medicaid).

According to my friend, make no mistake about it: unless someone has and is prepared to pay many thousands of dollars a month, each and every month, for a nursing home, or for home health care, you will need to get them onto Medicaid before they can get into a nursing home. According to MoneyGeek my friend is exactly right, the average cost per year for a nursing home is about $90,000, 24/7 in-home care a whopping $175,000. And if your elderly parent is having memory problems then caring for them at home without the assistance of home health care can be very daunting and even dangerous, especially as the months pass and they decline.

Here is what my friend said, verbatim, other than to remove identifying information.

Your write up in Medicare was excellent. If you thought that was a mind bender consider Medicaid. This is important because nursing home care is not covered by Medicare. This comes up because with people living longer there are more people with dementia and also significantly debilitating non-neurological disorders. A nursing home can run on the order of $10K – $15K per month. There is talk about in-home care being less expensive. It is not. It can be more expensive for the same level of care. In addition, with the shortage of healthcare workers, in home care may not be available. Care for an elder who has dementia is not just about drugs, taking temperatures, and routine medical functions it’s also about feeding, bathing, and the other biological functions. This requires 24×7 level of help that is beyond most family members’ ability to provide without becoming highly self-destructive of the family member caregiver.

If your elder had a good long term care policy or they have sufficient wealth to cover years in a nursing home then they are very lucky. If they were poor from birth and never had any wealth (in the general sense like “savings”) then getting Medicaid is straight forward. But if your elder is in between those extremes then one has to “qualify” for Medicaid via an application and review process. We enlisted the help of an elder law attorney to assist us in the process which is paper work intensive (imagine trying to track down one’s father’s army discharge papers, or one’s mother’s birth certificate and naturalization papers, and financial details for the last five years, etc.). We have reached the point where all our paper work has been submitted and we are awaiting the outcome of the review process. But that glosses over aspects of Medicaid financial planning.

On top of all this we have a heath care system that is not prepared to deal with large numbers of boomers soon to have many needs. My mother is pre-boomer and 90 years old, and finding her a spot in a nursing home was a harrowing experience. At one point my mother was #10 on a wait list to get into a home. But what that really meant was that 10 people had to die to free up space. I should qualify the above by saying that we needed a home that would accept Medicaid and would not have my sister run home crying and emotionally distraught from the horrors she witnessed.

Keep in mind that “independent living”, “assisted living”, “memory care”, and nursing homes are not the same. My mother started at “independent living”. When her condition accelerated we moved her into memory care and when she started breaking bones and such she was in a hospital until a qualified care facility was available. And my mother’s Medicare Advantage plan tried to deny her coverage. But luckily the hospital’s interests and my mother’s were aligned so the hospital attorneys negotiated with United Healthcare and made what would have been a more that $170k bill be about $2k. {Editor’s note: None of the foregoing were nursing home care, which is why Medicare covered it.}

So getting back to Medicaid I would expect that many people will eventually need it. But the question is are they are prepared with the knowledge to successfully get through the application process?

My main advice to people is to consult with an elder law attorney that specializes in Medicaid planning and the Medicaid application process. If they have older parents, work with an elder law estate attorney on Medicare, Medicaid, estate, power of attorney, and health care directives and such. Advanced planning will make an emotional and broken process survivable.

BTW we are not yet approved for Medicaid. There is a very small but non-zero chance we can be denied coverage.

The fall back is where people try to take care of the elders themselves. For healthy elders this is not an issue. But for elders with dementia it’s almost impossible for non-wealthy people to provide a level of care that does not look like elder abuse. And one consequence is the monthly posts on Nextdoor of the latest elder that got out of the house and is missing. The last few elders in our area that went missing didn’t survive it.

An elder with no support system would be out on the street in many parts of the country. Some of this is state and city specific.

My sister is not in a condition to take my mother in. So I would have to do that. Not sure how I would juggle that and work and life. It would be crushing for the estimated 4-5 years of my mother’s estimated remaining life. BTW that’s a figure that becomes part of the Medicaid process.

Medicaid for the elderly explained in plain English

Frustrated by a Vibrating Noise and Vibration in Your RO Filter? This May Be It

Frustrated by a Vibrating Noise and Vibration in Your RO Filter? This May Be It

We just spent days and days trying to troubleshoot a fairly horrific vibration noise and vibrating, kind of like a chattering, in our under-sink reverse osmosis filter. We changed all the filters. We changed the auto shutoff valve, twice. We spent hours under the sink tracing the lines. Why did it vibrate so much more in the line to the overflow? And why, oh why, is there only one line to the tank when you both send water to and draw water from the tank? These were the questions in our minds, some of which are still unsolved mysteries. But the mystery of the vibration was cleared up, and it was a shockingly easy fix, especially considering all the time that we had spent trying to figure it out.

As you have probably guessed, it was only by a thorough (and I do mean thorough) process of elimination that we narrowed it down to the only other thing that it could be (other than, you know, replacing the entire system): the check valve.

How to Get Rid of the Vibration Noise and Vibration Coming from Your RO System

The check valve is one of the two elbow-shaped valves that are on one end of the housing that houses your membrane filter. According to, “The function of the check valve is to isolate the membrane from back pressure from the storage tank and to provide a solid wall for the shutoff valve to push against.”

reverse osmosis check valve

Put a slightly different way, (yeah, we don’t quite get the name either) explains that the check valve “is a one-way valve. It allows water to flow toward the drain pipe but prevents it from flowing backward toward the ro membrane. Its function is to prevent backflow into the RO unit in the event of a blocked drain pipe.”

Anyways, once we had, by the days-long, back-aching process of elimination, narrowed it down to the noise having to be caused either by the check valve or Zuul living in the RO system, we took a really good look at that check valve so that we could order the exact same one. Unlike the other various valves in the system, the check valve had a tiny stainless steel disk with a hole in the center of the disk at one end of the elbow.

Frustrated by a Vibrating Noise and Vibration in Your RO Filter? This May Be It

Now, that noise was driving me crazy(er), so I wanted to replace it (while uttering prayers, smudging, and sacrificing a rubber chicken – anything in the hope this would GET RID OF THAT EFFING NOISE!) as soon as possible. Well, the only place that we could find that had a check valve that looked exactly like the one in the picture, meaning with the stainless steel disk in the end, was this one place that would take several days to get it to me. On the other hand, Amazon had a complete membrane replacement kit, including the housing and the three valves that go on the membrane housing, and even an extra wrench, for just $14.99 and they could get it to me the next day. But while it included a check valve, there was no picture of the bottom (top?) of it to see if it had the stainless steel disk with the hole in the middle. Still, people with the same RO system as mine were saying that it worked although some reviews made it sound like it wasn’t exactly the same check valve, and did I mention that Amazon could get it to me the next day? So I did what any (in)sane person would do. I ordered the one that I knew was the right one. And then I ordered the kit from Amazon so that I could hopefully have some peace and quiet while waiting for the really, really right one to arrive. Because yes, by now I was willing to buy an entire extra kit to get that damned check valve, which I knew at least would fit and be a right one, even if it wasn’t the right one, because it was for a 4-state RO filter system just like mine.

Well, guess what. That check valve that came with that kit from Amazon has the stainless steel disk with the hole in the middle! Guess what else. It FIXED THE NOISE! Guess what else? When that other “right” check valve came, they had sent the wrong one, with no stainless steel disk!

Here is the link to the reverse osmosis membrane with check valve kit that I got from Amazon.

By the way, it’s super easy to change out that check valve. You just turn off the water to the system, and open your tap and drain it (so that water doesn’t spray everywhere when you change the valve). Then you pull the tube out of the old check valve, remove the old check valve by turning it counter-clockwise (it’s threaded – righty tighty, lefty loosey), and replace it with the new check valve. Don’t forget to put a bit of teflon tape on the threads!

Searches that led to this article: https://www mangemerde com/frustrated-by-a-vibrating-noise-and-vibration-in-your-ro-filter-this-may-be-it/,  

How to Recycle or Dispose of a Microwave in Colorado

how to recycle or dispose of a microwave in colorado boulder

If you’re wondering how to recycle or dispose of a non-working microwave in Colorado (and most especially in the area of Boulder, Colorado) well, you are not alone. And the good news is that it’s actually really easy to do. And that unlike appliance stores which will charge you to haul it away, the two ways to dispose of a broken microwave are free (well, actually one charges you $3, so nearly free)! Yay!

I recently had to try to figure out how to do this myself. Actually I’ve had to do it twice in the space of four years. No, I’m not particularly hard on microwaves; the built-in over-the-range microwave that came with my house was already old and well-loved, and when it died, I bought a used one on Craigslist (same exact model so that I knew it would fit). As it had already been used by two previous owners, I figured that I would have to replace it at some point, and I did. That said, that second one did last for more than 3 years of near-daily use, so no complaints there (that second one is the one in the picture).

This time there was no comparable one for sale on Craigslist, plus with being so very high risk for Covid I was hoping to order one online, and one that was the same model so, again, I knew it would fit and that it would use the same installation hardware. As it turned out, that exact model isn’t made any more, and the the one most like it (it included a convection oven) was waaaay more than I wanted to spend (especially as I had never once used the convection oven feature). However, the (sort of) same model sans convection oven was not only available, and much less costly, but it was on sale.

The new microwave on the way, I set about figuring out how to dispose of the old, non-functional one. Here’s the thing: If you have an appliance store come and install your new microwave, they will usually haul away the old one. They may do it for free – then again they may not. Best Buy, for example, charges $30 bucks to dispose of your old microwave. Of course, if you aren’t having an appliance store deliver and install your new microwave, that doesn’t help at all. And you are left trying to figure out how to get rid of the darned thing.

So you search and search online (that’s how you ended up here, right?), and find that there are places that you can take it to be recycled, such as the various dumps, but that they will charge you anywhere from $50 to $200(!) to accept your broken microwave.


Here are the two ways to dispose of a microwave for free in Colorado.

How to Recycle or Dispose of a Broken Microwave in Colorado

First, I assume that your old microwave doesn’t work. If it does work, then you can donate it to any one of a number of different charities, or charitable thrift stores such as Goodwill or ARC. Or if you can’t easily wrangle it to take it somewhere, post it for free on Nextdoor or Craigslist. Which brings me to my next point.

Remember that first non-working microwave that I replaced? I posted it on Craigslist, for free, making very clear that it was broken, and received a couple of different responses from people who wanted it! They knew it wasn’t working, I don’t know why they wanted it, maybe for parts, maybe they thought they could fix it. I really don’t know why they wanted it, but I was glad that they did, and one of them came and picked it up!

However if that doesn’t work, or if for some reason you don’t want to do that, the CHARM (Center for Hard-to-Recycle Materials) division of Ecocycle in Boulder will take it, and here’s the thing: if you came across them in your search, you will have noticed that on their “what we accept and what it costs” page, they don’t mention microwaves anywhere. They do list other appliances, with associated fees, but not microwaves. Some places on the Internet will tell you to take it to CHARM as a “small electronic”, for which they charge by the pound. But those places are WRONG (thank goodness, because microwaves are heavy, so that would be pretty pricey).

As it turns out, CHARM does take microwaves, and they classify them as scrap metal, for which there is no per-pound fee, the only fee you pay is the $3 entrance fee (which is per vehicle – woohoo, hop in the car, kids, we’re going on a very short road trip!) And, to be certain, here is an email exchange I had with an awesome CHARM Ecocycle employee:


Hi! Can you please help me understand what the protocol is for bringing in a non-functioning microwave? The information out there is kind of confusing, it *seems* like it’s considered scrap metal, and there is no per-pound charge, but I can’t imagine that’s actually right?

CHARMing employee:

Thank you for reaching out, sorry that this is confusing! Microwaves are indeed scrap metal! There is no facility fee and also no fee per pound. We just ask that you please remove the glass plate/turntable inside. This material is heat proof and will not melt, so it is not recyclable. You may use it as a saucer under your houseplants or hold onto it in case a future microwave plate breaks ?
Glad you asked!

So, how cool is that! :~)

RIP Dear Old Microwave!
how to recycle or dispose of a microwave in colorado boulder

How I Cured My Toenail Fungus: A Toenail Fungus Treatment that Works!

There is an actual toenail fungus treatment system that works, and I know, because I’ve used it (actually I kinda invented it). Back at the beginning of 2020 I got hit with a double whammy: I was diagnosed with a very rare disorder (fortunately not life-threatening) and coincident, toenail fungus, also known as onychomycosis, decided to take up residence in my left big toe. I’m pretty sure that the fact that my immune system was being messed, what with the onset of the rare condition, allowed that opportunistic little fungus to take hold.

Obligatory disclaimer: I am not a doctor, I am not a nurse, I am not a nurse practitioner. I am not a medical professional. I use the term “treatment” in the general sense of the word, not the medical sense.

Now, I was super lucky because I caught the little sucker early, when it was just a bright white smear across my toenail. I guess in that way I was fortunate that I had this new immune condition, because it meant I was at the doctor’s a lot, so we saw it, and he told me what it was. Then he told me to soak my foot in bleach water every night, and that it could take up to 2 years to go away. (WTF?)

If you have toenail fungus right now I’m sure that you, like me, have done a ton of research about different treatments, and none of them are guaranteed to work, and certainly none of them are fast. So you search and search, and try different things. Man that onychomycosis is a tenacious little beast. So, after about a week of schlepping the water, pouring in some bleach, making sure that the enbleached water didn’t splash on anything, sitting with my foot in the water – what a hassle – I got one of those Clorox bleach pens; you know the kind that you use on laundry (works great on shower grout too, but don’t leave it on too long, I don’t know if it might break the grout down – hey, I’m a lawyer, not a building contractor).

Of course I was also using the over-the-counter toe nail fungus preparations, namely Kerasal (bet you’ve already tried that, eh? But hang on to it, because it actually is part of the treatment course). My GP (the above-referenced doctor was my specialist for the other condition) confirmed that while this may work, it will take years and the fungus may still come back, but that Kerasal was about the best out there, despite it not being 100% effective 100% of the time, because hey, again, tenacious little sucker. (My GP also told me there is one prescription treatment which he described as a sort of shellac, but that it’s very expensive, and insurance doesn’t cover it. By very expensive, last time I looked, it was about $700. No, that’s not a typo.)

Speaking of my doctors, this treatment system is based on information that I have received from each of them, as well as things that I found in research. Then I put all of that together, and voila! (Hey, look at that, another French word!)

So at this point I’m just going to cut to the chase, because you want to know what I did to cure my toenail fungus. Keep in mind that it still will take a long time. And that it will require you to do things you may not like doing (no no, no live sacrifices involved). Also, the links to products on Amazon are not affiliate links, I don’t make a dime from them; I did this in this article because I want you to understand that this actually worked for me, and I’m not trying to make money off you. (Side note: don’t you hate how you can’t really trust reviews or instructions on websites any more because they all seem to be using Amazon affiliate links, so you can’t really know whether they really love each product, or just want you to click on the links so they make .03 off you?) That said, if you found this helpful, please consider buying me a latte at the end of this post. :~)

The Toenail Fungus Treatment That Really Works

You will need:

  • Kerasal
  • And (not “or”) Ariella toenail fungus treatment
  • A dedicated pair of toenail clippers that you use only on that toenail
  • Borax
  • At least one pair of open-toed shoes that you can wear a lot
  • Socks that you don’t mind boiling in a pot (yes, really) for those times that you really, really can’t wear open-toed shoes
  • A large pot in which to boil the socks


Part of the key to this treatment is that you want to deprive your toenail fungus of any chance to grow. Whenever you put any covering (shoe, sock, etc.) over the nail which is housing the fungus you are inviting the fungus to stick around and grow. This is primarily because of the unavoidable moisture that will be trapped by your sock and shoe. On the other hand, when you leave your toe completely exposed no moisture can accumulate. I’m not gonna lie: I wore flip-flops for nearly the entire time it took to get rid of this thing, including around the house. The only time that I put closed-toe shoes on was when I was working out. As I work out at least for times a week, that leads me to point #2:

If you must put on a closed-toe shoe, be sure to use a clean pair of socks, and only wear those socks once. Then take them off and put them in that big pot, so you can’t possibly wear them again until they are disinfected. Here’s my system: I have the big ‘sock pot’ and as soon as I take my socks off, into the pot they go. Then once a week I disinfect them all; the Borax is part of that because it turns out that Borax has anti-fungal properties and is a great laundry additive.

Specific instructions for this toenail fungus treatment system

Keep your toenail clipped as short as possible, using the dedicated toenail clippers. Sterilize the toenail clippers in boiling water after each time you use them.

Use both the Kerasal and the Ariella twice a day (morning and night), making sure to cover the entire nail and to get the area up under the edge of the front of the nail.

Only wear closed-toe shoes when it is absolutely unavoidable, and for as short a period of time as possible. Remove socks as soon as possible and put them in the sock pot, do not wear them a second time before they have become disinfected!

When you are ready to do laundry, put about 1/4 cup of Borax into the sock pot, add enough hot water to cover the socks, and a tiny squirt of dish soap. Put the pot on the stove and bring to a boil, and turn off. Once the socks are cool enough to handle wring them out and put them in with your regular laundry. When you do your laundry, add another 1/4 to 1/3 of a cup of Borax along with the laundry soap, and wash in the hottest water that your laundry will allow.

Do this routine consistently, being sure to keep the nail cut short as the infected part grows out.

Now go eradicate that fungus!

Annie’s Unusual Swiffer Hacks

My Swiffer hacks are apparently unique to me, which kind of surprises me, as they seem really obvious to me (including how to keep the wet refill wet when mopping, and how to save on wet and duster refills)! Yet if you do a web search for “Swiffer hacks”, every single result is about Swiffer hacks to refill your WetJet bottle, or to use a microfiber cloth instead of the wet refills. (I don’t know about you but I hate microfiber clothes, they just feel so snaggy on my fingers!) Anyways, my Swiffer hacks are different.

The first one is a way to save money by no longer buying the wet refills. The second one is a way to extend the life of the wet refill as you are using it to, you know, mop your floor. The third is all about dusting.

Use Newborn Cloth Diapers Instead of Swiffer Wet Refills

One day I realized that newborn cloth diapers are nearly the exact same size as Swiffer wet refills. Not only that, but while the center part of the diaper (which covers the part of the Swiffer pad that mops the floor) is nice and cushy and absorbent, the pieces on either side are a single thin layer of material, perfect for tucking into the slots!

Newborn Cloth Diapers
newborn diapers

Just get the diaper soaking wet, wring it out, and put it on the Swiffer.

I use these newborn cloth diapers from Amazon, which are $19 for a pack of 12. Not only will you never have to buy wet refills again (and not have to deal with that icky microfiber feel on your fingers, if that’s a thing for you as it is for me) but you’ll find lots of other things for which to use them.

“But Anne,” you may be saying, “What if I actually want a cleaning solution, not just water, to wet mop my floor?”

Read on.

Keep a Spray Bottle of No-Rinse Floor Cleaner with You When Swiffer Mopping

One of the top complaints about the Swiffer wet refills is how quickly they run out of wet. If you do want to keep using the Swiffer wet refills (instead of a diaper), or if you want floor cleaner with your diaper, check out this easy and economical hack.

Fill a spray bottle with no-rinse floor cleaner (after all, that’s what the wet refills have on them).

I use the Members Mark no-rinse floor cleaner, but you can use any no-rinse floor cleaner you like. The Members Mark no-rinse floor cleaner is $30 for 2 gallons on Amazon, but much much cheaper at Sam’s Club (if you have one near you) or from Sam’s Club on Instacart where it is $6 a gallon.

Then, when you are wet-swiffering your floor, when the pad starts to run dry, just spritz some of that no-rinse floor cleaner down on the floor. I keep that spray bottle in one hand, mop with the Swiffer with the other, and I am never frustrated by having too much floor left at the end of the wet.

Use Swiffer Dry Sweep Refills to Dust With

Swiffer sells a duster with duster refills. Those duster refills are $1.25 each! Guess what!? The Swiffer dry sweeping cloths work just as well (in some instances even better) and are just .25 per! Got places or things that you really need that duster to reach and dust? Fine, save your Swiffer duster and pricey duster refills for that, and go to town with the much cheaper dry sweeper cloth for everything else! Plus the dry sweeper cloths are much easier to get into tight places to get all of that dust.

And those are my Swiffer hacks! I hope that at least one of them was useful for you!