Health care making bank account go up in smoke
Saturday, February 16, 2013 7:32 PM
Much accompanies the aging process. In my case, I wish more wisdom than pounds came with each passing year.
Health issues also tend to come into play, unless you're one of those 100-somethings Willard Scott gives a shout-out to on the "Today" show.
It's not that I have a wealth of health issues as I approach the double nickels birthday; it's that I don't have a wealth of - well - wealth to afford the medicines I have to take. Wendy and I are anxiously awaiting the outcome of the Affordable Care Act for a number of reasons. For one, it was hardly affordable before this year, and the costs have climbed even higher. For another, we already seem to have less going into the bank account on account of more taxes coming out of each paycheck.
Anyway, many of you can relate to our surprise and dismay when the new year began. It's not that we didn't welcome the new year properly or we didn't want to see 2013 arrive, but New Year's Day ushers in much more than a new calendar, you know. It wipes clean all the money you've poured into your health plan, giving you a fresh start to making those co-payments on medicines.
SO, WHEN THE TIME CAME to renew the prescription I have for a particular eyedrop, I was nearly blinded by the total. The cholesterol medicine I take is generic. As such, it never costs a whole lot; in fact, I usually have enough cash in my pocket to pay for my 30-day supply. But the eyedrops? Wow. I thought I was going to have to see Jerry Stevens at First Citizens Bank to take out a loan.
Here's the situation, and I don't think I'm violating any HIPAA laws by revealing this: The generic brand of these eyedrops would have only cost me about $11. The problem is I tried the generic for 30 days last year, and it turns out the generic for the drops is not the same as, say, buying the generic brand of cough syrup or aspirin you can grab off the shelf at your local pharmacy. It's not even the same as getting the generic brand of cholesterol tablets, apparently. I know this because my eye doc told me so and I believe her. But the proof was in getting the eyes checked after trying the generic brand for 30 days. The readings were not nearly as good as when using the name brand, meaning I had to remain with the name-brand drops, which came with a price tag of $111 for a 30-day supply. That's not a typo. That's $111 for name brand versus $11 for the generic.
THE TALE DOESN'T END THERE, however, as I've been fighting with a sinus infection since sometime before Christmas. I had not realized it had been that long until I went to the doctor late last week, and we reviewed my records. The antibiotics he put me on the first time around carried me for 10 days, which went into the new year, but the mess never really cleared up. After trying over-the-counter Clariton D for about 10 days, I broke down and called the doctor's office again. As I feared, another office visit.
After a thorough once-over, my favorite personal doc, Dr. John Ergle, prescribed another round of antibiotics plus a nasal spray. I left the office with a week's sample of the spray in hand. It's a good thing no one saw it; apparently it's liquid gold.
Later that day, I headed to the pharmacy to pick up my meds. Conveniently enough, it was also time for a refill of my generic and not-so-pricey cholesterol medicine. Fortunately, I was using the drive-through and was firmly seated (and in park) when the assistant let me know my co-pay on the nose spray came to $125.50. Knowing I had a week's worth in hand, I declined the nose spray and paid the $18 and change needed for the other items and told her I'd possibly return for the nose spray.
I'M STILL NOT SURE WHAT TO DO. I'm a bit embarassed to go to Jerry for the bank loan and I'm trying to convince myself the pressure that makes it feel as though I have a lightbulb-shaped head - the regular incandescent, not CFL - is something I can live with. What if the spray doesn't do any good? That's $125 that could go toward paying off Christmas. Which reminds me, it's enough to take the merry right out of the phrase "Merry Christmas" when we no sooner come off the holiday high when we start anew on our health insurance deductible.
I really feel for people who have many more than the one or two high-dollar prescriptions I am taking, but I do have a solution that will help my case and maybe a few others, too.
South Carolina needs to get in step with Colorado and Washington and legalize marijuana. For medicinal purposes only, of course. A bag of weed has to be cheaper than those eyedrops. Or has it gone up that much since I was in college?
Whiting is executive editor of the Index-Journal. Contact him at 943-2522; email firstname.lastname@example.org ,or follow him on Twitter at IJEDITOR. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper's opinion.