I remember when there was a lot of talk about “death panels” refusing to pay for needed treatment and how the Affordable Care Act is supposed to cure all that. Well let me tell you that, to a senior on a fixed income, refusal of treatment isn’t the only issue. There’s this little thing called a co-payment that is just a much a problem as getting treatment.
Even though I have pretty good insurance, thanks to the wife’s job, I was thrilled last year that my medication co-payments were reasonable, with only a couple of exceptions. After all, I take more than a dozen prescription medications and those dollars add up. But now it’s the new year, and with each new year comes new co-pay amounts. And this year they’ve almost doubled over last year. I’m not talking about DNA replacement therapy, organ transplants, or rare, seldom prescribed medications. I only take stuff that nearly all old people take on a daily basis: typical stuff for blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, and arthritis. And yet “my share” of the medications costs almost equals what I receive from Social Security every month.
The medication co-pays under our previous insurance (under her previous job) also started out pretty good, but increased dramatically every year. For example, to combat the chronic pain, I wear a patch that steadily releases a narcotic into my bloodstream. A patch is good for three days, at which point it’s worn out and has to be replaced. The patch is thin and flat and looks just like a nicotine patch in size and action. It’s almost impossible to abuse and chewing/swallowing it does nothing good for you. The release mechanism works smoothly and evenly, making it easy and safe to wear. When I first started on the patch, I was picking it up at CVS and the co-pay was $10.00/month. Very reasonable, I thought.
That was the first year I used it. The second year, our insurance decided that Walgreen’s was to be our “preferred” provider, and the patch co-pay changed to $25.00 a month. That was financially doable, but the only patches available through them was a “pouch” style (kinda like a ziplock bag the size of a playing card). This style of patch has been responsible for several deaths due to an uneven release of the narcotic (esp. if you get hot, say, by being in a hot tub in the winter, or outside on a typical Texas summer day), plus it can be cut open and the contents taken orally if you’re an addict with a death wish. Needless to say it’s a big target for thieves.
It was my understanding that the pouch-style patch had been recalled and replaced with the other, less dangerous one. Apparently I was mistaken because it’s the only patch available at the hospital where my wife works. Of course, I could still purchase the CVS patch if I wanted, but, since they weren’t a preferred provider, the co-pay for that was $40/month (a 400% increase). Rather than risk my life for mere money, I paid the $40. Then, year three raised its ugly head. The Walgreen’s patch co-pay became $50 and the CVS patch moved up to $75. It was at that point that (thankfully), she changed jobs and we changed insurance companies. That was last year. Under the new insurance company, Walgreen was still the preferred provider, but their patch co-pay was $10/month. To be safe, I elected to purchase the CVS patch at $25. Then January came around. New year, new rules. The flat patch is suddenly $45/month, while the pouch price is still $10.
Of course, it’s not just the patches. This sort of roulette wheel co-pay has been going on with almost all of my other medications as well. One of my insulin copays is now $85/month from the preferred provider (when I started it was, wait for it…$10). The end result of all these increases is that I’ve had to change some of my medications (one of my blood pressure meds moved from $40 to $80 this year) to different formulations that don’t work as well. I’m not talking about the difference between brand name and generic, I mean totally different meds that “sort of” do the same thing…kinda. I can see where this is going. I figure that by next year I’ll have to seriously consider going to the death-dealing, uneven release of the preferred provider pain patch just because I simply don’t have enough money to pay all the co-pays required. And all of my other meds will be the cheapest on the market, whether they actually work for my treatment or not.
So, thanks, insurance companies, thanks a lot. Too bad all this didn’t come from the government, like it was supposed to. At least then I’d have the satisfaction of blaming politicians (a hobby of mine). But somehow I can’t summon up the energy to hate the money-grubbing, smirking jerks that work at my insurance company. After all, what good would it do? They’re just being good little bureaucratic cogs. Cogs in my own personal death panel. After all, it’s not like they’re denying me care…
Ya’ know, business-owners, if workers were making more money, they just might have more money to spend to buy your products. Just sayin’.
In a whole lot of ways, Henry Ford was a shit. But there was one thing he did right. He infuriated his competitors and other businessman by paying his workers more than they did (little enough at the time, but it was more). His reasoning was that he wanted his employees to be able to afford to buy his products. Duh. Why have none of the current crop of business owners come to the same conclusion???