I was just about to put this issue of TechTrax to bed when I had to run to Walgreens to get mom's medicine refilled. I was so enraged at the obscene abuses of medicine in this country that I had just experienced during my visit, I had no choice but to jump on my soapbox.
As many of you know, mom had a stroke a few years ago that left her mentally incompetent. She suffers from Aphasia, the inability to comprehend/speak words properly. So not only did I have to explain to her what a hamburger was yesterday at dinner, but trying to decipher what she's trying to tell me can be a challenge and even comical at times when she gets hooked on a word that ends up sticking in her brain and is served up by her brain whenever she can't think of the real word she wants. So everything becomes stamp or fish or pen. Whatever the last word was that she hunted for and was successful in finding. It becomes a "successful word" and then comes in handy when she struggles for other words. Her brain essentially says to her "well, I don't know what word you want, but this one worked before, so just use it...I'm sure it'll work well again."
That results in conversations like: Please give me that fish so I can wipe up this spilled milk. Did you check the fish today to see if we got any new Christmas cards? Please hand me that fish so I can write out this card. Would you please give the bird some fresh fish, he might be thirsty!
Yes, the last couple years have been stressful and entertaining at the same time. In fact, just the other day she was laughing with me about one benefit of being a stroke victim with her ailment...she can enjoy her favorite movies over and over as if they are new. One of her favorites was on the other night. She'd just watched it recently...but forgot. So she got to watch it again and thoroughly enjoyed seeing that good movie for the, ahem, first time!<g>
But one thing that has added a ton of stress to life is all the medical chaos and paperwork elderly folks have to deal with just to get the medicines/care they need. I feel sorry for any elderly person who doesn't have someone to help them. I'm a 50 yr old computer programmer and technology teacher. I'm not a stupid person. Yet I'm ready to tear my hair out when I have to deal with this stuff. Part B, Part D. AARP...who sends 40 mailings a month, one of which is actually vital information, yet the other 39 are also marked Important! Pleas for donation, pleas for support for their various campaigns against the government to keep things rolling. It's insane. And now that I'm 50, add to that a dozen more mailings to me to try to get me to join each month and why it's so important to me.
Yet getting the updated new year medical papers to Walgreens apparently isn't as important, because that hadn't been done yet, so her lower costs weren't kicked in for her meds today as they should have been. That's another fight I'll have to deal with tomorrow.
For today, I'm enraged about the obscene medical costs and I saw, first hand, one way costs are being so blatantly abused. I was picking up mom's meds. Now over the years, she suffered from a hiatal hernia that caused acid to back up into her throat. Trust me, if you have this problem...take care of it now! Over the years, the acid has rotted her throat to the point where it has literally closed on her several times. She has to go into the hospital for an outpatient procedure that reopens her throat enough for her to drink and eat small meals. It's a dangerous procedure at this point and one that, luckily, she hasn't needed since the stroke. I believe her new blazé attitude about life, since her stroke, took off stress and has helped her problem.
Anyway, the strong acid reducing, time released meds she needs to take to keep her stomach settled are prescribed to her. They are a generic version of a popular purple pill to help acid reflux. Her prescription had run out, so first I had to fight her heart surgeon to convince him that I needed that medicine for her and just couldn't drag her out in a snow storm just to see him to verify that she still needed this medicine that she's been taking now for about 10 yrs. Does he REALLY think that dangerous trip to the office for her is necessary just to validate the meds she needs?<sigh>
But worse was when I went to get the meds. The prescription was handed over. Insurance hadn't kicked in for the new year, so Walgreens wanted to charge her $153 for 60 pills! Now that is outrageous enough...but worse...as I was standing there I noticed a box of new acid reducer medicine in a box on the counter that was Walgreens' brand...they were hawking it for sale.
I checked it and the prescription I was about to pay for...and noticed that they were THE EXACT SAME!
I asked. The counter girl called the pharmacist over. "are these the exact same? They both appear to be the same medicines and both are 20 mg...aren't these $22 pills the same as those $153 pills?"
"Well, the prescription is capsules, those are pills."
"Oh, so you're charging me about $125 to get them in capsule form versus pill form?" (OUTRAGE setting in!)
"Ummm, yes, BUT when you get them from us, they are from another distributor."
"Oh, so if I get them from you, they are from someone else and in capsule form and cost $153. But the EXACT SAME pills can be had for $22, over the counter and are made by Walgreens...your company. Is that right?"
<sheepishly> "Ummm, yes."
Okay, so I tossed the $153 pills back at him and bought the $22 pills. He informed me that yes, when insurance kicks in, it might be cheaper to get the prescription versus the over the counter pills. So he's still hawking the pharmacy brand versus his own company's brand. Such a kick-back he must be getting from that company!<sigh>
To add insult to injury, he wanted me to sign off on her account...something I never have to do. He insists that anything over $50 must be signed for. "NO...I've been doing this for 2 yrs...I don't sign her express pay. You just put the receipt in the drawer." He holds up the other 10 people at the counter...making me look like the difficult person as he calls the store manager. She finally shows up and...agrees with me that I don't have to sign!<sigh> Again, he sheepishly says okay, puts the receipt in the drawer as I told him he should do...and hands me her meds.
DOES THE TERM GOING POSTAL COME TO MIND? I thought so!
And they don't tell you about this stuff...you have to try to figure it out on your own.
Now sure, when insurance kicks in, the prescription will only be about $10 vs $153. But that also means that now her insurance company is paying a needless $140 for medicine that Walgreens has apparently figured out how to sell for $22. Or worse...Medicare. The government is whining about costs, yet they are paying for drugs that cost outrageous prices when the same, cheaper version is right there on the counter! What the hell is going on here!<sigh>
That extra/needless $140 will then be passed on to her or others in the form of higher premiums. And we wonder why insurance costs have skyrocketed. Maybe if there was someone watching what the hell was actually going on...they wouldn't be. This is like the Wall Street scandal...no one is watching that pot boil so it's boiling over in the back rooms and no one seems to know what to do about it until it blows up!
How about a little truth...maybe THAT would bring costs down.
And this isn't the first time this has happened! A few months ago her other doctor prescribed a special medicine for her, with a big name, that would help control her vertigo that she was now experiencing. There are crystals in your ears that help your balance. When you age, or have an accident, those crystals can become loose and literally jiggle around in your ears. Sounds silly, but that can cause you to not only become dizzy, but also give you a bizarre feeling of falling or tunnel vision when you are rolling over in your sleep. You may suddenly feel totally out of it or as if you are falling and you jump to control the falling feeling...or it can even cause you to become nauseous and want to jump up and throw up!
So these meds are supposed to control that feeling...and they do! As soon as she started taking a very low dose each night before bed and each morning after waking...all the vertigo stopped and no more dizzy spells. Fantastic. Miracle cure! We'll pay for that medicine!
But one day Walgreens was unable to get the meds she needed. I was frantic! She needs them or she might get that feeling back and fall! So the girl points out what the meds are and that I can get the SAME THING over there in the car sickness aisle. I ask her to show me and she does. Sure enough...the miracle drugs that helped her vertigo...can be had for $4 over the counter...they control nausea from car/air sickness! The same damn medicine! Granted, again, these are pills and the over the counter are actually a bit stronger than she needed...25 mg versus 12.5. So I had to break them in half! For that struggle of breaking a pill in half...I could save $30 a month!<sigh> Money, again, that, until now, Medicare (the government) was paying...needlessly!
And, of course, the insurance companies will rarely, if ever, pay for meds over the counter, because they...OF COURSE...are not prescribed by a doctor. They would rather pay $30 for the same thing I can get for $4 over the counter. Or pay $153 for the same thing I can get for $22.
Why should we care what they pay if our co-pay is only $4...because that is one of the main reasons why insurance costs are going through the roof and so many have to go without...and end up paying that $153 and $30 themselves.
Take time...investigate your meds and go to the counter and review the ingredients that are in those counter pills. There's a VERY GOOD chance that you can get pretty much the exact same thing over the counter for much less...than dealing with these obscene costs for prescription drugs.
Please President-Elect Obama...get control of this insanity....it is truly a disgusting abuse of money and power in the drug-related/medical industry!
NOTE! You'll notice I've removed the copyright tag from this article. Granted, please leave me as the author, but you are free to share this article on your own web sites or blogs. This info NEEDS to be shared to help share the outrage at these costs. So feel free to pass this article around!