Ranting

Fill a prescription. Or buy a house.

March 12th, 2021

Syringes Med

(published in The Daily Memphian)

Next week I’m getting a shot.

No, not one of those. COVID vaccinations are hard to get, but they’re free. The shot I’m getting is hard to get, but it costs more than Nora’s and my first house. Wait, I just did the math – more than our second and third houses and this one.

The stuff in this syringe must come from cells scraped from the belly of the dragon Smaug by hobbits as he sleeps in the deepest reaches of that mountain he protects. The cost suggests that it will be delivered to my house by elves in a Brinks truck with a motorcycle escort.

Actually, they might be riding unicorns.

That’s the unreal reality and the insanity of the cost of our drugs, our health care system overall, and the insurance shell game that controls it.

You’ve heard of psoriasis, a problem for millions of Americans with red, scaly skin patches and itching. You’ve also heard of arthritis. Now put them together and you get ­– wake up, Smaug – psoriatic arthritis.

And I’ve got it. Just ask my wife who has to listen to me and scratch my back six or seven times a day. She’s checking the better or worse clause in our contract. Again.

Which brings us to the golden shot. It’s from a group of autoimmune drugs called biologics. Your doctor can’t simply prescribe it, you have to be approved for it. It doesn’t come from your drug store; it comes from oh-so-special pharmacies. If approved, they text you, and you call.

That call went pretty much like this:

“Congratulations. You’ve been approved. The co-pay is $3,200.”

“What? $3,200 a year. That’s outrageous.”

“No, that’s actually per dose. There are four of those a year.”

I won’t trouble you with what I said next.

Worked out monthly, just the co-pay is more than any of our house notes, and while we had 30-year mortgages, this deal is only good for a year and then all bets are off.

Turns out, they have financing assistance available, and “if you qualify, you’ll pay zero for your prescription.” Forms are involved, scanned records, waiting for someone while bad music plays, etc., and then the Brinks truck and the unicorns are on their way. $3,200 co-pay reduced to zero. I looked at one of biologic sites online and saw that “98% of those who apply pay zero for their prescription.”

What a scam. Hugely inflated prices – not just for drugs but for health care in general – to make insurance look more valuable, in fact, invaluable. And the drug companies, and the providers, and our legislators are all in on the deal, blowing more smoke than Smaug.

That should make every one of you itch more than me.

If you don’t have insurance, I think the full price of my shot would give Bezos, Buffet and Musk pause. No one, absolutely no one, pays that price. Oh, sure, my drug insurance next year will go up like one of Musk’s rockets, but no one pays the full price.

Except for the uninsured. Except for the neediest among us, the most at risk. They always pay the price.

It should give us all pause that hundreds of thousands of your fellow working Tennesseans remain uninsured, and remain in peril. Not just from constant itching and joint pain should they get psoriatic arthritis, but from one accident, one illness, that will cost them everything, quite possibly including their lives.

In the richest nation on Earth.

We are not driven by access to health care, we are driven by access to insurance.

I’m a Memphian, and we’re driving ourselves over a cliff.

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