Sisterhood of Misery: Should I Breathe or Get that Prescription Filled?  

I went to the Doctor the other day. After the $30 copay, 3 new prescriptions and a Dr's request that I head to Radiology and for blood work for two new tests, I decided that maybe I needed to re-think health care.

I have good health insurance.

I pay way too much every two weeks, but there is just no choice for me and my family. I have to have insurance, even as inadequate as it is.

Today, as I sit typing, I'm thinking about the two phone calls from CVS for me to come by and pick up the new medications and I know I can't.

It feels a little odd saying this out loud, or in writing. No matter how I say it or in what venue, it makes me feel like a failure. You see, I can't afford the medication.

Can't afford it.

The 5 medications I am currently on costs more than $200 a month. I see a Dr. for a chronic condition, monthly. That's another $30. Each time I do see her, she gives me samples to help me make it through the month, but it doesn't.

The two new medications I have not picked up were based on the older medicines not working any longer. One new one is $76 for 20 pills. I need 2 a day. This new med, replaces a $20 medication. The other new one, I haven't even had the guts to look at yet. I dropped the prescription and just haven't gone back. I can't pick up the $76 one, what makes me think that the special order inhaler will be the same as the $30 copay for the old one. Clearly, I think it's going to look the same as those 20 pills, out of my price range.

I have insurance. I even have "good" insurance, but that sure seems relative from my current position. I still have to make the choice between paying the electric bill or getting the new medication. Kind of sucks, doesn't it?

With all the success I've had in my life, nothing really makes much difference at the end of the day when I can't breathe. And, I'm not alone according to CNN, I've got lots of company:

By one estimate, 25 million Americans can't afford to cover the gap between what their insurance covers and their medical bills demand.

25 million of us is an awful lot of Americans who have insurance coverage but still can't afford health care.

When I was a kid, my dad, a member of the United Steelworkers of America, had fabulous coverage. My chronic condition was treated by a family doctor. There weren't lots of kinds of available treatments, but he was there to at least help make me more comfortable. He updated my immunizations. I went to a dentist regularly. My brother went to specialists for knee care and surgery. I was even able to go to Cleveland Clinic for hand surgery at 18. My parents had excellent coverage which provided excellent .

As my child has grown, we've forgone dental care. She's been to the dentist 4 times in her life and she will soon turn 16.

We no longer have a family practitioner for regular check ups, not with a $30 copay.

My $75 emergency room visits are more cost effective for acute symptoms than consistent care for 6 months.

Did I mention, I have excellent coverage? That I pay more than $100 every two weeks for this coverage?

And again, CNN notes, I'm not alone:

Many people without adequate insurance are also delaying or forgoing medical care until it becomes an absolute emergency, said Dr. David Chin, managing partner of consulting firm Pricewaterhouse Cooper's Global Healthcare Research Institute.

I HATE having to forgo care for my child. It makes me feel like a failure.

I think, that at my age, I should be able to provide some minimum care. My standards for that minimum were set by my parents, but that kind of care, is just not even possible for me to provide, it's way out of reach.

Again, from CNN

More importantly, Collins pointed out that the number of underinsured increased 60% from 2003 to 2007. That compares with a 5.1% increase in the number of uninsured Americans - to about 46 million - over the same period, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

"The 25 million [number] can still be an underestimate," Collins said.

What's also troubling, she said, is that the ranks of the underinsured are spreading across income levels and have seen the most rapid increases lately in middle-income households earning between $40,000 to $60,000.

Yep, it's troubling. As I think about the new tests and if I can afford to fill the new prescriptions, it's cold comfort to read the Commonwealth fund's report on women and health care:

The study found:

* 52 percent of women had any one of four problems getting needed health care because of cost compared to 39 percent of men: did not fill a prescription; did not see a specialist when needed; skipped a recommended medical test, treatment, or follow-up; or had a medical problem but did not visit a doctor or clinic.
* 45 percent of women accrued medical debt or reported problems with medical bills in 2007, compared to 36 percent of men.
* Women were also more likely to skip tests and screenings: almost half of women (45%) delayed or did not receive a cancer screening or dental care because of costs, compared to 36 percent of men.

I don't know what the answer is on Health Care. I know it's not working for me and my family. And from the data, it doesn't seem as if it's working for most women and their families.

I do know that I want things to change, because I'm freaking tired of being miserable, worrying and having to choose between breathing and paying for food, phone, electric or just about everything else in life.

For me, SINGLE PAYER is the best possible answer for women and the families they support; women like me. But at this point, I'd like to just see a real public option. Maybe, I could even opt out of my employer sponsored health insurance, potentially meaning yearly dental care, an annual pap smear (yeah, I said it, pap) and perhaps, even the ability for me to pick up the phone and decide to go to the radiologist or head to CVS and pick up that new prescription.

But, can this Congress grow up and get it done? Maybe, if they listen to West Virginia Senator Rockefeller:

On Thursday, Rockefeller admitted he expects little bipartisan support.

"There is a very small chance any Republicans will vote for this health-care plan. They were against Medicare and Medicaid [created in the 1960s]. They voted against children's health insurance.

"We have a moral choice. This is a classic case of the good guys versus the bad guys. I know it is not political for me to say that," Rockefeller added.

"But do you want to be non-partisan and get nothing? Or do you want to be partisan and end up with a good health- care plan? That is the choice."

Bi-partisanship isn't worth the cost to women and families like mine and those worse off. I believe this Congress does have a moral obligation to all of us, but especially the 100 million Americans who make the choice between paying the phone bill, or paying for a prescription.

Right now, I'd really like the public option so that I can stop, put down the electric bill, close my eyes, and finally, just breathe.

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