Sunday, December 4, 2016

Life's Little Injustices (Take IX): A Month Of Pain Pills Costs $100

<Those troublesome little Colcrys 
tablets, up close and personal>

I'll remember Election Day 2016 for a different reason: the emergency tooth extraction that I had to endure, the morning after millions of Americans mourned the ascendancy of Donald Trump to the presidency.  The need to take out this right rear tooth didn't surprise me, because it had been bothering me for several months. By Election Week, the situation had escalated to on-again/off-again pain and throbbing, to the point of putting an ice pack over my cheek (so I could get whatever passed for sleep).

Thankfully, our town has a clinic that serves the low-income and uninsured -- blokes like me, in other words. The only catch? According to their rules, I had to come as an emergency walk-in, since I hadn't used their dental services in so long. However, once I dragged my carcass down there, the waiting around -- and the inevitable paperwork blizzard that accompanied it -- took longer than the procedure. I arrived at 8:07 a.m., By 9:45 a.m., I was ready to go home. Not bad, in the scheme of things.

This clinic also a pharmacy, which is good, since -- if you're on being charged on a sliding fee scale, like me -- you can theoretically save money on your drugs. I say "theoretically," because this isn't possible in every case.  I paid $22.30 for the dentist's prescriptions, including $10.30, for Tramadol -- to deal with post-procedural pain that, thankfully, never materialized -- and $12 for Ibuprofen (of the 800-milligram super-duper variety). Good show, I told myself. Now, you'll have a stockpile for the next toothache.

I decided to stock up on my gout medications, while I was at it. I'd spent much of October -- and early November -- battling two different attacks that hit  my right ankle and right knee. Both kept me virtually immobilized, and confined to bed, for a couple weeks. As a result, I had to visit the clinic, which gave me a steroid shot for the pain. However, since I was broke at the time, I had to put off getting the drugs that I needed -- until my toothache forced that issue, and prompted my return.

That meant I needed Colcrys and Indomethecin, to deal with the pain and swelling, respectively, and Allopurinol, which you take to prevent future gout attacks. The pharmacy tech reckoned that the Allopurinol and Indomethecin would cost about $22, based on my sliding fee status. "Okay, so far, so good," I said. Between The Squawker and myself, we could come up with that sum. "Now, what about the Colcrys, then?"

"That's gonna be a bit more expensive..." The pharmacy tech knitted her brows together, and punched the relevant keys on the cash register. "Yeah, that's gonna be $100, for 30 of them -- $98.92, with tax."

"Wow," I said, "at that price, they'd better do the job, right? There's no substitute for this one, I take it?"

"I don't see one, offhand. I can leave the doctor a note..."

"Tell you what," I suggested. "I'll take three of them, to get out of the pain today, and come back for the rest."

"Sounds good. Just let us know when you come back," the tech responded. "You should try to get Medicaid -- we have a lot of those patients here, and they typically don't pay anything. Or not very much."

"Right," I said. "I'll look into that."

And so, I went on my way, having plunked down $22.30 for the dental prescriptions, $22 for the gout pills that seemed halfway affordable, and $9 for the Colcrys, to zero out the pain I'm feeling today. Who cares about tomorrow, or even next week?

Like millions of Americans, I'm not in a position to care about such things, because a) I haven't been insured for a decade, so b) the traditional medical infrastructure isn't obliged to deal with me, which means c) without places like this clinic, I'd slide between the cracks completely.

Health care is already maddening enough -- something the Affordable Care Act, however well-intentioned or ill-conceived it is, depending on who you ask, did nothing to halt. However, as so many savvy commentators have already observed, it's about to get a lot worse under Trump, whose minions will spend a lot of time repeating two bromides, over and over again, to people in my position:

"Sure, it sucks. You're on your own."

"You don't like it? Well, you just can get rich!"

I suspect we'll hear these mantras a lot in the Trump era, because he and his cohorts will never have to depend on the crappy health care options they expect those below them to live under -- and therein lies the problem. --The Reckoner

<Twenty years of household bills, all neatly filed away for a rainy day -- and yes, most of them are medical ones.>

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