A few years ago my mom’s oldest living brother had a relapse of his cancer. It was bad and the doctors only gave him a few months to live. There was a treatment they could try, though, that could prolong his life. But his insurance wouldn’t cover the cost of the medicine which was over $3000/month (that’s three thousand). His family created a fundraiser trying to come up with the money, but he died a couple months later. He probably wouldn’t have made it more than six months, but we’ll never know. With his loss that leaves just two brothers and four sisters left of the original eleven (my uncle along with their oldest brother, two eldest sisters, and my mother–who was third youngest–are gone).
I’ve found myself in a similar, yet less deadly situation. My husband injured himself on the job last year and has been on disability through his company and worker’s comp. Tomorrow our company health plan runs out leaving the entire family (me, husband and our 5 children) without medical, visual, or prescription coverage. Luckily my children are very healthy and rarely see a doctor. I’m not so lucky.
I have a severe mental illness that requires daily medications to keep in check. I saw my doctor today for my routine med check and told him what was going on. He was already going to up my dose of the main medication because I had a manic episode a little over a week ago and have been severely depressed since then (the joys of being bipolar). The prescription he gave me was for more than he actually wanted me to take so that it would last longer. I had just gotten my old prescription filled so I had about a 90 day supply. Along with the new one I could stretch it out to six or more months before I ran out.
Problem is, our insurance didn’t like that prescription and kicked it back, refusing to pay for it. Which sucks. We’re given the option of paying for it out-of-pocket.
Like we, living off of disability, have $700 laying around. So I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place. I’m supposed to increase my dosage to relieve the depression and keep me from having a repeat manic episode, but because I only have a 90 day supply I have to actually decrease the dosage so I can drag out that supply as long as I can, weaning myself off of it because we can’t afford the out-of-pocket cost even for the dose I’m on now (about $400 for 90 days). My husband said the other option is for him to charge it to our one emergency credit card.
There’s a chance, thanks to Obamacare, that I will qualify for Medicaid. I know the children already qualify. They qualified even when he was working. Until the ACA changed things we would not, as adults with our income, would not have qualified. But until we can figure that out I have to assume this 90 day supply has to stretch out until my husband returns to work which could be months away.
People in one of the richest nations in the world shouldn’t have to make these kind of decisions. Do you buy needed medications or pay your rent (which is only $250 more than the prescription)? Do you try to set up a fundraiser to collect enough money to pay for just one more month of life-saving medications or do you prepare to say good-bye to your family because it’s inevitable?
I’m mentally preparing myself for the possibility that my husband won’t be back to work before my medication runs out and that we won’t qualify for Medicaid. It’s frightening. After years of suffering I finally found something that helped, something that changed my life completely, something I need to survive. The thought of returning to the crippling depression, near constant suicidal thoughts, and physical pain scares the crap out of me. But it might be inevitable.
It’s hard to be hopeful and positive when I’m teetering on the edge of a cliff and below is the gaping maw of mental illness–an illness that nearly took my life 4 years ago.
Welcome to America, richest nation in the world, where people have to choose between life-saving medications and paying their rent.