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Pills IV

Refilling prescriptions is an infrequent and typically welcome chore, since Walgreens typically has cheap candy. It’s easy to justify some W brand peanut butter cups when my ten dollar prescriptions will come with a cheerful slip explaining my insurance saved me over three hundred. This time, faced with a choice between picking them up and having them shipped, I put in my address and choose free shipping. I have a locked mailbox and won’t have to drive when I’m trying to ride the bus more. Thank you for your order.

My subconscious watches the clock and there is no surprise when a UPS email comes: your package has been delivered. They typically come in the mail, but leaving a nondescript white bag on the doorstep seems no worse. When I get home late Monday night, nothing is there. I have a couple days left of a med I actually need.

I am unworried. Even at my worst this wouldn’t worry me: just call Walgreens in the morning. I do this, to the local store, and a pleasant but clearly rushed woman listens and checks my information. She has to call my insurance and will call back.

I wonder why this is necessary but say nothing; she is busy, and must know the byzantine minefield of American healthcare more than me. She does not call back, though I get a clinical email explaining my refill has been denied.

I call the store. The same woman, a little more worn but still polite, explains I don’t have lost or stolen prescription coverage, so she can only offer the meds at the retail price. The insurance negotiated price is about $3. Without health insurance, the price is $22.

Back in college I had my own health insurance, required after I worked a fulltime job one summer and lost my parents’. In the early Nineties I wasn’t concerned about doctor’s visits or hospital coverage: I cared about crazy prices for drugs. I had a bad cold and the $50 doctor visit was nothing compared to the $200 meds.

Here we are again. Bill and Hillary, Whitewater, federal government shutdown, millenium, 9/11, W, wars, Depression II, and nothing has changed. If you have no health insurance you are screwed double if you need prescription medication. Most onerous is that everybody makes plenty of money: the cheaper, insurance-negotiated price greases wheels aplenty. They just have to make a little more.

Stickers for Obama are appearing here, and for Ron Paul on the Eastside. Santorum supports Puerto Rico becoming a state if everybody learns English first. My employer is consumed with how to get everyone to buy yet another phone or tablet ‘computer’, but the right kind this time. I have always wondered what the masters and commanders are making the world into.

I call a series of toll-free numbers, reach several people with varying American accents: Deep South, Midwest, Plains. A man with a barely comprehensible Asian accent calls me to deliver a long, irrelevant explanation and the result: I can pick up a replacement at my local Walgreens.

In the end, nothing was saved: not a trip, no time, no frustration. But Walgreens comes through: the replacement cost is zero. Your insurance covered it, the woman at the counter says, and it’s too much trouble to correct her.

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