The Struggle of (Un)Affordable Health Care

high cost healthcare

 

Mental illness runs in my family, especially depression. My mother described herself over the years as being “manic depressive” – I do not argue that fact with her. From what I can gather, her mother was also depressed. My mother refused to take meds for her depression, and if anyone in the history of man should take meds, it should be her.

I have dealt with depression issues since childhood. I was always a social butterfly, but still very much withdrawn. I never disclosed to my friends the frightening things my mind would dwell upon. I learned to cope from a young age and put my walls into place.

I started head meds in my mid-twenties, ironically after I got married.

Once married and I started to share my life with someone, I figured it was okay to allow those walls to come down. My ex-husband exploited my fears and weaknesses – he was a button pusher or gas-lighter, if you will. We would argue over the dumbest things, and it would spiral into him pushing me as far as crying for him to stop or to the point I’d have a panic attack.

I’ll never forget the first time I experienced a panic attack. I thought I was going to die of a heart attack or suffocate from not being able to breathe.

Every gory and unimaginable death scene raced into my head at once. Gasping for air as tears ran in rivers down my face, my ex-husband just stood there and laughed, thinking I was faking this so he would stop his verbal assault on me. I fell to my knees coughing and hyperventilating as he said, “I win!” before going back downstairs to his throne at the computer. I laid on the floor crying. It took me about 45 minutes to recover as I somehow managed to make my way into my bed, crying deep into my pillow so he wouldn’t hear me.

Shortly after that first panic attack, I went to my doctor and started on antidepressants. From Paxil to Prozac and Wellbutrin to Effexor, with everything in between, I sampled all the head meds available on the market for many years. Some worked, some not so much. I could write a book on all the side effects I experienced. Most of the time I felt like a zombie.

After years of dependence on the meds and my ex-husband, I left them both behind for greener pastures. I researched and started weaning myself off the meds, opting for a more natural approach – exercise, diet, and vitamin, mineral and herbal supplements. I successfully fought off the monster depression for over 10 years in this fashion.

Last winter I started to lose the battle. After months of painstaking heartache and living on the edge of darkness thanks to my anxiety and deep depression, I sunk to the lowest point I have ever experienced in my life. My thoughts not only paralyzed me, they frightened me. At the end of this past May, with the assistance of my doctor, I reluctantly started a course of Cymbalta to help me cope better and bring me back into the light.

I fought going back on head meds. I didn’t want synthetic joy and I didn’t want to go through life as a zombie, having the meds stifle my creativity once again. My depression and anxiety were effecting me socially and most of all, it was affecting my job. There was no getting out of prescription drug therapy this time around. I didn’t have anyone to fall back on – it was just me. If I lost my job, I’d be screwed. There were times during my depression I would see myself losing my job, all hope and ending it all. I didn’t like that feeling. I don’t want to leave this world in that way.

When I first picked up my new head meds, I found out my insurance through my employer was not like the insurance plans I had with past employers. Gone were the days of $5 generic meds and $10 brand names. My Cymbalta, or rather the generic Duloxetine, cost $42 for a 30 day supply. Needless to say this sent me spiraling into a financial depression. I know it doesn’t sound like a lot, but for me, living on my own and barely scraping by in a mediocre sales job, this was a challenge. How could I justify $42/month on meds I didn’t even want to take?

I followed through though. The risks and side effects were more than worth feeling somewhat normal again.

The first few weeks were almost worse than not being on anything at all, but once the side effects started to subside, I started to see clearly, function a lot better and most of all, I was able to peacefully sleep once again. I was happy to find a drug that worked without going through a line-up of different ones.

I decided to look into my prescription home delivery service for my new meds, since they would be a lot cheaper buying this way. You can imagine my surprise when they priced the meds at – wait for it – $528 for a 90 day supply.

FIVE HUNDRED AND TWENTY EIGHT DOLLARS?! Why was it so much when a 30 day supply from my local pharmacy was $42?

My insurance plan is a co-insurance plan, meaning I pay a percentage of the costs, instead of a co-pay plan where my meds would run $5 for the generic prescription. My company contributes $200 to my health care costs per year, and what remained of my yearly stipend of $200 said goodbye paying for my first month of head meds, thanks to the 30 day price of $229. 

The woman on the other end of the phone said, “But wait, I have good news for you.” I listened.

“That $528 goes towards your $1,500 deductible, so you’ll hit it in no time!”

Good news? I think not. Where am I going to get $528 to pay for my meds in the first place?

Health insurance today is a joke. I pay $400/month in premiums, deductibles and prescriptions and the return on the health plan is, for lack of a better word, shit.

Between rising health care costs and the billions pharmaceutical companies rake in, the so-called affordable health care act is anything but affordable. I had better insurance when I worked for MCI in the mid-nineties – and I had a basic bare-bones healthcare coverage plan my company paid for and I contributed $12 a paycheck towards, with a $15 co-pay for doctor visits and $5 for my generic meds.

I honestly prefer the days when my health insurance plan was “don’t get sick.”

So now here I am, once again off the head meds and not by choice, but necessity because I cannot afford the generic form of the meds prescribed by my doctor. Sure, I could have her prescribe me another med, but for the first time I had something that was helping me and I didn’t have to go through five or six other meds to find it.

Yesterday I had a meltdown, being off the meds for a little over a week now. It wasn’t the first and I’m sure it won’t be the last one, either.

As I sit and type these words, I feel as if I am only partially here in my mind and body. I know the demon depression is setting up shop again and starting to rearrange things in my mind to his liking again. He is waiting to pounce upon me when I least expect it. It’s not fun to live like this, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

To me, depression is a curse.

Contrary to what some think or say, it isn’t one thing that brings me down or triggers depression to hit me – it’s a spiral of self-doubt, hatred, rage, anger and deprecation that eats at my mind, body and soul to bring me into a feeling of powerlessness.  

I go back to my doctor on July 20. I’m hoping she can help me in some way with the meds, because my methods of coping aren’t going to last much longer.

I do not want to go quietly into the night with depression leading the way.