Monday, February 06, 2017

Negotiating for Who?

I had to go into town to get my medication for my asthma refilled. This is not a big deal, I have a nice asthma doctor in Chicago and she remembered me from two years ago (perhaps I make an impression).

At the time, I had insurance through the company that allowed me to stay on the medication I had been taking for almost ten years, which I had started in Korea. It was solid and it was fantastic. I still remember what it was like to learn to breathe for the first time. I've become a real oxygen addict since that time. Always with the wanting to breathe.

Of course, because there is no such thing as universal health care in the US and the best we have is the Affordable Care Act, breathing is slightly out of my control. You would think my desire for oxygen should be one of those basic human rights, but not really so much. If you don't have asthma you may or may not be aware that a monthly prescription for a seriously proper medication to manage your asthma, should be be unfortunate enough not to have insurance, is around 350 dollars a month. This is one of the many reasons that I didn't have proper medication for my asthma until I was almost 30 (that and the ruinous matriarch who best like to have seen me gasping for air and under her thumb for all of eternity). With insurance it is a reasonable 30, and something that I'm happy to shell out.

The medication I happened to be on was the best. Over the last few years a few competitors entered the market, but the stuff I was taking worked hands down better than anything I've ever used. So of course, when I changed jobs, and changed insurance companies my new company wouldn't cover my brand. I was forced onto an off brand.

I actually did call the insurance company at the time and give them a small amount of hell about it. I remember the conversation.

"Do you know what it is like not to breathe?"

"Look, your options are to pay for it out of pocket or use the other brand."

"This brand works."

"They are the SAME thing."

The person on the phone was clearly frustrated with me. The person on the phone was clearly not a doctor.

I switched brands because I was forced to do so and I have noticed in the last two years that my asthma has gotten worse. Not horribly bad, but I can tell I'm having more frequent trouble with that staying oxygenated bit.

At the office with my doctor we discussed the change and my unhappiness, but decided to take a breathing test to see if it was in my head or if there was something to it. For the companies, it's all about 'negotiating the best price'. They don't care, really, about the science. If something is almost exactly the same and cheaper, it's the same. Period. At the end of the day they are a business.

The results are real enough for me.

In two years I've seen a 9% decrease in my breathing efficacy. Truly, this pisses me off while I sit and gasp for air more frequently, but fortunately some company has saved a few pennies on the dollar and that is all that matters.

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