Sunday, August 24, 2014

I Purchased an Affordable Epipen in Canada

I made a bunch of phone calls to see if the government regulatory agencies in the United States of America could help me get my Epipen covered at an affordable price.

I talked to Karen at the Washington State Office of Insurance.  She explained that since I get my health insurance through my work, it is a self-funded plan and her organization had no authority to look into my case.

Karen gave me the number to the Department of Labor, which oversees self-funded insurance benefits.  I called 1-866-444-3272 and I had a nice conversation with Andy at the Washington State Department of Labor.  Andy explained that it was up to the employer what benefits to offer to their employees.  He advised me to contact my employer and ask them for better coverage of life saving medicine.  He said that the government does not have any control on what employers offer in their benefit plans.

Andy also suggested that I ask for a generic Epinephrine injection prescription.  I told him that I wasn't really comfortable doing that.  The generic is not really user friendly, and the last thing that I want to have happen when I am dying of anaphylactic shock is confusion while trying to administer the medicine.  A lot of people, sadly mostly young children, have died because the person administering the epinephrine injection was confused and did it incorrectly.  There is the Auvi-Q epinephrine of course, but it's a brand name and $550, which is completely unaffordable.

I learned that our for-profit health care system here in the USA only cares about profits.

Our health care system does not care about people that it serves.  It exists solely for the purpose of generating more and more profits.  Profits for the businesses that are too cheap and stingy to give their employees reasonable benefits.  Profits for the drug companies, such as Mylan, who own patents that give them a right to completely overcharge people for Epipens.  Profits for the health insurance companies such as Aetna, who gouge me $133 every month, and then use the fine print of their plans to refuse to cover life saving medicine.

I learned that I don't want to support our corrupt unjust system in the USA.   You know what country has a fair and decent health care system? Canada!  It's a socialized medicine Shangri-La.  Canadian tax dollars go to free health care for all Canadian citizens.  Well, mostly.  It is more complicated than that, so check out if you want to learn more about their health care system.

You know what else?  The Utopian country of Canada is not only nice to Canadian citizens by giving them free health care, they are also nice to other countries who are sick and need help.  Just a few weeks ago, the Canadian government donated over 1000 experimental Ebola vaccines to fight the epidemic in West Africa!

Canada, by being the nice helpful country it is, just may save the entire human species from being wiped out from the Zaire Ebola virus.

So I want to support Canada.

I decided to travel to Canada and buy an Epipen there.  I called Robin's Pharmacy in Vancover, B. C. and I asked how much an Epipen would be.  They said I did not need a prescription, and that one Epipen would be $99.99.  Sold!

So last Saturday, my friend Elcaset and I drove from Seattle to Canada and I bought my new Epipen.  It was a fun road trip and I ate Poutine for the first time in my life.Yum.

Here is a picture of the beautiful Canadian sunset over Wreck Beach:

Here's a picture of me in Stanley park:

It was a totally fun road trip, and now I have an Epipen that isn't expired.  My new Epipen is so awesome it won't expire until November of 2015.  I need another Epipen of course, but now my doctor can write me a prescription for one and I can use Mylan's $100 coupon.  

The issue of course is that life-saving epinephrine injections in the USA are completely unaffordable to working class people.  There ought to be a law protecting people with deadly food allergies like me from being ripped off and gouged by big pharma corporations who overcharge for life saving medicine.  It wasn't my choice to have a deadly food allergy!  It isn't fair that I can't afford life saving medicine!

I intend to write to my Senator Patty Murray, and my Representative, Jim McDermott explaining my heart breaking situation, and imploring them to draft laws protecting working poor people like me from being financially exploited by evil corporations.  Writing my congressman probably won't do anything because my representatives get a lot of their campaign money from health insurance and the health industry.  Using the new greenhouse app extension on Google Chrome check out how much money the corporations and industries that are taking advantage of people like me are pumping into my representatives.

I think the only way to change our system for the better is to take big money  out of politics and overturn Citizen's United Vs. F. E. C.   If you live in Washington State, check out this website to join me to change our system for the better:

Saturday, August 2, 2014

I Can't Afford A New Epipen. I Could Die.

An Epipen lasts a year.  My Epipen expired at the end of March, 2014.

On July 28th, I attempted to get a new Epipen.  I ended up not getting it because it was too expensive.  A new Epipen would cost me $351.73.   That's about 30% of my paycheck.  The reality of my situation is that if I purchased it, I would not have had enough money for food.

I can't afford my life saving medicine.  I could die.

I didn't think it would be so expensive.  I have health insurance that I get through my job.  I pay $135 a month for my portion of the insurance plan.  I thought it would cover life-saving medicine like my Epipen.  I called Aetna, my health insurance provider.  I talked to Customer Service, and they transferred me to Prescription Customer Service.  The Aetna Prescription lady explained to me that my Epipen was considered part of my deductible.

'What?  How can life saving medicine be part of my deductible?'  I exclaimed loudly over the phone.  I really was hoping that this was a mistake, and they'd tell me they realized this was an error, and cover the Epipen.

I studied the plans carefully when I signed up last year.  I remember the $2500 deductible for health care services, such as hospital stays.  I remember looking over the prescription drug coverage, and I do not remember seeing anything that said that prescription medicine had any sort of deductible. I sadly accepted that I would just have to pay out of pocket each time when I saw my therapist & psychiatrist, because my plan said it applied to my deductible.  I can only afford to see my therapist once a year these days.  I probably need to see my therapist more than that because of what transpired next over the phone.

'I have prescription health care coverage!  There is an Rx Bin number on my card!  I've been paying $130 a month to Aetna for the past year and a half!  How is it that Aetna is refusing to cover my life saving medicine?'

The Aetna prescription customer service lady gave me zero compassion.  She told me that I needed to meet the deductible.  Then she told me that I was halfway to meeting my deductible for the year.  This wasn't a horrible mistake.  My worthless Aetna health insurance wasn't going to help pay for an Epipen.  And here I was, a severely allergic person walking around with expired medication that may not work.  I was up shit creek without a paddle.

I felt the full horror of my situation.  Having been diagnosed with Idiopathic Anaphylaxis in August of 2011, I don't even need to eat anything to bring it on, I could go into shock and die at any time for no reason.  My only hope for survival was the Epipen, and I was not going to be able to afford an Epipen.

Shock, disbelief, and total hopeless abject terror, are some of the emotions that I felt initially.  I felt like the lady had read me my death sentence.  Fear quickly became replaced with anger, and outrage at the injustice of the situation.  How dare Aetna take my money every month and then refuse to cover medication I needed to live.  And then I yelled at the lady over the phone in anger.  I do not remember what I said, I could have even said a swear word or two.  I went full on CAPSLOCK OF RAGE on this lady.  I think I remember telling her that I would tell the entire world about how Aetna was trying to kill me by refusing to cover the Epipen.  And then I hung up.

I feel bad for yelling at the lady, because it wasn't her fault personally that she worked for an evil for-profit corporation that had just essentially condemned me to death.  I am trying to avoid yelling at people in anger these days and handle my emotions with skill and equanimity.  But in that moment of fear and horror, I absolutely lost my shit.

When I calmed down, I tried to find options to help me pay for my medicine.  I called my doctor's office.  The helpful lady at my allergists told me that a lot of their other patients were having trouble affording life saving epinephrine medications, and she could send me a couple of coupons for a small discount.  She offered to ask the doctor to rewrite the prescription for a single Epipen.  I told her that was not a good idea.  My last anaphylactic reaction required 3 Epipen injections to stop my throat from closing up.  My allergic reactions seem to be getting faster and more violent each time.  What's the use of carrying a single dose, if it's not enough to save my life?  She agreed and said she'd send me the coupons on Wednesday.

I went online and filled out an online form for a 0$ Copay 'free' Epipen on the Epipen website:

Because I have my crappy Aetna health insurance, and it covers prescription medication I qualified only for a $100 discount.  But the fine print on that coupon said: This offer may not be combined with any other EpiPen coupon or savings offer.  I wasn't going to be able to use the coupons my doctor's office was sending me.   So my out of pocket cost for two new Epipens would only be reduced to $251.73.  Could I swing that?  Not really.  

The manufacturers of the Epipen, Mylan, have a patient assistance program that helps people afford their Epipens.  I called 1‑800‑395‑3376 and talked to a Mylan representative who asked me questions.  I didn't qualify for help through Mylan's program because my health insurance included prescription drug coverage.  What?  No it doesn't!  I mean, Aetna says I have prescription drug coverage, but it won't pay for my Epipens.  So that phone call and Mylan's patient assistance program is worthless.  You'd pretty much have to be homeless, and not have any sort of drug coverage to qualify.     

Out of desperation I called the number on  1-800-318-2596

The lady was nice.  She said that since I qualified for three dismal cheap plans through my employer, I did not qualify for any plans through ACA.  Great.  I told her my situation and she told me to call the State Office of Insurance for Washington at 1-800-562-6900.

They are open Monday through Friday and are closed today.  I called and left a voice mail. I will blog again when I have an update.  Thanks for reading.  Please subscribe to my blog.