Drug Prices — Predatory Pricing: at their mercy

Drug Prices

Just about all of us have to take drugs, at least, occasionally. Some of these are legal and others are not so. Some are prescription and others are over-the-counter (OTC). Some most of us don’t consider drugs like tobacco products, coffee and tea, and alcoholic beverages.

Drugs are expensive, both in terms of monetary cost and the cost to our bodies and psyches.

Although my wife and I have good health insurance, which comes through her former employer, we still have to pay for these drugs.

Health insurance costs money. My wife’s former employer deducts her costs directly from her retirement check each month the same way Medicare deducts my premium from my retirement check each month. This happens the same way the federal and state governments withhold our income tax payments from our checks — just as if we were still employed.

Drugs for an instance

Drug pricing is an arcane science (i.e.: it is impossible for a reasonable person to figure out) and prices of individual drugs seem to bear no relationship to dosage or where they are on the government schedules.

  1. Qty: 30 Cash payment: $35.99 — Insurance copay: $10.00
  2. Qty: 150 Cash payment: $87.69 — Insurance copay: $20.93
  3. Qty: 90 Cash payment: $87.69 — Insurance copay: $10.00
  4. Qty: 60 Cash payment: $378.69 — Insurance copay: $25.00
  5. Qty: 60 Cash payment: $46.99 — Insurance copay: $6.93
  6. Qty: 30 Cash payment: $37.99 — Insurance copay: $14.49
  7. Qty: 30 Cash payment: $33.69 — Insurance copay: $10.00
  8. Qty: 28 Cash payment: $222.69 — Insurance copay: $50.00
  9. Qty: 30 Cash payment: $17.69 — Insurance copay: $1.51

Prescription mouthwash:

  1. Cash payment: $14.99 — Insurance copay: $6.58 (If we buy this directly from the dentist, the cost is $15 — not a bargain.)

Dental mouth paste:

  1. Cash payment: $84.99 — Insurance copay: $10.00

The Insurance copays come into effect after we’ve met minimums at the beginning of each year.

Numbers 1 – 10 above repeat each month and #11 was, hopefully, a one-time thing for me.

If we had to pay cash for the drugs we need each month, we’d have to pay about $960/month or over $11,000/year. OUCH!

As it is our totals come to about $150/month and about $1,800/year.

Quite a difference, huh?

I know some people whose drug expenses are in the high four digits/month and may even go into the five digits /month category.

What do people who cannot afford their drugs do?

Go without and die? Something needs to be done about these costs.

What to do

As individuals there is little we can do. If we choose not to pay — the drug companies choose not to give us their drugs. Not a good option.

Think the drug companies will lower their prices or adjust prices to a patient’s need and income? Yeah, right — I think I can hear their laughter from here.

We need to pressure our elected representatives to rein in drug prices dictated by these predatory entities. If our elected representatives refuse and continue to take money from these predators, we need to elect others who will.


The rich 1% of our population votes not for ideology, but for self-interest — witness the current tax reform bills before Congress. These bills are not tax reform but another massive transfer of wealth from the 99% to the 1% and, via another trillion — or more — dollars in deficits, a continuing transfer of debt to our children and grandchildren.

Surely, our democracy can do better than this.

Eventually, the bottom, massive and getting poorer will rebel. The rebellion (revolution) will either occur at the ballot box or in the streets. If it occurs in the streets, the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution will make sure that it is not bloodless.

We are not yet the modern equivalent to the France of 1789, but we are also no longer the United States of the Eisenhower and Reagan years.

Want to make a difference? Vote. Write. Tweet. March. But most important: VOTE! VOTE! VOTE!!!

Come Saturday Morning and It Still Hurts

Sunday morning and it’s cloudy and cool here in the OC — and, had to cancel taking The Wife out for breakfast with friends.

Why?

Last Monday I had some chili and cornbread for supper at Mike’s while watching MNF (Monday Night Football — a ritual we’ve enjoyed for thirty-plus years). Spicy, gringo chili but hot out of the pot.

I thought that I had burned the back of my mouth as it felt sore that evening when I went to bed.

Over the next couple of days it hurt to open my mouth wide enough to eat a decent fork-full of anything — even went to a smaller spoon for soup.

Couldn’t twist my tongue far enough to feel the sore but with a small flashlight and dental mirror I got a look-see — great, an indecently-sized canker sore. Time for regular use of Gly-Oxide.

Thanksgiving dinner was good but I had to cut everything into small pieces before eating. Friday, still sore.

Saturday? Bit the bullet and went to Hoag Urgent Care in HB, the one on Beach Blvd. Almost deserted. Took just a few minutes to be seen by the young doctor and he confirmed what I thought — dirty word, dirty word, dirty word.

The receptionist had already gotten the address of the pharmacy we use (Sav-on) so the doctor said they’d contact the pharmacy with the prescription — all right. Up and back in less than an hour.

Canker Sore Meds

Figured I give the pharmacy time to get the order together and with one thing and another I didn’t get there until after the end of the Alabama-Auburn game. (You know where this story is going, right?)

Yeah. Both the pharmacy and HUC close at 5 pm on Saturday and I made sure I got to the pharmacy before 4:30 pm. Gee, it turns out they know nothing about any prescription for me. Carol re-checks the day’s messages and transmissions — nothing. So, she calls the urgent care clinic.

Yes, I have a prescription. Yes, they sent it to the pharmacy (the correct one) that morning. Oh, of course, they’d be happy to give the prescription to Carol over the phone so she could fill it.

And, Yes — that is exactly why I wanted to get to the pharmacy while both businesses were still open.

Triamcinolone Acetonide USP, 0.1% — Dental Paste — basically medicine in petroleum jelly applied to the sore with a Q-Tip.

Put it on after brushing my teeth last night and it immediately felt better. Woke about 4 am and put some more on and was able to go back to sleep.

It is, however, still there and Di canceled our breakfast with friends.

Know what’s weird? The other thing that stops the sore from hurting — coffee. Ah, time for another cup and, maybe, some soup.


Mist, dozing in Joe's lap.
Mist, dozing in Joe’s lap.

Giving with Forethought

The question came up on one of the Facebook pages I frequent about a telephone solicitation for a “charity.”

The posted question was: “Two phone calls from cops for kids wanting money? Scam? They did have my name and address…”

Most of the following posts were about advice on how to deal with these types of calls or complaints about robo-callers. One of the posts said that the organization was legitimate and included a link to their website: http://www.copsforkidsinc.org/index.html

Were the phone calls legitimate? I doubt it.

I followed the link to the website and found the following on their About Us page:

Cops for Kids, Inc. will NEVER telemarket with fundraising requests. All of our fundraising is done within Riverside County, California. If you are ever contacted via telephone from someone or some group posing as doing fundraising for our Cops for Kids, Inc. Please call Dave Fontneau, Executive Director for Cops for Kids, Inc. at 951.245.3389 immediately.

Clearly, they do not call people asking for donations and our group is not in Riverside, County, CA.

There is also a Cops for Kids (C4K) group sponsored by the Anaheim (CA) Police Department. They can be reached through the Anaheim City website and through their own website. i called the phone number on their website and asked if they ever solicited donations over the phone; can you guess the answer? Yeah, the answer was: NO.

There is also a Cops for Kids Charitable Foundation located in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada, but I didn’t call them — and, I suppose there are numerous other such organizations scattered throughout the US.


Joe’s Advice

If you’d like some advice from me about phone scams and charities, here it is:

  1. Don’t answer the phone if the number is unknown to you. Even if you are home and in the mood to speak with someone, do not answer but let the call go to your answering machine or voice mail — listen in — if it’s legitimate, they’ll probably leave a message and you can pick up the phone or call them back.  One of the problems with answering a robo/telemarketing call is that those people now are quite sure they have a “live” number — they’ll keep calling & they’ll include your number in the lists they sell other scam artists.
  2. Get a call blocking device, NoMoRobo or a similar service if you can. They don’t stop all bad calls but many don’t get through.
  3. Do not believe that a “charity” or other caller is legitimate just because they have your information — all of your information is out there and available.  Don’t believe it? Google yourself.  Anything you’ve posted on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc. is available to everyone — and there are data-mining programs finding and collating this information every second of every day.  Look up your own phone number on whitepages.com — you may find both your name and address listed.  Value of your house, size, when it was built or sold — look it up on zillow.com.  Want to know how much your neighbor pays in property taxes — look up his address in the county database.  Everything is available out there — sometimes for a price from the bad guys — but it’s there and many of the bad guys have your information.
  4. Never give your personal information to anyone who calls you. The bank doesn’t call you to check your birthday or your account and credit card numbers. The IRS doesn’t call you to ask for money or threaten to send you to jail. The Social Security System doesn’t call you to verify your account number and whether you’re eligible for its programs. Call your bank with a number you know is legit — better yet, go to your local branch — same goes for the IRS and SS. And one of the latest scams I’ve heard — NO, the county is not going to send a deputy sheriff to arrest you for not paying a fine for not going to jury duty — which you “ignored.”
  5. No, your grandchild did not get arrested/have a serious accident/get kidnapped and you do not have to buy a gift card to pay his/her bail/emergency medical bills/ransom.
  6. Yes, keep giving to charities but check them out first: CharityWatch, Charity Navigator, and BBB Wise Giving Alliance are the big three rating agencies.  Give to the charity directly, not to an umbrella group — that’s just another layer of bureaucracy soaking up the money rather than helping those you want to help. Give to one, or a few charities, make your money count; don’t give nickels and dimes to a dozen groups.

Who else can you get good, trustworthy advice from?

Friends, personal – not Facebook – who deal with these kinds of things.
Speak with the Public Information Officer at your local police/sheriff agency.
Your bank/credit union may have someone at your local branch.
Your local senior center/social services agency.
Consumer Reports, AARP and the Federal Trade Commission have advice readily available on the web.

Final thoughts

Most of the people in this world are good; most of the people you will come into contact with are good; however, a few bad people with today’s computer technology can and do create a host of problems for those who are good.

Keep your eyes open and let common sense be your guide.

Lastly, if you’d like to see my record of the possible scam calls I’ve received look here: http://joeaubuchon.net/suspected-spam-and-or-scam-phone-numbers/

And, my MS Word document of calls I’ve received over the last couple of years now stands at 151 pages in length.


View of a cruise ship from Villa Andonis on our trip in 2016.

View from Corfu to mainland Greece/Albania.
View from Corfu to mainland Greece/Albania.

Random Thoughts

Some random thoughts on a Monday morning . . .

Charles Manson

Charles Manson is dead at the age of 83. He died some forty-eight years after those he is responsible for killing. 48 years.

How much money did we spend on his incarceration? How many school teachers could we have paid for; how many children could we have given better foster care; how many potholes could we have filled; how many . . . ? And all we needed was a single 9mm bullet (and maybe one for each of his cronies) to put him (them) out of our misery.

Jim Mora

Jim Mora was fired as UCLA’s football coach.

According to the LA Times, UCLA will pay some $12,000,000.00 to buy out the last four years of his contract.

$3,000,000.00 a year for a football coach? I thought the purpose of a university was to educate — not to act as a minor league team for a professional sports league.

Maybe I’m behind the times, but I would much rather my tax money go to provide scholarships for the next generation of doctors, scientists, engineers and teachers than to would-be future millionaire quarterbacks, pitchers and one-and-done NBA guards.

“I should have left them in jail.”

Can someone we have elected to high public office really believe that it was better to have left three young men in danger of being jailed for years in a foreign country, rather than to have helped gain their release, just because a boy’s father was publicly ungrateful to him?

A case of punishing the child for the words of a father?

Justice League

Justice League, from Warner Brothers, took in some $96,000,000 this weekend. That was about as much as the next five movies combined. Yet, it was a disappointment.

A $96,000,000 disappointment — aw . . . breaks my heart. C’mon, guys (and gals) how about something new and entertaining that’s not just for teenagers.


Thanksgiving

Is it just me (again) or is there more attention being given to “Black Friday” and the buying and selling of billions of dollars of goods imported from East Asia than there is to giving thanks for what we have?

Oh, yeah, and what about those who are forced to work on Thanksgiving Thursday?

I wonder how many of them are among our lowest paid workers, some working more than one job, and are giving thanks to have a job and are happy to have the additional hours to provide for themselves and their families — especially here in expensive OC SoCal?


Well, perhaps some of these thoughts aren’t so random after all.


Another gratuitous cat picture.

Smoke and Mist on Di's robe and British flag blanket.
Smoke and Mist on Di’s robe and British flag blanket.

St. Thomas of Canterbury, Goring on Thames

St. Thomas of Canterbury - Stained Glass Window Behind Altar
Stained Glass Window Behind Altar

St. Thomas of Canterbury - Exterior from main road.
Exterior from main road.

St. Thomas of Canterbury - Exterior from church graveyard.
Exterior from church graveyard.

St. Thomas of Canterbury - Interior Facing Altar
Interior Facing Altar

St. Thomas of Canterbury - Interior Facing Away From Altar.
Interior Facing Away From Altar.

St. Thomas of Canterbury Banner
St. Thomas of Canterbury Banner

St. Thomas of Canterbury Church, Goring on Thames


Fishing on Veterans Day

The rain was pouring and there was a big puddle in front of the bar just outside the American Legion Post.

A ragged old Marine Sergeant was standing near the edge with a fishing line in the puddle.

A curious young Navy fighter pilot came over to him and asked what he was doing.

“Fishing,” the old Marine said.

“Poor old fool,” the Navy officer thought to himself and he invited the old Marine into the bar for a drink.

As he felt he should start some conversation while they were sipping their whiskey, the haughty fighter pilot asked, “And how many have you caught today?”

“You’re number ten,” the old Marine sergeant answered. “Two Navy, three Army and five Air Force.”