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It's OK to cry at the pharmacy counter. Sometimes.

by Jenni Prokopy, the Editrix

It was late in the day, after a long slog through tons of client work and admin duties. I had worked a 9-hour day, run a ton of personal errands, and was finishing up with picking up prescriptions at the pharmacy.

Then the clerk told me I owed him $750. For three medications.

And I burst into tears.

The look in his eyes was one of compassion, maybe a little pity. "Yea, this is ridiculous," he said, looking over the paperwork. "You have insurance - it shouldn't be this much."

But it is. At least, that's what I'm told. I'm on a new insurance program, and apparently, their goal is to make me burst into tears in public over and over until I need a prescription for happy pills.

I walked away from the counter, paying for only one of the medications. I did something I've never had to do before: go without medication I need because I can't afford it.

I was embarrassed.

I hate crying in public - I don't hate crying, but I hate being vulnerable with strangers. (Funny, considering this whole ChronicBabe/bare your soul to the world project...)

And I hate walking away from pharmacy counters without my meds. HATE IT. I was mortified. And there was a whole line of people behind me who saw the entire thing. Most of them had the decency to look down and shuffle their feet as I turned toward them to walk away, tears rolling down my cheeks.

I'm not alone.

This is the most important thing that I was reminded of when I called a couple friends to talk about what had happened. My boyfriend held me close and promised he would help me find a solution. One of my doctors helped me get more information on possible discount programs. And my insurance broker is doing her damnedest to negotiate some discounts.

But I swear to you, as I walked out of the pharmacy, I felt as alone as I've ever felt. I hold an insurance card; I follow my doctor's orders; I take my medications on time; I've made umpteen lifestyle changes so I can be healthier and take the least amount of medications. In short: I am a model patient. I'm relatively healthy, enough so that I run a successful company and make a good living. I work hard. I do good.

And yet, I can't afford some of my medications. So what does that tell me about the millions of people in this country who don't have the ability to work? Who don't have insurance? How do they do it? How do they manage? Do they go without? Do they even bother going to the pharmacy? Or do they walk out crying, too?

It's not like I've never thought about this before - some days, I am consumed by it! - but it felt incredibly much more real when it was happening to me.

I am outraged.

I hope you are too. I don't often talk about stuff like this on ChronicBabe, but honestly, our health care system sucks. Here are some things I'm doing to help change it, and I hope you'll join me:

Contact your senator.

Contact your representative.

Sign or start a petition for better health care.

Learn more about fighting health care costs through our interview with medical billing advocate Jean Poole.

Write an amazing op-ed piece for your local newspaper or other media outlet.

Learn more about the coming health care reform so you can speak with others with authority and confidence.

Call the president. Make a fuss. 

Write a blog.  

And: talk with everyone you know about the issue. The more informed we all are, the better the conversations will be. Who knows? You may inspire someone to make a difference.

And if you happen to notice me crying at the pharmacy counter, come on over and give me a hug. I sure could use one. XO!

Posted: 6/14/2013 in Venting

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