Monday, July 29, 2013

How I Pay for Drugs

Caiscais (pronounced “cosh-cosh”) is a charming town facing the Atlantic Ocean on the coast of Portugal.  The day we arrived, other old ladies in our tour group ran down to the local pharmacy and refilled all their prescriptions for a fraction of the cost of the same drugs in the States.  I did not go with them.  Thanks to John Durkalski, I have excellent health insurance through Navistar’s Retiree Health Plan, which pays for medical, dental, eye glasses – and sends me drugs at a huge discount. 

This week in my mail box I found my “Prescription Drug Summary.”    My “year-to-date” amount for “total drug costs” came to $7,783.27.  Medicare and my insurance – well, John’s insurance – paid for most of this.  I only paid $78.85.  

Lucky me! 

But what about other people?  In the U.S. medical bills are so enormous that many people can not pay for even minimum health care.  Old people must choose between pills and food.  The average wage-earner, no matter how hard he/she works or how many hours, can not make enough money to pay for insurance and/or medical bills.  

If I did not have insurance, I could not afford my medical bills.  The 20% not covered by Medicare would exceed my Social Security benefits.  I could not pay for Sensiphar, the drug that controls my parathyroid hormone and prevents having to cut my throat again.

Many people are under the delusion that we have the “best medical system in the World.”  Actually, when it comes to health care – based on length of life, survival rates for cancer, infant mortality, and other factors – the U.S. ranks below every country in Western Europe.  The place where health care is equal to that of the U.S. is Bangladesh! 

Republicans are trying to destroy Obamacare.   The problem is not that the government is taking over health care, it is that Obamacare does not go far enough.  Congress collects millions from insurance companies, the A.M.A. (the doctors’ union), and pharmaceutical companies.  That group pays for elections, so Congressmen ignore people who merely have one man-one vote.
Every other industrial nation has a national health plan that is better than ours, that insures all its citizens and provides better care at lower cost.  That is the truth.

Have you heard?  “This is Socialism.”  And that is not a bad thing.  Today people, who have just as much “freedom” as we have, live in Socialist-Democracies in places like Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. And don’t forget Finland, which has the best schools in the World..  Too bad they are all have long, cold winters.  Otherwise, when countries are rated on many factors, including education, health care, and, best of all, “quality of life” the Scandinavian countries, with their Socialist governments, all rank far higher than the good old U.S.A.

Friday, July 26, 2013

John and Bill

John Quinlan is one of my favorite people among the residents at the retirement home where I live.  He has a wry sense of humor.  Every Wednesday he does a program on “current events” which consists in talking about amusing and ridiculous things he read about on the internet. 

John was drafted during the Korean War.  His type of personality did not adapt well to the discipline of military life.  Private Quinlan was assigned to serve officers in the mess hall.  He hates all officers. 

Yet every morning he has, sitting beside him at breakfast, Bill Pyle, who was a career Air Force officer with the rank of major. 

Bill is also an amusing fellow, full of enthusiasm for life.  That’s an important in a place like this, where many of the people are coping with various illnesses and whose main objective seems to be to die and go to Heaven.  Some of them are rather dismal companions.   It is a joy to have among us someone who is cheerful and enthusiastic.  

Bill is self-confident.  Again, an admirable characteristic.  He enjoys classical music.  One evening he gave me a lift to a concert by the Garland Symphony.  Afterwards he headed east when he should have driven south.  He explained he avoided driving on busy streets.  After goine east for almost a mile, he then he circled due west.

He drove west to Galloway Avenue.  What he did not seem to realize was that Galloway is not a north-south street.  It runs from northwest to southeast.  He headed west when his destination was southeast.  In the Air Force his job was in procurement; he was never a pilot 

I asked, “Do you have a map?”

“Yes,” he said, “right there in the pocket next to me.” 

He must never have looked at it.  To get home we drove in a circle over half of Dallas County, taking 45 minutes, while a direct route would have taken about 20. 

Bill was an officer.  A civilian like me can not tell him anything.  For once I sat quietly and said nothing.  I was grateful that, because of Bill, I was able to hear beautiful music that evening. 

The world is made up of many varieties of people.  It frustrates me that so many people are ignorant – good people who do not know that they are ignorant.  I struggle to accept people the way they are.  I can not change them.  I know that.   But sometimes I feel like Bryan, hanging on the cross and singing, “Look on the Bright Side.” 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

My Depression

Depression is a strange phenomenon.  I know the signs.  Years ago I was in a deep, suicidal depression.  I also did crazy, wild things – like driving 70 miles an hour in a 30-mile zone and going off to Europe with only $300 and a thirteen-year-old kid.  I was diagnosed as manic-depressive, now called simply bipolar.  It was a relief to realize that my mental state was involuntary, due to a chemical imbalance in my brain.  I went on medication, and I have not had a Depression since.  Until Thursday. 

I remembered those days, before I was on medication, when I struggled to get dressed before my children came home from school.  On Thursday instead of showering and getting dressed in my usual slacks and shirt, I pulled on a mumu and collapsed in my recliner.  All day I lay there.  I simply could not get up to do the dishes or make my bed.  I had taken my pills, as always, but I could not cope with the situation.

I had received two blows which sent me into a spiral of grief.

Charlie my cat was not there to comfort me.  Always as soon as I put my key in the lock, he came to the door to greet me.  When I sat in the recliner, he lay on my lap; we watched television together.  I put my hand out and stroked his soft, soft fur.  I was alarmed on the day I felt bones beneath that fluff.  He was losing weight; his kidneys were failing.  Last week, instead of coming to be with me, he hid in the closet, looking miserable as he curled up among my shoes.  His vet said it was better to end his suffering.  She gave him a shot.  I held him in my arms as he put his head on my shoulder and went to sleep.

Now he is gone and there is no one to comfort me.

I’ve known for months that my friend Sally had terminal cancer.  Still, it was a shock when her daughter called and said, “Mama died between three and four this morning.”  Sally and I were friends since high school, for 70 years.  We did not live in the same towns.  We each had other friends.  But ours was a special relationship, as if we were sisters. 

Others have lost dear pets.  They grieve, and then they get another cat or dog.  I can not replace Charlie. 

Other people have lost loved ones.  Vista lost a husband after 72 years, Eileen after 67.  Mariam, 92, grieves for her sister, who was 97.  They are coping and greet every day cheerfully.  I have other friends, dear friends, who comfort me.  But 70 years?  It is as if my whole life has been ripped out.

Every day I see Vista and Eileen and Mariam and know I will soon be “up and at ‘em” again.  Unlike my bipolar episodes, I have a “situational depression.”  It may take a while, but this time the Depression will go away.