I’m teaching my Monday writing class and all is going well the first hour, but then in the final 30 minutes I suffer a sudden decline of health. Sniffles, headaches, an elephant sitting on my chest. My students notice, in horror, grab their notebooks and flee my cooties in all due haste.
On Tuesday I’m a mess and call my Dr. I see her at 11:00 and she checks me for the flu – many people are getting the flu despite having taken the flu shot as I did back in September – but the results are inconclusive. “Call me if your fever goes up.” I stop for chicken-soup ingredients and barely get my soup made at home before becoming too weak to eat it.
As my coughing worsens, I decide to cancel my Wednesday elder fitness classes – for only the second time in 11 years. That means getting some students to help me call 65 others. I have no voice, just some gravel scratching at my throat.
I barely sleep and on Wednesday morning my fever climbs from 99° to 101° to 101.5° I call my Dr and her assistant tells me to take Tamiflu – that they’ve sent the prescription to my pharmacy already. I call to check that it is ready and the pharmacist says, “You do know that the co-pay is $95, right?”
I call Coventry – the pigs who supply me with my Medicare Part D, serious rip-off artists. This is not my first run-in with this devil-masquerading-as-a-company. “Yes, it’s $95 co-pay,” the woman tells me after I have waited on hold for over 45 minutes. “Let me put you through to the Tier Exception team,” and I wait another half hour on hold, before giving up. I’m too sick for a war. And I’m too weak to drive. I decide to walk the two blocks to the pharmacy, since that only puts me at risk.
I feel like the tortoise in those commercials about tortoises preferring dial-up to digital. I walk a few steps, stop and try to breathe, before walking another few steps, my head lolling on my chest, my shoes dragging on the pavement. At one point, I start to flag and need to lean against the wall of a building. “You okay?” asks some man as he charges past me without waiting for my answer. “No,” I say too weakly for him to hear way up there ahead of me.
My throat is flaming, my lungs are struggling, my cough is off the charts. I need a solution. And if I didn’t have $95? If I didn’t have the strength to pick up the medicine?
My message: Medicare is nothing like I expected, having lived in places with a national health system, where there is a single charge across the board (like $10) for expensive medicines. Medicare turns out to be a complicated, convoluted, divided system which has handed private profit-making companies the right to rip-off seniors for their prescriptions and their “supplementary” insurance.
The good news? I get to watch hours and hours of Olympic skating without feeling guilty or being inconvenienced by such things as work or a social life.