And Am Utterly Gobsmacked by the Price...
I don't know whether to write this as a story or as an open letter to President Obama. Knowing that he already believes we need universal health care, I doubt anything I'm about to say would make a difference or would move him any faster. Perhaps the people I need to be writing to are in Congress, but they're a bunch of useless, bickering schlubs, so I guess I'll just go with the story and hope that maybe, just maybe, we'll acheive univeral coverage for all Americans before the turn of the next century. One can dream, right?
One of the requirements for working at the organization I'm working at is, you have to have a basic physical. I wasn't able to do that before I left the States, so I had to do it here. Fortunately, the org where I work has a fully staffed, on site clinic. So, I made an appointment and had a physical. Part of the process includes meeting with the on site doctor, which I did. Lovely lady whose English wasn't that great, but who spoke French and German. My French sucks (read: is totally non-existent except for a few words like hello, thank you, and wonderful!), but I can do German, so that's what we did.
Anyway--I mentioned to her my history of migraine and told her that I take, as needed, a lovely little pill called Relpax. I told her I had one pill left and wondered if she could write me a script, because I'd left my script at home. She promptly wrote it out and then advised me to pick it up at a pharmacy in France because it would be cheaper than getting it in Switzerland.
Bear in mind two things here. First, I'm self-employed, which means I'm one of the more than 40 million Americans without health insurance. Second, when I have to pick up a prescription, I have to pay for it out-of-pocket. As a result, my medicine is very, very expensive and I'm very careful about when I use it. In the U.S., six tablets of 40 mg Relpax--the standard dispensed dosage--is between US$190 and US$230 a box. That's about US$32-US$38 per pill. Needless to say, I only take one if I absolutely have to, which is further to say that if the two Advil migraine and two regular Advil I take together don't work at the outset of a migraine, I'm reduced to taking one of my very expensive pills.
When the doctor said, "Go to France; it's cheaper," I figured "cheaper" would mean I'd be paying around €110 - €150 (around US$150 - US$210) for the stuff. In preparation for that, I pulled out my Visa card and braced myself. Then, I handed the script to the pharmacist. She went behind the wall, pulled it off the shelf, did a little bit of this and that on the computer, handed it to me and said, "€28,80."
"Pardon? €28,80?" I asked in my best Franglish.
I turned to my friend Sue, who comes with me to provide language services when I go to things like pharmacies and grocery stores and the like. "Did she say €28,80? As in two-eight? Twenty-eight euros?"
Sue confirmed that, yes, in fact, the pharmacist said "€28,80."
I think at that point, I had an out-of-body experience. I said, "€28,80?" then looked at the pharmacist and said, "In the United States, I'd pay $200 for these." Now it was her turn for an out-of-body experience. Sue had to translate that to her, despite her good English.
So, here's my question, ladies and gentlemen. Why can I get my migraine medication for US$40.44 in Europe--essentially the price of ONE pill in the States--but it costs me nearly US$200 in the United States for the exact same thing?!
Can someone please explain this inequity to me? Do pharmaceutical companies fleece us like this because they know they can?
Needless to say, I think I'm moving to France. At the very least for my pills, if nothing else. Forget the good butter and the good bread and the access to excellent chocolate, I want my pills.
And now, I'll go away. But before I do, I'm calling the doctor at the clinic and asking her to write me a script for 36 pills. €175 is still cheaper than I'd ever pay in the US.