Warning… This is both an update and a rant.
I made a major change in my life last February, leaving my straight job with the full intention that I would now be able to pursue with a vengeance, the artistic endeavors which I had been relegating to second class citizenship for lo those twenty plus years in cubicle captivity. As I strolled out of the building for the last time, already relieved of my security pass, never to return again without first getting a “visitors pass”, I breathed a deep sigh of relief and walked into the bright sunshine of my perceived new future. (Visions of sugarplums danced in my head.)
A week or so later, it was already apparent that my envisioned freedom and stellar increase in productivity was going to be placed on hold. First there was the matter of Cobra Dental, Medicare and Social Security paperwork. Surprisingly, these assorted messes took two months to sort out. Then came the task of selecting a trustworthy fund administrator and rolling over my parsimonious IRA. For days I found myself reciting a line I once heard in a cops and robbers show on TV, “I’m surrounded by fools and assassins.” (I have since found a firm that provides real comfort, competence and expertise.)
Shortly after all that appeared to be settling down, my car decided to grab my attention. Clutch, clutch fork, throw out bearing, transmission, rear differential, brakes, passenger door locks, battery, alternator, serpentine fan belt and a frame repair kept me car less or enroute to Quincy for about two months straight. But that wasn’t all. The Director of the Gallery for which I am board president suddenly took seriously ill and it became necessary for me and Dotty to put on our conductors hats to insure that the trains continued to run and run on time. I’ve also spent an incredible amount of time and energy on housing issues; a big story that deserves its own space. Alas, the desired results were not accomplished.
These annoyances however, were minor and just a warm-up for what came next. 11/18/09 I went to Brigham and Women’s L1 for “routine” CT scan of my lungs. Actually the word “routine” as applied to medical issues is always an oxymoron. Two days later I received a call from the doctor to let me know that a small nodule had been noticed. The long and short of that is we decided to treat it as though it were a fungus (I’ve had an Aspergillus fungus before which necessitated removal of the tip of my upper right lobe) as opposed to something more ominous. A strong and well proven antifungal, V_FEND was prescribed for me. I went to fill the prescription and was introduced to one of the new realities of Medicare and supplemental drug coverage plans.
The pill that holds the future of my left lung in its hands, costs $40 per dose. I found that astonishing but was quickly told that there are actually more flagrantly expensive pills for other illnesses. Nonetheless, one refill of this prescription (2 pills @day) costs a total of 2,400. (I understand development costs, etc. but I still cannot condone a pill costing 33,000 a year per person as fair compensation.) Now, under the current health care system, after you have received 2,880 of coverage from Medicare and any ancillary drug coverage program, you fall into the Medicare Coverage Gap, also known as the “Medicare Donut Hole”. At that point you must pay the next 4,550 of drug expenses out-of-pocket. After that, magically your coverage resumes; until next year that is. I won’t try to address the twisted terminology or the ersatz logic foisted on the public. Those who are absolutely indigent have some crisis social services to lean on. The financially well resourced will take a little extra out of savings, etc. with negligible harm. The “middle class” however are simply relieved of a chunk of their savings or retirement funds yearly.
Even casual observation leads to the realization that everyone knows that the newly retired are in charge of the largest amount of discretionary funds they will ever command in their lives unless one wins the lottery. Shamelessly and without a twinge of guilt, the bandits in button down shirts scheme and connive to transfer those funds from the retiree’s nest egg to theirs. The Feds tax it, Medicare schemes against it; no state or government agency, bank, finance or insurance company seems to have the honest interest of these citizens at heart.
While investigating for possible help for myself I was told that my case was a little unusual. (I was ineligible for any help because I have my paltry IRA and draw upon it to pay my monthly expenses. This is counted as “income”. That it will be totally depleted in about six years was of little consequence.) Due to the high cost of the V_FEND prescription I hit the coverage gap very early in the year. Most Medicare recipients hit the “Donut Hole” around November. This means that each November and December, large numbers of Medicare dependent patients will need to cut back on their medicines or forgo food or perhaps presents for loved ones because of the high out of pocket cost of medicines they need. This in the time of year, the Holiday Season, when the weather is harsh, many are more likely to be depressed or have additional heating bills, etc. Ho, Ho, Ho! By the way, it is interesting that the most expensive drugs seem to be those related to breathing, heart, and other life threatening issues; those for which one will pay any amount in order to live.
It’s obvious that we need health care reform and even more so moral policing of all the agencies, businesses and providers of services for the population over 65. Otherwise we’re simply turning a blind eye to economic euthanasia.