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The new health care revolution: a coming co-pay revolt?

Posted Feb 09 2010 2:19pm
When I saw Brian Anan for the first time in many years, I was impressed by how he looked, but more shocked by what he had to say.

I still find it remarkable that I get this insecure feeling whenever I hear of a friend who's on meds. I feel terrible for being that way, but I can't help it. Some prejudices are just too hard to shake, even when somebody tells me how much the drug, Lexapro, has saved their life

Luckily, but not so lucky for him, Brian had other news that upstaged everything he said before, and quickly wiped my prejudices away. It was news that converted whatever insecure impulses I may harbor about medication and mental illness into justified anger.

I asked him how much this drug, an anti-anxiety medication, cost him.

"You wouldn't believe it," he said.

"Try me," I said. "I've heard stories."

"One-hundred-and-eighty-dollars."

"How much?" I asked. "Don't you have insurance?"

"Yeah," Brian said.

"THAT is your co-pay?"

"Yeah, just the co-pay," he said. "Even the people at Walgreen's were stunned...It was the first time a pharmacist's assistant ever said, 'Are you sure?' "

His company had just switched insurance plans, and this is what they left him with. An insurance plan that doesn't insure.

That made me think of health care, and how the politicians who run our country still can't get it right. They still can't get a floor vote in Congress on even the weakest of reform plans.

I've seen the tea-baggers and other conservative forces erupt in protest over the Obama administration's attempts to, in their words, lead a government coup of health care. I've seen liberals unjustifiably dismiss this movement as nothing more than, pardon the metaphor, a lunatics-running-the-asylum moment.

But I wonder if another revolution could be in the works. How many other Brian Anans are out there who will feel the same sticker shock when they go to their drug store and see how much they have to pay?

They're already paying nearly $1,000 a month for the health care plan itself, the same money that could go toward a month's rent. Now the meds that keep them alive, or maintain their sanity cost nearly as much as a car payment.

If they keep a budget, something's going to have to get cut. It may be easier to cut the pills than the car.

You gotta wonder how much longer a country can go when it's paying for medical insurance that has little-to-no competition. You gotta wonder how much longer people can last when they can't find the room on their credit card to pay for a co-pay.

Just a few years ago, Brian was paying $10 for the same medication. You gotta wonder why the pro-reform forces can't see this, and how their own campaigns for change repeatedly miss the point.

They consistently point to the 40 million people who don't have insurance. But what about the tens of millions who have it now but, they're learning quickly, can't afford it?

Many of those people are in the great middle-class, the same ones who are supposedly up-in-arms about any talk of a government takeover of health care. They're also the people who vote, and when they vote, they often vote with their wallet. Will they vote for their co-pay?

Brian's not so sure. For now, he'll pay the bill. After a life of living with eating disorders, he finally looks like he's found some security. His keeps in shape, but doesn't overeat. He's got a family and a decent job.

But if his co-pay can go up 1000 percent in just a couple years, what's next? What will he have to sacrifice if no change takes place?

"I'll remember this in November," Brian said. "If I don't see any legitimate options out there, I'm going to blame somebody."
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