Okay, I’m sitting on the waiting bench at the big box pharmacy. There’s a guy at the counter: lean, middle-aged, in a white tee shirt, looks like he works hard. He’s waiting too, seems jumpy.
A pharmacy clerk comes in view, stepping from behind the long rack where dozens of plastic bags holding filled prescriptions are hanging. She says something to the guy, and all I catch is “Five seventy five.”
The guy steps back.
“What?” he says, and he’s angry. “I’m not paying that.” He makes a fist, but doesn’t raise it. “I’ll just die.”
I glance back at the clerk. Did she mean “Five dollars and 75 cents” per pill? Or was it “Five hundred and seventy five dollars per dose”? Like for an Epi-pen?
She looks unhappy, but more resigned than intimidated, as if she’s heard this before. Mumbles about the guy could talk to his doctor, maybe get it changed to something lower-priced. She has a plastic card in her hand, extending it toward him.
He snatches the card. “I’ll just die,” he says again, in almost a shout, wheels and strides away.
The clerk pauses for a beat, then speaks to a well-dressed woman who stepped in front before I could stand up from the waiting bench.
I shrug it off, lean back, figuring this is a time for feeling grateful. I’ve got Medicare Part D drug coverage; premiums keep going up, but it lowers the counter price a bunch. Besides, if I had to, I can skip these pills; they’re for helping old guys pee. Doing without for awhile wouldn’t kill me. I’m lucky.
And it’s my turn. Name, date of birth? The clerk’s fingers click as I repeat them. I’m asked these so often nowadays I figure it’s for more than ID, must also be a dementia screener: have I forgotten one or the other since last time? I don’t like that thought.
The clerk looks up. “Insurance won’t pay for this until the 21st,” she says. (It’s the 7th.)
“Really? But I’ve only got three pills left.”
She shrugs. Heard this before too. “Well, you could pay the cash price now, if you want.”
“How much would that be?”
She needs to consult the screen in the back. More clicks. She says: “It would be more than a hundred dollars.”
And it’s a generic pill. “Remind me what the insured price would be?”
Peers down again. A few taps. “It won’t tell me that til the 21st.” She isn’t looking up.
I Pause. I don’t make a fist. I don’t shout.
But I say, “I think I’ll wait til the 21st,” and start to walk away, then glance back and add, “I’m not gonna die,” over my shoulder.
And I won’t; not from that at any rate. So I still have plenty to be grateful about.
But the feeling isn’t coming up so easy now.
True story; today.