Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Juggling Act!

As I sat down to pay some bills today, I wondered if other people had to decide between paying their past due AT&T bill or picking up their medicine. For me the choice is a no brainer, I need the medicine or I will die. AT&T will have to wait a few more days or the phone will get shut off and when I have a few extra dollars I'll pay the activation fee and turn it back on. Seeing as how we only have a cell phone and no land line, being without a phone can be dangerous for my health.

These are the choices I must make every month. What monies go where and how do I pay the co-pays on the medications I need? How do I pay the bills while still buying groceries? When I need money, the grocery bill is where I pull the extra money from. Thus, I eat less fresh fruits one week while still getting the meds I need or paying another bill.

I am still working and I do have insurance at my job. However that insurance costs me, out of my paycheck, EVERY SINGLE WEEK, $198, that's about $800 a month for the premium alone. I work at an hourly job, in a quality control inspection lab inside of a manufacturing facility. We are a non-union company and therefore I am responsible for all of my own insurance premiums and there is no one to argue for me for better insurance and so on and so forth.
On top of that $198 a week premium I pay, I also pay co-insurance amounts of 15-20%, that means if a bottle of insulin costs $156 (what my pharmacy charges) I pay $23.40 of that, not so bad right? $20 a bottle of insulin... in my household we use 7 bottles a month. That's right between me and my husband; we use 7 bottles every single month. I am paying $163 a month JUST for our insulin.
We are both on insulin pumps, other cost associated with that care include, blood testing strips, infusion sets and reservoirs. I pay 20% of those costs for 2 people. A box of infusion sets costs $137, a box of reservoirs is $38, a box of testing strips is $52 and the sensors I need to monitor myself are $473. In any month I will use 1.5 boxes of infusion sets and reservoirs, 6 boxes of blood testing strips and 1 box of sensors. My costs total approximately $210. Jeff's costs are less because he doesn't use the sensors but his costs are about $94 a month. So for two people who have insulin dependent diabetes, every month, it costs us $465 to survive our diabetes. Without these items we will die within weeks. Those costs are with insurance.

Every time I go to the doctor I pay a 15% co-pay, each visit costs roughly $25-50 depending on the doctor, whether it's at the actual hospital or in a satellite office. Going to the hospital costs more, they charge an extra couple of fees; this is mandated by the state. Not all of my doctors have satellite offices so I don't have a choice where I see them.  This is just to see the doctor and talk to him/her. This does not include any other tests, lab work or specialists that may be called in while I am there. On a regular basis I see a diabetes doctor- Endocrinologist, a heart function doctor- Cardiac Electrophysiologist, and a heart lipid doctor- Lipidologist. On a semi-regular basis I also see a lung doctor- Pulmonologist, a kidney doctor- Nephrologist and retinopathy specialist for my eyes.

This is just for ME. This is so that I can function on a day to day basis, so that I can wake up every day; get to work, to earn a living to care for Grace, Jeff and myself. EVERY single one of those doctor visits costs me about $30.

Physical testing on my body is a whole other story. Each time I go to the doctor another test has to be run. Whether it's an HGA1C, lipid panel, EKG, blood pressure, kidney function, heart enzymes...or the bigger ones- Cardiac Stress Tests, CT Scans, Pulmonary Function or the mother of them all- Cardiac Catheterization /Coronary Angiograph, I pay part of it.  My last Cardiac Catheterization /Coronary Angiograph cost almost $4,000, out of pocket, after insurance. I have had 3 of these tests in the last 2 years and 4 months.

While Jeff doesn't have the heart problems that I have, he does have the diabetes and a history of a failing back. Thus, he has doctors he sees on a regular basis as well and they charge a co-pay also.
Take into account that I often get sick with other ailments, bronchitis, cellulitis, flu, strep, MRSA, eye infections, ear infections, rashes, and whatever ever other virus is put in my way and you can only imagine how many doctors I see.

Being sick is costly. My daily medicine regime besides insulin, also includes, oral diabetes drugs. I am severely insulin resistant, thus I need an oral medication that helps the insulin work inside me better. I take 4 different medications for my blood pressure. I also take 3 different medications to control the plaque that builds up in my arteries. Blood thinners, aspirin, vitamin supplements, thyroid medication and nitroglycerin round out my daily intake of pills. Grace and I once counted 20 pills I have to take in the evening... I take 8 in the morning and 1 in the afternoon... I pay a portion of each of these medications. Sometimes, new ones are added when I'm sick or my heart starts acting up.
The monthly costs for those 30 pills are staggering. Even with my insurance and special discounts I've managed to find for certain medicines for which there is no generic yet, I still pay close to $200 for these prescriptions.

Does your head hurt yet? Do you understand the intensity of what living with diabetes and heart disease costs? Can you fathom paying what you pay for your mortgage ever month in medical costs? Do you imagine that you could come up with an extra $800-$1000 every month just to cover the costs associated with your medical care?

Many people my age, 41, don't understand what it is to be sick and yet still functioning on a daily basis. Yes, I get up every day, I go to work, I pay my bills and I am fighting a battle with TWO diseases that cost me much of my paycheck every week, while still attempting to live.

Beyond the not getting better part, is the fact that every day I worry if today will be the day that I can't find the money to buy my insulin or blood pressure medication. Every day I wonder if I'm going to have another heart attack that puts me out of work for a few weeks, thus losing pay, thus not knowing how I'd buy the medicine I need. I spend hours each week trying to come up with the numbers to balance things out, to continue to see my doctors and take my meds.

There will come a day when all of the balls fall; when my arms can no longer juggle all of this. There will come a time when I am no longer able to write and ask for understanding, patience, love and support.

Today is not that day, not yet. I am still here, asking for your help. Asking you to spread the word, to understand the depths of what we are facing, asking you to just share this and find it in your heart to help me make it another day.

Again, for the people that have given, I thank you from the bottom of my damaged hear- thank you!

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