Commentary

The high cost of prescription drugs almost bankrupted my family. Will Sinema help us?

October 7, 2021 1:19 pm

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I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) in 2007. At just 42, the rapid onset of my symptoms left me bedridden. Everyday felt like a physical battle and the pain and exhaustion I felt was immeasurable. 

It took six months of trial and error to find the medication that works for my type of RA. But that one drug costs up to $1,000 a month.

This drug helps ease my symptoms and it’s my only hope for relief: I have no choice but to pay the price the pharmaceutical company sets even if it has nearly bankrupted me.

Since my diagnosis, I’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket costs for my prescription medications. At one point, my family was on the verge of medical bankruptcy. We had to refinance our house, refinance our car and cut back on any expense we could. Despite my chronic pain and mobility issues, I took on a part-time job. I was jeopardizing my health and my Social Security Disability payments to do so, but we had no other option.

Unfortunately, my story is far too common. In America, 66.5% of bankruptcy filings resulted from medical expenses. We pay nearly three times more for the same prescriptions than citizens of other wealthy countries.

My family is just starting to recover from several years of medical debt. My husband and I can’t save for retirement. I’ve worked my whole life for financial freedom, but now every extra dollar goes towards my medical expenses. Even a couple hundred dollar reduction in the cost of my medication would change my life. But I’m stuck because I’m at the mercy of pharmaceutical companies.

When I was on my husband’s insurance, the co-pay for my prescription was $25. The drug manufacturer even provided a rebate, so I didn’t pay anything out-of-pocket. 

After two years on disability, I was eligible for Medicare and the co-pay on my monthly prescription shot up to nearly $4,000 a month. I realized then that Medicare recipients are taken advantage of by pharmaceutical companies because Medicare can’t negotiate for lower drug prices and recipients are ineligible for assistance and rebate programs.

Luckily, in 2012 my medication cost dropped to around $1,800 a month. Today, I pay between $500-$1000 a month for my prescription. This doesn’t include treatments for the side effects of this drug or the many complications that come with my diagnosis. Even with Medicare Part D, I use a prescription drug mail order service because it’s cheaper for my other prescriptions.

President Biden has called for Congress to finally allow Medicare to negotiate with drug companies to lower the cost of prescription drugs. This would set industry wide standards and bring costs down for everyone even if they don’t have Medicare. This is a common sense solution that 9 out of 10 Americans support. Not only would it save Americans money, but it would also reduce government spending by nearly $500 billion.

We are one of the richest countries in the world, no one should be going into bankruptcy because of medical conditions that are out of their control. I thought I did everything right. I got married, worked hard, paid my taxes, raised a child, and owned a home. No amount of planning or saving could prepare you for the financial ruin that a chronic condition will bring. 

I voted for U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema in 2018 because she campaigned on lowering the costs of health care. I attended a couple of her open houses and listened to her promises to lower prescription drug prices. I saw how genuine she was about standing up for people like me, and I hope she can make that happen on prescription drugs. This isn’t a partisan issue. It’s my livelihood, my retirement, my family’s future. 

How many more people need to lose their livelihood or lose their lives for our leaders to do something?

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