The Washington Post

Medication cost skyrockets with unemployment

My sleep cycle has been erratic for the past two months, with some insomnia occurring.  I blame the endless heat and humidity we have had.  But my insomnia began to lift this past weekend.  It may be a coincidence, but I also had a birthday this weekend.

My interrupted sleep might also have been due to the fact that I switched from brand name prescription drugs to generic versions.  I have an endocrine disorder that isn’t life-threatening but is annoying.  And I take several medications that are quite costly if you have no health insurance. 

When I was insured, two prescriptions cost me a total of $60/month.  With no insurance, the out-of-pocket expenses skyrocketed. One prescription costs $96/month while the other costs $575/month (yes, you read that right).  My endocrinologist isn’t a fan of generic drug therapy in my particular case, but she acceded to my request to switch me to generic prescriptions.

When I showed up at the pharmacy to purchase my generic drugs, the pharmacist handed me the far more expensive one.  When I asked how much it was, expecting him to say $300 or so, he smiled and said, “It’s free.”  I was stunned.  I couldn’t figure out why.  And then I realized that the vast majority of people who have to take this drug will wind up in the emergency room if they don’t receive it.  Fortunately, I am not one of those people.

The less expensive drug, meanwhile, was still $70/month for the generic.  That took me by surprise.  But fine.  I was so elated by the cost-free status of the other one that I certainly wasn’t about to quibble.

Stephanie Dudgeon poses for a photograph. (Courtesy of Stephanie Dudgeon)

This summer, the $70/month generic drug jumped in price to $82/month.

Eight years ago, I managed to secure an individual insurance policy with my endocrine disorder.   Eventually, I switched to the health insurance plan offered by my employer.  I now wish I hadn’t made the switch.  That’s because I was turned down for an individual health insurance policy this spring for having the same preexisting condition.  What gives? My cynical response is that it isn’t because my condition is suddenly dire. Rather, it’s a clever ruse to drive me into a much more expensive policy.

On an upbeat note, the job boards are filling up again.  And I have decided to return to a previous field: restaurant management.  That’s where the jobs are being created.  I have five years of experience and I enjoyed working in the industry.  Now I just have to overcome the hurdle of convincing prospective employers that despite a long hiatus from their industry – and employment in general – they should let me return.

There is a great deal of uncertainty in my life now.

By my calculations, my unemployment benefits are about to run out.  I have been advised that I might qualify for an extension. But when I inquired about that, the response I received was essentially a “don’t call us, we’ll call you.” This uncertainty has been especially nerve-racking for me.

Despite all of the uncertainty,I feel as if my employment status is going to change soon.  Delusional thinking?  Perhaps.  But I need to maintain some optimism.

Stephanie Dudgeon, a 48-year-old former project manager from Columbus, Ohio, has been unemployed for five months. Read more about her here. Read about the “Help Wanted” project here. Visit the project home page here.

Read more updates from Stephanie Dudgeon here.


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