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Eric Douglas: Who is really in charge of our health?

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By Eric Douglas

Recently, I changed health insurance providers. And my new company decided it needed to make a change to a medicine I take. Not some doctor at the company identifying a way to improve my health or something that would improve my care.

Nope. They just switched the drug because … well, who knows why?

For a year post-open-heart surgery, I was taking one statin drug to keep my cholesterol down. The only problem was, it started making my legs ache. That made it harder for me to exercise as much as I wanted to -- something I would think they would want, all things considered.

At my annual checkup, I asked my cardiologist’s office about a different medication without the side effects. I was promptly switched and thought that would be the end of it. It should have been.

And then the switch in companies and the new company refused to fill the prescription. They wanted me to go back to the first medication. This wasn’t after reviewing my medical history or anything like that. It was simply a matter of policy. They preferred one drug over another.

And here’s the kicker: They are both generics. The difference in cost is minimal -- literally pennies. But some standing policy at my new insurance company said every patient must use this medication first, regardless if they have used it previously.

Let that sink in. My insurance company just changed my medication because they want to save a few pennies. I’m confident, I am not the first or only person this has happened to, either.

A lot has been said lately about health care and insurance coverage. I don’t pretend to know the best way to handle it. I do think that our elected representatives (I’m no longer referring to any of them as “leaders”) need to take a step back and think about the good of the country – not just the good of the lobbyists representing private, for-profit health insurance companies that registered record profits in the first quarter of 2017.

I realize there are financial costs to underwriting health insurance coverage for low-income people. But there are bigger human costs for allowing people to lose coverage or to be forced to declare bankruptcy because of an unexpected medical condition.

Eric Douglas, of Pinch, is the author of “Return to Cayman,” “Heart of the Maya,” “Cayman Cowboys,” “River Town” and other novels. He is also a columnist for Scuba Diving Magazine and a former Charleston Newspapers Metro staff writer. For more information, visit www.booksbyeric.com or contact him at Eric@booksbyeric.com


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