Mental Health Medication Prices: How About a Game of Roulette?

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I don’t find that ranting on the internet in any fashion to be informative, creative, productive, engaging—and thus not worthwhile. Even the word “rant” makes my fingers clinch as if I don’t want to touch the keyboard, knowing that what’s going to spew forth is probably not going to be my best work. The face I am making now, knowing where I’m going with this… it is similar to that of me seeing garbage strewn about the my house. You know, eh… dirt. Dirty, this all is.

“All” meaning the world of medication in the United States. Screw it, I’m going. “Dirty” doesn’t begin to describe it, but it certainly fits nicely. Everything in this article is from a personal perspective. I’m not doing research on this subject. As well this is not a political article. There’s a very distinct reason I don’t go into politics on this site—not only because it would muddy the message, but because I wrote political pieces for some of the larger newspapers some ten years ago, and gave that up willingly as the climate became—let’s say, not conducive to nuance. So, ok, a lot of disclaimers out of the way.

I don’t have health insurance. There are many reasons for that, and those reasons are germane to the subject here. I make a pretty ok salary. Most likely slightly above average. Most of my money comes from the gamble of running businesses, all of which right now are in start-up mode. I’ve ran successful ones before (and had insurance at the time), and I’ve seen them fail, as well I’ve failed at starting businesses as well. I’ve been all over the place money-wise in my life. Not to get into specifics, but I’ve swung back and forth between very low places and pretty damn good places

Right now I am in a wonderfully crafted1 gap where I make too much to get any help on healthcare, and make too little to afford any help (i.e. insurance) myself. So I am on the “hope and a prayer” plan—and I distain the concept of hope, and I do not pray. Health insurance for someone like me—who runs businesses and does not have a normal “job job,” as it were—is a complete joke. It’s been a joke since I investigated it—apparently, after looking at the numbers—for the laughs. Something in the range of a car payment, and for insurance that doesn’t kick in until you’ve already paid thousands out of pocket. Why even offer this to people? I don’t know. I suppose some people think it is worth it. For me, I’m not concerned about the catastrophic. If that happens, everyone around me knows: just pull the plug2.

Ok, here’s where things get interesting. To me, at least. Without insurance, I pay for medication through networks of internet-based savings coupon collectives, begging pharmacists to keep looking up different savings plans3, and everything but the illegal. Because I have anxiety issues—I don’t really have the stomach for the illegal. So what I see is the base price of medication that people without insurance do not see. The “wild west” is the perfect metaphor, no matter how cliché it sounds. As well any work I do to get the prices down for my medication (often for naught) takes time and effort that I could be spending trying to build things to make me money. So there’s that irony too, if you need more.

Nowhere else in the world of purchasing anything does the price of a good go up 400% in a week. But in the world of medication, it does. Why? Because it can. We have a system built that I could go into detail on involving oligopolies, collusion, and greed. But I’ll shirk those characteristics and just leave it at “no one really cares.” Because they don’t. Why would they?

Nowhere else except I suppose the stock market.

I fully understand the extreme volatility of the pure stock market, where prices of stocks swing wildly. It is why day traders mostly lose. It is supply and demand in its most raw and unfiltered condition. And that is fine, it is a game you can play or not play—as most people balance out their investments and are not exposed to the wild swings of a single stock. Those wild swings are because people are gambling other people’s money. It is fun for many, it is fun to watch for others.

But we’re talking medication here. Something that helps people’s lives. This is life. Life! Not a game. Yet, you’ll find drug makers treat it like a game. Actually, you may not find this out—because your insurance flattens that all out4. The game is actually constructed to be between drug manufacturers and insurance companies. I just happen to be in the middle of their contest.

Here’s the part I love.

I am taking a lot of medication for anxiety. These potential swings in prices cause anxiety. Yeah, the actual application of attempting to mitigate my health issue causes a major part of my health issue. That’s… well, it is a lot of things, isn’t it? My medication pricing is what I call the “monthly med roulette wheel.” Every month on the 24th, I go to refill my prescriptions. What will the cost be? No one knows until that day. It can swing by hundreds. I can be a car payment, or it can—for no reason anyone would wish to explain rationally5—be pretty damn cheap.

Oh, I also take some medication to even out my mood swings. Yeah, the irony persists: the act of acquiring the medication causes mood swings like the one I’m in now.

I’ll restate the irony:

That which my medication treats is caused in part by the energy, problems, and worry involved in obtaining said medication.

All of this being said, I step back and think—what the hell are the laws of business, consumerism, and money doing in the world of healthcare at all? I don’t care about the politics of it—healthcare is life. Life. Have I said that enough? I don’t think so. Life!

There is no good reason for healthcare to be a business at all. No, I’m not swinging far left into socialism, or maybe I am. I am certainly not swinging farther into communism. Left and right don’t matter here. We’re all on this planet together, to make sure we’re taken care of first, and everyone else is taken care of soon thereafter. I fully understand the care for others extending from yourself, to those closest to you, and decreasing a bit as you move further away from yourself. That is human nature, and is fine. But we can all agree that certain things are a matter of life—and are apart from the constructs of business, no?

I’m not going to get into the tired (and poor) arguments of insurance and drug company CEO pay, or any of that mess. I get the rarity of a person who can run a company as large as these, and I wouldn’t take the job for less than millions. All of that is fine.

But when it comes to pricing—there is no good reason for it to be a roulette wheel. For any good—commoditized and generic at that!—to swing in price from $20 to $90 in a week. “Good” is not a filler term here. I mean “good.” It is truly not good. Every definition of the word “good.”

Again: Life. This is not a world of post-Christmas sales, conspicuous consumption, designer shirts, or trinkets for your house. I will bold and center the following:

This is literally a set of goods that makes my life worth or not worth living. And it is priced through methods that mirror gambling.

And now I’ve brought up gambling, so let us go there. Because I have some experience here. I don’t gamble but maybe every few to ten years, but I know how to play craps according to methods that make the odds very close to 1:1. That is to say, if I play over time, I lose very little. Over time I’ve happened to have come out ahead. I very well could have come out behind. But not by a lot! Because over time it is pretty much—when played the way I do—a dollar spent bringing back slightly less than a dollar back.

So medication pricing is actually WORSE than gambling.

Please imagine what would happen if next week the price of milk went from $3.29/gallon to $13.16/gallon. Imagine every way that would affect people, including yourself. Actually, let’s take that further and talk about your entire grocery bill. Because that is how important my medication is to me (and many others, especially those with mental disorders.) We don’t have perfect numbers, but the average person spends $300/month on groceries. Insert your number here. Now multiply that by four. Boom! $1200 this month in groceries—oh, and you don’t get this information until you check out, and certainly no one is going to tell you why. It’s just what it costs this month. Take the food or leave it, your choice.

That is my choice. I can be living a life of horror or I can pony up prices which seem to be based on a roulette wheel to life a life with said horror mitigated.

As I write this, I know nothing will come of it. No one really cares, because, well we live in a world where care is hard to come by. People are occupied by other… things.

That’s the end of the article. That’s all I have to say. You can stop reading now. I’m just going to go on, inside my head, about something impossible to solve. Nice world that has been constructed for me. Thanks. I’ll figure it out.


1 Turn your sarcasm detector on now. Just in case.  [BACK]

2 That one wasn’t sarcasm. Oh, and if you didn’t know that, and you are close to me, let this be the official document.  [BACK]

3 They have them, you know. They just don’t advertise them.  [BACK]

4 And you’ll pay for it eventually, just over a long period of time. Even if your company is paying for it—it is money they’re not paying you. It doesn’t matter—you’re actually in the same boat as me… you’re just playing the game over a long period of time, thus you don’t notice.  [BACK]

5 Rationally here meaning taking into account that this is life we’re talking about, not a game. I fully understand the game.  [BACK]