I am a 57-year-old white American male infected with Hepatitis C. I am involved in a controlled medical research study by Roche Pharmaceuticals of an experimental Polymerase Inhibitor (RO5024048 also known as RG7128) drug therapy for the virus. This document is the story of my illness and the experience of treatment. My lovely and pretty damn wonderful wife will be contributing her take on the experience as well.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Money Saved Is Money Earned

In one of the last posts I did before I lost the energy to continue writing, I talked about the differences in care between a centrally administered health care organization (in my case the Kaiser HMO) and a health insurance model of care. One of the biggest differences is in the way drug prescriptions are handled. While under health insurance, the copayment for commonly prescribed drugs and drugs with generic equivalents was $15 for each prescription. Uncommon drugs or drugs whose patent had not yet run out or there were no generic equivalents available had much higher copayments depending on which supply store or agency you used. In the case of HEP C, the high-copayment drugs needed for treatment were Interferon (Pegasys), Procrit and Neupogen. My copayment for each of these was $100 for a 4 week supply. These drugs had to be ordered many days in advance from an out of state specialty pharmacy that delivered them via express mail. When you added in Ribavirin, the thyroid meds, the Ambien for sleep, Celexa for depression and the Vicodin for the weekly bought of muscle pain, the copayments added up to $375 every 4 weeks. During the 7 months of Standard of Care treatment while covered by health insurance the grand total was roughly $2800 in copayments for the meds.

Under the Kaiser HMO model of care, it is very different both in cost and the ease of getting the necessary meds. Kaiser has all the drugs available through their pharmacy. The is no longer any need for ordering interferon, Ribavirin, Procrit and Neupogen through an out of state mail order pharmacy; a pharmacy that had to send the stuff in an insulated carton with freeze packs and once mistakenly sent the meds to Canada. It can now be picked up at the local Kaiser pharmacy without the necessity for ordering many days in advance to make sure all the necessary approvals are in order. Kaiser also considers a standard order to be larger for some of the drugs than do the health insurance people which means there is more bang for the buck. The copay for the Ribavirin, Celexa, thyroid meds, Ambien and vicodin are still $15 but the prescriptions are for greater numbers of pills each. The interferon, Procrit and Neupogen all have a $25 copayment. In the case of the interferon and Procrit it covers a 4 week supply, for the Neupogen it covers an 8 week supply. Thus a 4 week supply of the necessary meds adds up to about $120. The savings amount to about $1500 for the length of treatment done while at Kaiser. This is not a trivial amount for the folks in my pay grade.

There are a lot of other differences large and small, good and bad, between the two methods of supplying health care and I hope to go into them more in the near future. This difference however, is nothing but good. $1500 saved covers a full month of expenses in my world and that is the same as $1500 earned.

1 comment:

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