Some people tend not to care about anything that doesn’t directly affect them, for instance, the insane cost of pharmaceutical drugs. Any frequent user of medication for hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, etc. would agree that without medical insurance coverage, those drug costs are too expensive for the average person and absolutely unaffordable for others.
I had first-hand experience with the outrageous cost of prescription drugs, a few weeks ago when a small itchy spot suddenly appeared on my arm. At first, I ignored it, thinking that it would soon go away. When the spot became more annoying, I visited my dermatologist. He examined the area, determined it to be a minor skin irritation, and then prescribed a cream for me to apply daily until it cleared up.
Before continuing home, I stopped at the pharmacy to get the prescription filled. The pharmacist looked young enough to be a high school student, but her pleasant demeanor was mature and professional. When I asked her to make sure that my insurance would cover the prescription before she filled it, she obligingly entered the required information into the computer and after a few seconds told me, “I’m sorry they won’t cover it.”
“How much will it cost if I pay for it?” I asked innocently; well, not exactly innocently. Being cognizant of the controversy and frequent media reports in JAMA and other sources, I am aware of the outrageous cost of many prescription drugs. But how much could a small tube of ointment cost? Twenty dollars, $30 at most. The pharmacist entered additional info into the computer and then stared too long (I thought) at the monitor.
I begin feeling uncomfortable, but my anxiety heightened when she looked at me with the culpable gaze that a child displays to a parent after doing something that he or she knows is wrong. The only thing missing was the “Uh oh!” but she didn’t say it. There was just that pregnant pause of deafening silence between us until I chuckled and asked: “Is it that bad?”
She hesitated for a few seconds longer as if preparing to tell me that someone had died. Certainly, this wasn’t the first time she had to deliver bad news, but apparently, she didn’t relish doing it. I dropped my smile, raised my eyebrows, and tilted my head slightly to one side like a curious puppy. “Hit me,” I said.
Almost in a whisper, she said, “Without insurance, it’s $600.”
After I mentally picked myself up off the floor, I said aloud, but mainly to myself. “Are they crazy?”
I sensed real empathy as she cautiously asked, “Should I fill it?”
I wanted to say, “Hell, no.” But more politely, I said, “Would you call my doctor and see if he would recommend a generic brand that the insurance will cover.”
“Of course.” She walked a short distance away to a desk holding the telephone and made the call while I waited. Upon returning she told me that a recording had come on saying that the office was closed between 1 and 2 pm. The wall clock behind her showed 1:05. I remembered that the small staff took lunch during that hour and told her so. She said that she would try again later and would call me.
Around 2:30, the dermatologist’s assistant called me. She said that as she told the pharmacist there is no generic brand for that particular medication. Then she added that she could place a call to a mail order pharmacy that they use. “Their prices are much lower than the drugstores, she explained before adding, “The procedure is that you pay over the phone with a credit or debit card and the medication will be mailed to you. They fill most prescriptions for about $35 or less and you’ll receive it in a day or two.”
I agreed to that arrangement and later received a call from the mail-order pharmacy to get my consensus. Aside from a snag that was no fault of the drug provider (Blame UPS. Their excuse – bad weather delay one day and an attempted delivery – to the wrong address – the next.) I finally received the small package containing a 30g tube of cream.
It is generally believed that the greed of the pharmaceutical industry is killing Americans and my thinking is that is truer than true.
Cost aside, I have what some may think is a precarious habit of always reading the list of potential side-effects on any medication that may go on or into my body. That is exactly what I did after I opened the box containing the cream.
The instructions included possible side effects: severe burning of treated skin; could cause warts, lesions, blistering, swollen glands, sore throat; fever, chills, body aches, flu symptoms or worsened skin symptoms. Nope! I told myself before tossing the unopened tube into my nightstand drawer. I decided to try another remedy instead.
About a year ago, when I had a similar skin erosion, the assistant to that dermatologist had told me that she finds that Aquaphor is excellent for curing minor skin disorders. I went right out and bought a 14-ounce jar which cost $14. Yes, yipe!
Aquaphor is a “dermatologist recommended” ointment that contains petrolatum, not petroleum jelly. It looks like Vaseline, but unlike Vaseline, it contains several medicinal ingredients.
I located my jar of Aquaphor and began using it. Had I remembered that I had it before going to the dermatologist, I would probably have tried it first. Within three days the itchy rash cleared up. It’s been nearly three weeks now and it hasn’t returned. This is not an advertisement for Aquaphor, but I honestly admit, it works for me.
The point is that the outrageously high cost of medications is so extensive that lawmakers like Senator Bernie Sanders are proposing and supporting legislation to combat it. And videos like the one below are being made to keep attention focused on the problem.
When I was a child in elementary school, on the first day of art class Mrs. Graves, our teacher gave each student a plain gray twin-pocket folder. She told us to store assignments that she would be giving us throughout the school year in the folder and keep it in the cubbyhole of our desk until she collected them. She then instructed us to write our name on the back of the folder and added that we had about 5 minutes to draw something of our choice on the cover. “Be creative,” I remember her saying. “Use your imagination.”
While we were sketching our amateurish masterpieces, she walked around the room. Stopping briefly at each child’s desk, she would look at the drawing and then hold up the folder for the class to see. Afterward, she’d offer encouraging comments about that student’s creation. Some of my resourceful classmates drew pictures of their home, a pet, or their family. One student sketched colorful birds perching on the branches of a leafless tree, and a couple of others attempted self-portraits. I looked intently at each folder. The skill of my classmates was evident. Then I looked down hopelessly at my naked cover.
As the teacher grew nearer to me, I became panicky because I couldn’t think of anything to draw. My brain was producing one big question mark. THAT became my cover. Question marks. Large ones. Small ones. Some were right side up, others upside down and sideways. Using every crayon in my Crayola box, red, yellow, blue, green, orange, brown, purple, and black, I covered the front of the folder with question marks and put down the last crayon as she arrived beside my desk.
Unlike the outspoken woman I became, the little girl back then was self-conscious and painfully shy. As I raised my arm and handed Mrs. Graves the folder, I simultaneously lowered my head to my chest, anticipating criticism for not being more creative.
“Curiosity. That’s what your drawing depicts.” She said cheerfully, after looking at my folder. “Lots of question marks. You are curious about things. Very good.” She handed the folder back, and I forced a smile as I exhaled.
I saved that folder for years and wished that I had it today. It must have been an omen because my insatiable curiosity hasn’t diminished over the years. To this day, I still ponder things that some folks wouldn’t give a second thought about; I want answers. I want to know the why behind the why.
Take photographs for instance. There is a common saying that the camera adds 10 pounds to the person in a photo. I’ve long wondered why people look fatter in pictures; then they do in person. Wait a minute. I think I hear the sound of the PC police approaching. Lest I be accused of body-shaming and offending someone, I’ll restructure the question. Granted that I already have more thickness than I desire I’d like to know why do I – let me emphasize I – look fatter in pictures?
According to Gizmodo, Business Insider and other sources of my research, the camera gives the illusion of people being larger than they are because cameras have a single lens through which they capture images while humans have binocular vision (meaning that we have two eyes). Our brains compensate for this double vision. When we focus on photographed images, we perceive depth and can see around the edges of objects. This perception can give the impression that an object is wider than it is, including our bodies. Other factors contribute to our perception of the images in photos including lighting, posture, poses, clothing, the angel (shooting position) and even the camera lens. When any of these things are askew, it can make images appear larger than they are. Viola! Extra pounds.
If my rudimentary explanation on why pictures make us look fat have you second-guessing whether you ever want to be photographed again, this short and entertaining video will provide some tips on how not to look fat on camera.
I published my first blog post on September 17, 2010. Potpourri101 had not yet been born. The original blog called bboomersnet.com was consolidated into Potpourri101 in June of 2012.
During my blogging years, I have written many favorite posts. I’ve also written some that I consider bloopers. But I keep writing. I can’t not write. It’s in my DNA.
While reviewing some of the 388 posts published on my site, I came across some favorites like this one, originally published on December 2, 2010, and posted here with some slight revisions.
Stand Up and Be Counted
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
Those inspirational words of civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., inspire courageous people who not only talk the talk but walk the walk. Ideally, his words also motivate closet activists, people who hesitate to speak up publicly or take action at the opportune time.
We all know someone who loud-talks up a storm behind the scenes, complaining about what “somebody” should or should not say or do, but when the occasion arises for the whiner to speak publicly about the issue, his or her jaws lock tighter than a hard shell clam.
I believe that some people are born activists, while others grow into those shoes. It doesn’t matter how they arrive at being a crusader, what is significant is that at some point they learn the importance of speaking out and championing their cause, whether it is a global effort like Climate Change or working to eliminate homelessness in their community. Activists are mindful of their Ps and Qs: they prepare, participate, and when necessary, they question. Then, they pursue a course to affect the cause that they are championing – whether it means joining their colleagues in a public protest, taking part in a fact-finding survey, or simply casting a vote.
On the other hand closet activists often avoid publicly stating their opinion, preferring to cower in the shadows and grumble instead of taking a stand. No one is right or wrong all of the time. Sometimes we make good choices, other times bad. But regardless, the point is having enough gumption to express yourself. Don’t straddle the line. Whether you support a cause or disagree with it. Man or woman up! Let your position be known.
People who have the opportunity to speak up and refuse, basically deserve whatever they get from the outcome of a decision by the majority. Life is a crapshoot, a gamble. Each one of us – from the President of the United States to the homeless person on the street – has limited control over some things and no control over others. It is liberating to be able to state a position, to voice an opinion. You may change your mind later on. You may even regret a decision, and that’s okay. Mind-changing is permitted. But you can feel pleased that you at least had enough backbone to assert yourself. As Malcolm X prophesized long ago, “If you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything.”