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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Things I'm going to say (or do) when I get old and take a trip to the pharmacy:

  1. "Excuse me, but I don't talk to technicians. Where's the pharmacist!" (Puff out chest here.)
  2. Throw credit card at cashier, preferably landing on the floor necessitating said cashier to bow to me, stating, "I'm sorry, I believe you dropped this."
  3. "How long will this take?" "Half an hour? All you have to do is put some pills in a bottle!"
  5. "So how much is this with my insurance?" "And for 30?" "Huh. How about 10?" What if I use my discount card instead?" "And for 30?" "Huh. How about 10?"
  6. "Now what do I do? Sign my name? Then what? Press clear? Whoops. There, I've signed again! Press clear?"
  7. "Why does this cost more every time I come here???"
  8. "Why do they pay $10 and I have to pay $50? Huh? Huh?"
  9. Wait until the prescriptions are all done and rung out at the register and then say, "How much if I use this card?"
  10. Tell the technician that, Yeah, I have insurance, but I don't know what it is.
  11. When asked if I am going to wait for the prescription, say, No, I'll be back later. Then come back in two minutes.
  12. Wait two weeks for the prescription to be done (and then returned to stock since all pharmacies put them back after a week), then come to the counter and say, "But you've had two weeks to do it!"
  13. When picking up my prescription and asked my name I'm going to say, "What, you can't remember it? I come here every month!"
  14. Talk on my cell phone as I'm being rung up and counseled. That really pisses them off!
"You one of them ... Reds?"

Now let me say from the getgo that the only Red I've loved is of the shrimp variety, especially those found along the gulf. Sweet! I'm no com-you-nist. I belong to the Republican Party, albeit the party of Lincoln, Roosevelt (Teddy) and Taft, not Bush. But I fear I've been labeled one of them Commie lovers on my insistence on a national health care plan.

I will set the generalized scene: Sitting around the living room or at the dinner table, surrounded by fellow church-going folk, I will inevitably bring up my disgust with the current state of health care in this nation. Someone will, in a near whisper, ask me, "But do you think we should have national health care???" The question posed is of course spoken rhetorically. As if no one at the table would dare suppose that this great country of ours would ever, ever stoop to such a low point. Socialized health care? Raising the flag of our fathers they plant firm their feet and cry, Never! Why, there'd be so many lazy, good-for-nothings sittin' around watching Oprah and swillin' beer that ... that ... well, I don't know what!

I ask, What about the thousands of bankruptcies across the country ... due to the sin of people getting sick? I ask, Is that good for the country? Why do we pay, per capita, twice what other countries pay? Why do we have more than 45 million people without health care? Why do all the people getting laid off from work, and who now have no safety net if they get sick, need to have insurance tethered to the workplace? Doesn't your neighbor down the street deserve insurance as much as you? And why should your Lipitor cost $50 but John Doe's $10? Don't you care? DON'T YOU CARE?

No, you don't. That's the upshot of it. Christian churchgoer: shame on you! You hypocrites.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

And I thought pharmacies had problems ...

In yesterday's New York Times Michael Kinsley had an article ("You Can't Sell News by the Slice," Tue, Feb 10, 2009) detailing the woes that prevail amongst the newspaper crowd. Seems they lose money on every paper due to paper and ink costs (not to mention employment, rents, health care, etc), and advertising dollars, normally their sweet spot, are spiraling down the toilet. In a previous issue, Walter Isaacson, former managing editor of Time, had advocated "micropayments" on the Web issues of newspapers, allowing a paper to accrue a nickle or dime for a "click" on an article. Kinsley says even that income wouldn't amount to enough to save the papers. Seems they are dinosaurs awaiting extinction where a few will inevitably survive as evolved journalistic forms on the Web.

So why does this concern me? It just strikes me as being parallel to what pharmacy went through a few decades ago, when it allowed insurance companies to give them a micropayment per script in exchange for taking the plans in the stores. Of course pharmacies lost money (and still do) on every prescription, but the thinking was that if you also sold the patient (now a customer) a tube of toothpaste then you'd get a profit. So pharmacy became a loss leader (as well as a lost leader). Like newspapers are now.

Pharmacies now sell medicine and charge for that medicine. But the salaries, the electricity, software, hardware, employment costs, these are losses. I remember reading of a study by Rite Aid back in the early 1990's I think, where an empty vial would cost a pharmacy about $6. That is without any medicine in it. Just an empty vial. Nowadays it's probably more like $10. So when Walmart (and all those copying their program) sells drugs for $4 and claims that it is still making money, well, they're lying. But that's their business plan and they're welcome to it. But they are lying.

So pharmacies sell a content--drugs--and give away information free. Newspapers are trying to charge for information while giving away their content--paper and ink. Inevitably more and more information will find its way to the Internet, so there is only the information. But that is where everything is supposed to be free.

I'd hate to be the owner of a newspaper now. That's almost as bad as being a pharmacist.