You know it’s bad when . . .

. . . when you actually feel your best when you sit down to work.

And that’s been the case twice in the past five weeks since we moved here from Austin.

Can I just say this city is not my favorite? Despite hearing two older gentlemen talk about how they couldn’t see “any reason to leave this town, where you can find everything!” while I was out walking the dog this morning. New Yorkers really gotta get out of the city more often.

Anyway, Duane Reade is awful. My three-times-a-day med, Lamictal, for OCD (not the television version, the real-life kind – that is, Misty only wishes I were super-clean) was sent around the country but not to me. Yesterday, until the evening, was my second day of withdrawals. My head’s still a little loopy, but I’m here!

I had to cancel a Skype speaking session with a graduating class of English majors at my alma mater yesterday. I will, hopefully, catch them for a short 30-min session tomorrow. They need to be warned about the economy they’re entering with their degrees.

OCD, Misty and Class War

My OCD has been tormenting me in recent days. The intrusive thoughts and worries and compulsions are growing. I should have noticed the early signs, probably. Increased wishful thinking, counting more than usual — then it blew up into this, full-on . . . I don’t necessarily have the words right now to describe it. It really is torture. It really could take over one’s life if one let it or if the disease prevented anything resembling a real life.

People have it worse.

I think my worsening symptoms are caused by a change in manufacturers of the generic version of Lamictal (lamotrigine). It’s happened before. I’ll have to get my psychiatrist to tell the insurance company (fortunately, we have insurance through my company now) that only the brand-name version works. It does work best. Hopefully, and more than likely, the insurance company will preauthorize it and we’ll be good to go.

For the brand-name Lamictal, it can cost thousands of dollars a month, if your dosage is high enough. I was paying nearly a thousand or more a month out-of-pocket/on credit/on someone else’s credit before we were able to get insurance through Obamacare and then my job. That was for 90 pills (30 days’ worth) of 200 mg Lamictal pills.

Anyway, not much I can do but suffer until I get the real thing.


 

Misty is out-of-town visiting her folks in Waco for a while. It’s good for her to get away for a little while, I think. Tomorrow, she has an interview with the U.S. Digital Service, described in this article as the government’s startup, where designers, developers, engineers and others are recruited from the private sector to work to improve the digital technology aspects of government and increase citizen interaction with the federal government. They’re what grew out of the small team who fixed HealthCare.gov.

I’m really proud of her for getting the interview. It’s very competitive. My best wishes are, as always, with her.


Anyone paying attention has heard something about the refugee crisis in the European Union stemming from the war in Syria and, let’s be honest, the violence and starvation in many refugees’ varied home countries in the Middle East, Africa, the Balkans and elsewhere. They wouldn’t be leaving otherwise. The rhetoric by some leaders — especially the Tories in Britain — is beyond ridicule.

My question is: How does this influx of immigrants, who are bolstering some nation’s declining birthrates and replacing lost labor, affect the class issues I pondered in my last post. What will be the effect of more well-educated, un- and under-employed young people being on the European job market? (For many of these immigrants aren’t low-skilled farmers but educated doctors and bankers and computer scientists.) Will they (the immigrants or the Britons) agitate for change? How will the British lower classes (and by that I mean most everyone not in the highest levels of income and assets) react to a tighter job market with (possibly) lower wages? At what point do all the idle freelancers take to the streets?

In fact, the British Labour Party has just voted Jeremy Corbyn, their version of our socialist Congressman Bernie Sanders, as party leader. His own party has been tearing him apart because, they say, he’s unelectable in the general election. Sort of the same thing we say about Bernie. Worse, though, is if either were elected president or prime minister, they likely couldn’t get anything done — both parties would oppose any real sort of reform. But would that intransigence cause the people to demand something different? Something more? Down the rabbit hole we go . . .

When I talk of change, I’m not advocating for a particular ideology or plan for government — at least not yet. I haven’t found or created one that satisfies me yet. One thing I know is that I don’t want to kick the poets out of the republic,

 

Standing in Line at the Pharmacy, Uninsured*

Standing in line at the pharmacy while unemployed and uninsured is an interesting experience. Being in that situation, I find myself listening to the amount others pay for their medications – with or without insurance. Given that our neighborhood has a number of older people, I tend to find myself behind people covered by Medicare, TRICARE, Medicare Part D and other government-run health care programs or insurance.

For instance, while standing in line at CVS to pick up a month’s supply of 100mg Lamictal (>$400), I watched and listened as a 75-year old gentleman (I know his age because he gave his birth date to the pharmacy technician) pick up his and someone else’s medications. I looked at him – as many of us do at the elderly – with a bittersweetness, a long life lived for mere deterioration and the hope we can be as spry as he is at that age and, most frightening, as the face of imminent mortality.

The tech rang him up for a little over $70, which I personally think is a bit expensive, especially for an elderly person on Medicare and possibly a fixed income. (It turned out Medicare Part D just started covering one of his drugs, reducing his bill by probably ten dollars.)

The tech called for backup to relieve the line that had backed up behind this gentleman. After I gave my information to the pharmacy technician, I leaned over to the gentleman and said – and then said again louder because he’d left his hearing aids at home – “If you think that $74 is bad, watch this.”

He replied that he thought pills were supposed to be expensive. “Obamacare!” he declared. Then, “I guess I shouldn’t have said that.” I mostly ignored these comments but was just about to say that I certainly hoped it would reduce my drug costs when the tech appeared with my medications.

I showed the older gentleman my med’s price-tag. “One month’s supply. Over $400.”

He said I may have to eat beans for a while. No kidding.

Similarly, a few weeks ago, an elderly woman in front of me at the same counter argued with the pharmacy technician over paying $3 for a medication she believed should be free under TRICARE. (I was in line to purchase $800-worth of 200mg Lamictal XR.)

Your first question is: Why are you complaining? And then: You can afford to pay the exorbitant prices when others can’t, so why are you whining?

Two answers: I’m not whining, I’m bemoaning the fact that anyone should have to pay such prices for necessary medication. Second, I can’t afford it. But my parents’ VISA limit happens to be high enough to float my wife’s and my mental and physical health until our new health insurance becomes effective.

We’re two professionals. Misty is well-paid in a high-demand field where she has unmatched skills. I’ve been struggling – despite my professional experience and successes – to find work for over a year now. We both dealt with serious illnesses at the end of 2011 and then became unemployed in late 2012, the worst time to look for employment. We never even received our COBRA paperwork, even though we called BCBS of Texas and Misty’s former employer. Our bank account hit zero – and we nearly lost our house – because I vowed we’d spend every last dime we had protecting our health. Without it, we can’t be productive.

There are others in much worse situations.

I don’t hold those older people in any sort of contempt. But they are beneficiaries of government-run health insurance programs. It’s hypocritical for the first gentleman to blame a program that hasn’t even gone into effect yet and that will help both of us – instead of the current one, in which only he benefits – for the exorbitant prices of medications.

It is the height of insensitivity to deny the younger generations the benefits he receives. It’s even worse to deny those in as much need or more as that gentleman, lady and myself those benefits. If it works for you today, why can’t it work for me? For all Texans?

Or maybe Texas hospitality stops at iced tea and college football.

[*Is that title Bob Dylan-ish enough?]

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