Health insurance is a hassle, especially when you’re talking about mental health. And it’s an even bigger hassle when the government gets involved. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does add a layer of complexity to the insurance process.
For quite a while I was uninsurable, or functionally so. My husband and I both had decent insurance when he worked for the county, but after he left that job, it was all downhill. We muddled through without coverage, paying for our meds out of pocket and avoiding the doctor’s office unless death seemed imminent or we had to have blood work. Mammograms, flu shots, and other preventive services fell by the wayside.
Then came the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. Our pre-existing conditions were no longer a factor. My mental health coverage was guaranteed without going through the county’s EAP plan (Employee Assistance Plan, a six-week, take-the-therapist-we-give-you, cure-’em-quick affair).
The only problem (well, the major problem) was that, even with the ACA subsidy, the insurance cost us $650 per month. And my doctor started prescribing Abilify (cost: $800 per month, and wouldn’t you know, it wasn’t on the insurance plan’s formulary of preferred drugs). Fortunately, the generic came out soon after. It still wasn’t cheap, but it was somewhat lower.
The next year we switched plans. Unfortunately, the new company, a co-op, went under and we were transferred to yet another plan. It was no better than the previous one. In many ways, it was worse.
Prescriptions, for example. After getting them filled at our pharmacy for a certain number of months, we were told that almost all our meds MUST be ordered for home delivery, or the insurance company would not pay for them.
Which would be fine, as they were maintenance drugs. Except that meant paying $1100 for three months of generic Abilify, in addition to the monthly premium for the insurance. I can’t scrape together a lump sum like that, so through GoodRx coupons (https://www.goodrx.com/?c=criteo_au&utm_campaign=activeuser) and the local Kroger, I managed to get my prescription for under $200 per month.
Then the real fun started. My husband’s meds and my non-psychotropics went through the mail-order system easily. The ones my psychiatrist prescribed, not so much.
I’ve just spent the time between November 19 and now trying desperately to get the mail-order place and my doctor’s office to talk to each other, fax each other, send smoke signals or carrier pigeons to each other, to get me my drugs. As I gradually ran out of meds, which I’ve written about before (http://wp.me/p4e9Hv-kO).
I finally got a little action when I went to my doctor’s office, camped out in the waiting room, talked to one mail-order person on the phone while the receptionist talked to another one on another phone, and the nurse worked the fax machine. Then I went home, called mail order again, jumped up and down, threatened to hold my breath until I turned blue, asked for the supervisor, talked to the actual pharmacist, and almost burst out sobbing. Yesterday I got my pills.
This time when I had to pick a new insurance plan or renew my old one, I found one that was almost exactly as crappy as our previous one, but at one-third the cost. And the company representative says that all generics can be bought, at either the pharmacy or via mail order, at the same low co-pay. Including generic Abilify.
The next problem is, as I’m sure you’re all aware, the president-elect and Congress have sworn to repeal Obamacare as soon as they get into office, whether or not they have a plan to replace it.
What will happen then?
Will I be able to get affordable insurance?
Will I be able to get insurance at all? (Even crappy insurance is better than none.)
Will it cover mental health services? Outpatient? Inpatient? Both psychiatrists and psychotherapists?
Will it cover psychotropic drugs at the same rates as others? Or will the meds that really work for me not be in the formulary of preferred drugs?
And how long will it be before even the crappy, but lower-cost, insurance that begins on January 1st, disappears?
I’m guessing (hoping) that our insurance won’t vanish immediately, given the pace at which the government usually moves. But repealing Obamacare (though not replacing it) has been touted as one of the first things the new administration will do. And anxiety is one of my psychiatric problems. How long will I have to wait, unknowing, to learn what those answers will be?
Generally, I have anxiety when I don’t know what’s going to happen. I catastrophize, then feel at least a little better when the answer comes. (It’s usually not as bad as I had anticipated.)
But this time, when the answer comes, will it lessen or increase my anxiety?
And will I be able to afford the medicine that keeps my anxiety in check and the psychiatrist who prescribes it?