I’ve been busy transitioning to Florida starting in early August. Apart from buying a new car, finding a family doctor, camping with a cooler in my own home because the fridge died, setting up new accounts everywhere, I’ve also had my first experience in the United States with buying prescription drugs (in this case Abilify) and trying to find an “open-minded” psychiatrist, meaning one who is willing to respect the current low dose of medication my son is on and to collaborate with Chris in an eventual tapering program.
I can’t say I was shocked at the price that the pharmacies here bill the insurance company because I knew that prescription drug prices in the United States are astronomically high compared to most other countries, but when you come face to face with it, that’s another story. Ouch. The first time Chris attempted to pick up his Abilify prescription, he realized that the doctor had ordered the tablet form of Abilify. $1800! I heard the pharmacy clerk whisper to her co-worker.
What? $1800 for presumably a 30 day supply that costs the equivalent of $120.00 in Switzerland?
Once Chris clarified his need for liquid Abilify with the doctor, we went back to the pharmacy and I heard the pharmacist whisper “$500.” Well, that’s not so bad, I thought, although it seemed a bit strange that the liquid was cheaper than the tablet form.
Then I saw the bottle. The measly 30 ml supply of liquid Abilify cost $30. A 150 ml bottle costs the equivalent of $200 in Switzerland. Doing the math, 1 ml of liquid Abilify costs $16.66 in the US and $1.33 in Switzerland.
“Do you want us to put you on automatic monthly refill?” the clerk asked Chris.
“No, no, no!” I frantically signaled to him from where I was sitting, lest he cave, which he has a habit of doing. Obviously, the clerk isn’t clued into the fact that Chris doesn’t take it as it’s prescribed. That’s the same challenge he’s going to have to put to a psychiatrist. He doesn’t take it as prescribed, which is the beauty of liquid Abilify, the flexibility inherent in an easily titratrable form. We left CVS with the prescription filled and no money forked over.
The psychiatrist recommended by the family doctor isn’t taking on new patients, I found out. Now I was on my own, with no recommendation at all, so I started calling around. I was told that my best bet was at a behavioral health center. I found one near our home and phoned for an appointment. Had to leave a message on the answering machine. No one called back. I thought about just driving over and asking for an appointment, but that would be too simple, and was obviously the wrong approach to take in these matters. A human to human interaction when booking an appointment is so passé. I was learning. I went to the company’s website, filled out a message form involving no more than 220 characters, and hit “send”.
A few hours later came this reply from a sender in a different time zone.
We received your request for an appointment and want to ensure that we can offer the resources you need. In order to provide the best service and protect your privacy, we need to gather this information over the phone. This will assist us in providing the best fit for appointments. Please contact our Customer Engagement Center at XXXX during our business hours of Monday-Friday from 8:00am to 5:00 pm, (Central Time Zone).
XXXX Customer Engagement Center
So I called the number given in the message and spoke with a Customer Engagement Officer who first of all wanted to know who my insurance provider was. Once she was satisfied with the answer she put me through to a call center located near my town. A long wait on hold while the insurance number was being checked. The young man finally came on the line. The earliest appointment with a psychiatrist who accepts our insurance plan is at the end of October. He spelled out the doctor’s surname not bothering to spell the first name as it was “Jesus.” “You’re not serious!” I blurted out.
Why would anyone who deals with patients with religious preoccupations call himself “Jesus”?
Now I know that the name Jesus is as ubiquitous in Florida as the name Santa at Christmas, but in all seriousness, what’s a guy named Jesus doing treating people with already active and often confused inner thoughts centering on religious themes? The name “Chris” comes to mind as an example of someone who reads his Bible daily and has an deeply spiritual side. I wasn’t for nothing that I chose a pseudonym for my son that omitted a “t”.
It seemed that no harm was done when Jesus at Best Buy sold Chris a phone, but shouldn’t Jesus the psychiatrist come with a trigger warning?