A friend writes:
“I know that general health insurance isn’t what you specialize in at CHC.com, but I’m taking advantage of the fact that I know you to ask what I hope is an easy question for you to answer:
“Can I change my crappy health insurance at this time of year — without a life event? Or do I have to wait until November’s open enrollment.
“I just discovered that [my insurance company] has raised my costs on all manner of things. (The drug I used to get for $5 is now $385.) I just discovered because I rarely need medical things done.
“I’ve made a handful of calls and tried to research online, but I am hoping, as I said, that this is an easy one for you.’
“I don’t think you can change without a life event.
“But medications can be easy to hack.
“You might go direct without your insurance and find it costs less. That’s right, ask the pharmacy what the cash price is. Without insurance. Ask two or three pharmacies. We often hear that Costco is cheap.
“Also you might buy from Canada — people do, frequently. It’s technically illegal, and we do not recommend, but as a workaround, people do it.
“Or if you want, here’s a fuller description on our Prescriptions page.”
“I really appreciate it. Goodrx.com found me the drug at Walmart for $110.
“How crazy is it that yesterday I woke up expecting to pay $5 for it and after the rollercoaster of the day, I was grateful to go to be with a $100 option?”
(UPDATE June 21, 2018) “I have a RIDICULOUSLY happy ending to this one. All of this is for publication.
“When I explained the situation to my dermatologist … she called in a prescription for my same medicine to Pro Pharmacy in Long Island.
“Within a day, they called me to let me know that they had filled the prescription and would be delivering it to my house that day.
“When I asked what the catch was, the lovely man who runs the pharmacy told me that they partner with ZCP, Zero Copay Program. (They also have a new sister pharmacy in Brooklyn, Central Pharmacy, which handles deliveries to Manhattan.) The program covers some medications, including mine, if I have commercial insurance. They buy it in bulk and pass along the savings to customers like me. Their rate was lower than the $300+ rate my pharmacy cited, but was still $82.
“Only, to repeat, I got it for free and I can get refills.
“I found a white hat in the health care system!!!
“And I’m still dumping [my insurance company] next year.”
Jeanne Pinder is the founder and CEO of ClearHealthCosts. She worked at The New York Times for almost 25 years as a reporter, editor and human resources executive, then volunteered for a buyout and founded ClearHealthCosts.
She was previously a fellow at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at the Columbia University School of Journalism. ClearHealthCosts has won grants from the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York; the International Women’s Media Foundation; the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation with KQED public radio in San Francisco and KPCC in Los Angeles; the Lenfest Foundation in Philadelphia for a partnership with The Philadelphia Inquirer; and the New York State Health Foundation for a partnership with WNYC public radio/Gothamist in New York; and other honors.
Her TED talk about fixing health costs has surpassed 2 million views.